O’ Doherty of the castle of Oileach

From the Celt Project of the UCC.

Original version

The bardic poems of Tadhg Dall Ó Huiginn (1550–1591)


¶1] Speak on, thou castle of Oileach, many a thing must one ask of thee, thou fair, long-standing dwelling, regarding the warriors of Ireland.

¶2] Let us learn from thee, tell us, thou ancient, bright-lawned castle, of those who invaded Bregian Banbha, of the forays and seizures of the Gael.

¶3] Each thing of which I have knowledge will be got from me, hearken, what time were better to reveal it? downwards from the pouring of the Flood.

¶4] I know, as a rare branch of knowledge, of six seizures in turn after the Flood on the cool, moist, white-surfaced, dewy plain.

¶5] The coming of Pártholón from the land of Greece, and of the Sons of Nemhedhto the country of Fál, the third age of the world, it is I that best remember them.

¶6] How wast thou at first, thou lovely, changeful castle, when Pártholón of Bregia’s haven had come to occupy the Field of the Gael?

¶7] Upon the coming of Pártholón I was enduring my misfortune in this land, with no enclosed meadow or stone rampart, but all an oaken thicket.

¶8] How was it with thee during the sovranty of the Children of Nemhedh, when thy form had been changed? Tell us, thou castle of limewashed [](?) walls.

¶9] I was a smooth plain, without thickets, without woods, the border slope of my bright, steed-haunted lea was a splendid mound of assembly.

¶10] Of my bending wood with its graceful fruit-trees not a root was left in the ground—small since that has been the growth of my noble forest—from the might of Nemhedh‘s saintly race.

¶11] How long wast thou thus, a smooth, brightly glistening slope, without house or household, thou greens-swarded castle of Oileach?

¶12] Until the coming of the Tuath Dé Danann to the spreading woods of Fódla. I was, as such were unfitting for me, empty of house or dwelling.

¶13] Dost thou remember who were the first of the comely Tuath Dé who inhabited thee, thou tower amidst supple, flowering stems?

¶14] The Children of mighty, honey-mouthed Cearmaid, keen-weaponed warriors, a glistening band from the Bregian Boyne, were the first that entered into fellowship with me.

¶15] For my smooth, fertile hills the Children of Cearmaid forsook stately Cathair Chröoinn, hereditary citadel of the race.

¶16] A while after they had come to me the Sons of Míl of Spain wrested Banbha from the Children of Cearmaid without a division as profit of battle.

¶17] From that day to this the lords of Míl‘s race, white-handed host, dealers of heavy blows, have been defending Ireland within me.

¶18] From that time on I have never lacked one high-king in succession to another, or a provincial chief who excelled any in Ireland’s swan-necked plain.

¶19] From me five-and-twenty kings of Róch’s, valiant, generous race seized the Dwelling of Dá Thí, thereby my dignity is ennobled.

¶20] And after the Faith there were crowned from me six-and-twenty kings of the blood of fair Conall, and of Niall’s line, fruit from (?) each cluster were they.

¶21] Then was I held alternately by the noble kindreds of Niall’s seed—a smooth [](?) plain with lofty stems, another Tara of the men of Ireland.

¶22] Since from thee all other tidings have been obtained, from the beginning until the end of time, thou fortress amidst pleasant, brown-surfaced hills, which company hast thou found the best?

¶23] The wondrous warriors from Ulster’s soil, Fiamhain‘s seed, the blood of Dochartach, that bright band are the best whom we have known from of yore.

¶24] O tapering tower of smooth, even walls, who is it that excels even amongst the lords of Fiamhain‘s race, stems from [] of Frewen?

¶25] Were we considering it forever, John son of Felim, of the clear soft eye fore which the sea is shallow, would be the choicest of Fiamhain‘s fair stock.

¶26] O’Doherty of the castle of Oileach—why should it be asked?—rosy, bright-hued countenance, he is my one darling in his time.

¶27] Though Fiamham‘s seed are the best of the noble stocks of Ireland, they are as stars about the full moon, John is the one choice of them all.

¶28] It is he that has most possessions, he is the one who bestows most gifts, in the benevolence of Iomghán‘s, valorous scion there comes no ebb.

¶29] It is unlikely that any should attempt to surpass Felim’s heir in his name for generosity; as a plain lies beneath a hill so is every other renown in comparison with his.

¶30] Considering the fruitfulness of his territory, the goodliness of his kingdom, why would he not do all that he does?—no man should marvel thereat.

¶31] ‘The paradise of Ireland’ is the name for that stretch of land which is his; never did eye behold a finer territory than the soil of its plains and hillocks.

¶32] From sea-locked Fanad to the bright streams of Loch Foyle, from Malin to the plain of Bearta, a lovely and most famous land.

¶33] Land where waves are gentlest, where granaries are loftiest, angelic country of shallow streams, ‘Land of Promise’ of the men of Ireland.

¶34] Well is it placed, between the sea and the woods, level strands beyond far-stretching plains, wondrous, fairy-like regions.

¶35] Smooth moors amidst its forests, peaked hills beyond the moors, a yellow-hazelled wood by the fair plain, a billowing sea as a hedge around it.

¶36] Good is this land [], better is he who has custody of it; alas, if one should see over any part of Ulster a king that did not surpass Ireland.

¶37] Were his the supremacy of Bregia’s plain he would spend it and defend it; if prosperity according to benevolence be just the lord of Fahan should be prosperous.

¶38] If the contents of his house are considered, and the number of his household—it is not a superfluity which should be grudged to him—no superfluity (?) of riches is found.

¶39] Thou man who proclaimest what the high-king of Fiamhain‘s stock possesses, grudge it not to the princely hero of Fál, greater is his spending than his gains.

¶40] If many speak truth, did not the’ house of Oileach fall to John, the thronged dwelling of O’Doherty would not be a shelter for any in Ulster.

¶41] This is the several statement of those who have journeyed the plains of Banbha—all the delight of Ireland would be found in the labyrinthine (?) four-towered court.

¶42] Since Tara received Ruadhán‘s interdiction against the men of Fál, the lords of Conn’s land have dwelt in the pleasant, fairy-like, comely castle.


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