Category Archives: Irish Music

The Sleeping Monk of Innisfallen

Written by T. Crofton Croker.

Above all the islands in the lakes of Killarney give me Innisfallen, “sweet Innisfallen” as Tom Moore, the poet, described it. It is indeed a fairy island, although I have no fairy story to tell you about it; and if I had, these are such unbelieving times that people only smile at my fairy stories, and doubt them.

However, none will doubt that a monastery once stood upon Innisfallen Island, for its ruins may still be seen. Centuries ago the monks of Innisfallen were popular, pious, and learned, and if you saw them coming along the road you didn’t hop inside the fence to avoid them for they were the best of company at all times. In short they weren’t the kind of men to preach hellfire and damnation in your terrified car every time they saw you. And out of all the monks you could not pick a merrier soul than Father Cuddy who could sing a good song, tell a droll story, and play flute and fiddle as though he had been reared in a bandmaster’s house.

On one occasion the monastery ran out of wine, and Father Cuddy was ordered to go at once to Muckross Abbey for a supply, because a monastery without wine is like an ark without Noah or a pair of golden gates without Saint Peter, or the Mona Lisa without her smile. With the morning’s light he was seen rowing his little boat across the crimson waters of the lake towards the peninsula of Muckross, and that was the last sight the Innisfallen community got of Father Cuddy, for he never returned to them.

At Muckross Abbey Father Cuddy was welcomed like an archangel, which he probably is today, for his fame had travelled before him, and after giving the monks all the news from Innisfallen and singing a few songs for the students he set out for home with a promise that the wine would be sent the following morning. What with the beauty of the scenery, the heat of the sun, the humming ol the bees, and the warm handshakes of friends, he felt a, happy as a Mayboy and he opened his mouth wide and began to sing:
“Tirra-lirra, tirra-lirra, tirra-lirra lee.” Suddenly he stopped singing and listened as a beautiful bird-voice warbled among the trees to his left hand. Father Cuddy knew his songbirds, blackbird, thrush, lark, siskin, linnet, goldfinch, but this was far superior. Louder and sweeter grew the song until it possessed the wood, and the whole world glowed and throbbed with its music. Know-ing that the music was not of this world, Father Cuddy fell on his knees and began to pray. When the music stopped – he looked about him, and the more he looked the more he wondered dLt the alteration which appeared in the face of the country. The hills bore the same majestic outline, and the lake spread itself beneath his view in the same tranquil manner and studded with the same number of islands; but every smaller feature in the landscape was strangely altered. What had been naked rocks were now clothed with holly and arbutus. Whole woods had disappeared, and waste places had become cultivated fields; and to complete the enchantment the very season itself seemed changed. In the rosy dawn of a summer’s day he had left the monastery of Innisfallen, and now he felt in every sight and sound the dreariness of winter. The hard ground was covered with withered leaves; icicles hung from leafiess branches; and he felt his fingers numbed from the nipping frost. Father Cuddy wondered greatly at the sudden transformation, and when he got up he saw that his knees had worn deep grooves in the stone he had knelt on. He decided to return in haste to Innisfallen and report these mysterious events to his superiors who might be able to explain them to his satisfaction. When he reached the gate of the monastery a stranger dressed in queer unmonkish garments occupied the porter’s place.

“Has the wine arrived safely, my good man?” Father Cuddy asked him. “Wine!” the fellow said. “What wine are you talking about?”
“Why, wine for the monks of Innisfallen, of course. 1 left this island yesterday morning for Muckross to order it. why is the place so quiet anyway. Is there a retreat in progress?”
“The day of monks and retreats in Innisfallen is over,” the stranger said. “The fathershave been suppressed, and the Abbey lands were granted in August last to Robert Collan by Lady Elizabeth, Queen of England. And if you were here yesterday I’d have seen you for you are by no means a small man. And if you stay here any longer you are likely to loose your head for monks are not popular with our new masters.”
“I tell you Iwas here yesterday, man,” the astonished monk persisted. “I am Father Cuddy of Innisfallen. Now, sir, do you know me?”
“I do not know you, but there is a story told of Father Cuddy who disappeared from Innisfallen one morning, and was drowned in the lake very likely. But all that happened two hundred years ago.”
Suddenly Father Cuddy recalled the wonderful unearthly music of the singing bird in the forest, and he realised he had taken part in a miracle. His heart was heavy within him as he walked away from the strange quietness of the monastery. The world he know had been swept away, and all his friends and brethren were dead. Avoiding the towns he managed to arrive safely in the port of Dingle where he was put on board a ship sailing for the friendly land of Spain. And in a monastery in Malaga the good man quietly wore out the remainder of his days.

The stone impressed with the mark of Father Cuddy’s knees may be seen to this day. Should any persons doubt my story let them go to Killarney where Clough na Cuddy – Cuddy’s Stone -as it is called remains in Lord Kenmare’s park, an indisputable evidence of the fact. Spillane, the bugle-man, will be able to point it out to them, as he did so to me.

Our National Monuments, Thomas Osborne Davis

Having shown the steps taken in France to protect National Monuments Davis wrote:

And has Ireland no monuments of her history to guard, has she no tables of stone, no pictures, no temples, no weapons? Are there no Brehon chairs on her hills to tell more clearly than Vallancey, or Davis, how justice was administered here, ? Do you not meet the Druid’s altar and the Gueber’s tower in every barony almost, and the Ogham stones in many a sequestered spot; and shall we spend time and money to see, to guard, or to decipher Indian topes and Tuscan graves and Egyptian hieroglyphics, and shall every nation in Europe shelter and study the remains of what it once was, even as one guards the tomb of a parent, and shall Ireland let all go to ruin?

We have seen pigs housed in the piled friezes of a broken church, cows stabled in the palaces of the Desmonds, and corn threshed on the floors of abbeys and the sheep and the tearing wind tenant the corridors of Aileach.

Daily are more and more of our crosses broken, of our tombs effaced, of our abbeys shattered, of our castles torn down, or of our cairns sacrilegiously pierced, of our urns broken up, and of our coins melted down. All classes, creeds and politics are to blame for this…

How our children will despise us for all this! Why shall we seek for histories, why make museums, why study the manners of the dead, when we foully neglect or barbarously spoil their homes, their castles, their temples, their colleges, their courts, their graves? He who tramples on the past does not create for the future. The same ignorant and vagabond spirit which made him destructive prohibits him from creating for posterity.

The Maid of Ballyhaunis

My Mary dear! For thee I die,
O! place thy hand, in mine, love –
My fathers here were chieftains high,
Then to my plaints incline, love.
O! Plaited-hair! That now we were
In wedlock’s hand united
For maiden mine, in grief I’ll pine,
Until our vows are plighted!

Thou, Rowan-bloom, since thus I rove,
All worn and faint to greet thee,
Come to these arms, my constant love,
With love as true to meet me!
Alas! My head – it’s wits are fled,
I’ve failed in filial duty –
My sire did say, “Shun, shun, for aye,
That Ballyhaunis beauty!”

But thy Cailín Bán I marked one day,
Where the blooms of the bean-field cluster,
Thy bosom white like ocean’s spray,
Thy cheek like rowan-fruit’s lustre,
Thy tones that shame the wild birds fame
Which sing in the summer weather –
And O! I sigh that thou, love, and I
Steal! Not from this world together!

If with thy lover thou depart
To the land of Ships my fair love,
No weary pain of head or heart,
Shall haunt our slumbers there, love –
O! haste away, ere cold death’s prey,
My soul from thee withdrawn is;
And my hope’s reward, the churchyard sward,
In the town of Ballyhaunis

Molly St. George

Miss Molly St. George is
a maid without peer,
So handsome, so modest,
so graceful, so dear.
Though demure and retiring,
she yet far excels
The lasses of Omagh,
the damsels of Kells:
From lake-side Portumna
to Limerick sound
There’s no doubting maid Molly,
your like is not found!

I’m a sprite from the deluge,
afloat on the lake
A sprite that is banished
from mountain and brake
With nets on each side in
which thousands have strove
A net full of magic,
a net full of love.
How I wish that in either
imprisoned I’d been,
With a hope of release at
the hand of my queen!

My frends all keep saying
I’m foolish and wild,
That in loving maid Molly
My hopes are beguiled:
When I wish to persuade her
I tremble, I’m mute,
For her voice is far sweeter
Than viol or lute
Oh! Life is a burden and
Death hovers near,
If you tell me maid Molly,
You’ll not be my dear!

Written by Donal O’Sullivan.

Ninety Eight by Dr. John Thomas Campion

In the old marble town of Kilkenny,
With its abbeys, cathedrals and halls,
Where the Norman bell rings out at nightfall,
And the relics of gray crumbling walls
Show traces of Celt and Saxon
In bastions, and towers, and keeps,
And graveyards and tombs tell the living
Where glory or holiness sleeps;
Where the Nuncio brought the Pope’s blessing,
And money and arms to boot,

While Owen was wild to be plucking
The English clan up by the root;
Where regicide Oliver revelled,
With his Puritan Ironside horde,
And cut down both marble and monarchy,
Grimly and grave with the sword.
There, in that old town of history,
England in famed ‘Ninety-Eight
Was busy with gallows and yeomen
Propounding the laws of the State.

They were hanging a young lad – a rebel –
On a gibbet before the old jail,
And they marked his weak, spirit to falter,
And his white face to quiver and quail;
And he spoke of his mother, whose dwelling
Was but a short distance away –
A poor, lorn, heartbroken widow –
And he her whole solace and stay.
“Bring her here,” cried the chief of the yeomen;
“A lingering chance let us give
To this spawn of a rebel to babble
And by her sage counsel to live.”

And quick a red trooper went trotting
From the town to the poor cabin door,
And he found the old lone woman sitting
And spinning upon the bare floor.
“Your son is in trouble, old damsel!
They have him within in the town,
And he wishes to see you, so bustle,
And put on your tucker and gown.”
The old woman stopped from her spinning,
With a frown on her deep wrinkled brow:
“I know how it is, cursed yeoman!
I am ready – I’ll go with you now!”

He seized her, enraged, by the shoulder,
And lifting her up on his steed,
Struck spurs, and they rode to the city,
Right aheadd, and with clattering speed.
They stopped at the foot of the, gallows,
And the mother confronted her son,
And she hugged his young heart to her bosom,
And kissed his face pallid and wan. .
And as the rope dangled before her,
She held the loop fast in her hand –
For though her proud soul was unblenching,
Her frail limbs were failing to stand.

And when the raw yeomen came crowding
To. witness the harrowing scene,
The brave mother flushed to the forehead,
And spoke with the air of a queen:
“My son, they are going to hang you
For loving your faith and your home.
And they called me to urge you and save you,
And in God’s name I’ve answered and come.
They murdered your father before you,
And I knelt on the red reeking sod,
And watcheed his hot blood steaming upward
To call down the vengeance of God.”

“No traitor was, he to his country –
No blot did he leave to his name –
And I always could pray at his cold grave –
Oh! the priest could kneel there without shame.”
“To hell with your priests and your rebels,”
The captain cried out with a yell,
whilst from the tall tower in the temple
Rang out the sweet Angelus bell.
Blessed Mother,” appealed the poor widow,
“Look down on my child and on me.”
“Blessed mother,” sneered out the vile yeoman,
“Tell your son to confess and be free.”

“Never, never – he’ll die like his father –
My boy, give your life to the Lord, –
But of treason to Ireland, mavourneen,
Never speak one dishonouring word.”
His white cheek flushed up at her speaking,
His heart bounded up at her call,
And his hushed spirit seemed, at awaking,
To scorn death, yeomen and all.
“I’ll die, and I’ll be no informer –
My kin I will never disgrace,
And when God lets me see my poor father,
I can lovingly look in his face.”

“You’ll see him in hell,” cried the yeoman,
As he flung the sad widow away –
And the youth in a moment was strangling
In the broad eye of shuddering day.
“Give the gallows a passenger outside.”
A tall Hessian spluttered aloud,
As he drove a huge nail in the timber ,
‘Mid the curses and cries of the crowd.
Then, seizing the poor bereaved mother,
He passed his broad belt round her throat,
Whilst her groaning was lost in the drum-beat
And her shrieks in the shrill bugle note.
And mother and son were left choking,
For this, cries the patriot brave –
Whilst angels looked down on the murder
And devils were wrangling beneath.

For this, cries the exile defiant –
For this, cries the patriot brave –
For this, cries the lonely survivor
O’er many a horror-marked grave –
For this, cry the priest and the peasant,
The student, the lover, the lost,
The stalwart who pride in their vigour,
The frail as they give up the ghost-
For this, we curse~Saxon dominion,
And join in the world-wide cry
That wails up to Heaven for vengeance,
Through every blue gate in the sky!

Written by by Dr. John Thomas Campion.

Lament For the Death of Eoghan Ruadh O’Neill

Written by Thomas Osborne Davis. The poem, or part of it, was read at the funeral of John F. Kennedy by his brother.

“Did they dare, did they dare, to slay Eoghan Ruadh O’Neill?”
“Yes, they slew with poison him they feared to meet with steel.”
“May God wither up their hearts! May their blood cease to flow,
May they walk in living death, who poisoned Eoghan Ruadh.”

“Though it break my heart to hear, say again the bitter words.
From Derry, against Cromwell, he marched to measure swords:
but the weapon of the Sassanach met him on his way.
And he died at Clogh Uachtar, upon St. Leonard’s day.”

“Wail, wail ye for the Mighty One. Wail, wail ye for the Dead.
Quench the hearth, and hold the breath – with ashes strew the head.
How tenderly we loved him. How deeply we deplore!
Holy Saviour! But to think we shall never see him more!”

“Sagest in the council was he, kindest in the hall,
Sure we never won a battle -”Twas Owen won them all.
Had he lived – had he lived – our dear country had been free:
But he’s dead, but he’s dead, and ’tis slaves we’ll ever be.”

“O’Farrell and Clanricarde, Preston and Red Hugh,
Audley and MacMahon, ye valiant, wises and true;
But – what are ye all doing to our darling who is gone?
The Rudder of our Ship was he, our Castle’s corner stone.”

“Wail, wail him through the Island! Weep, weep for our pride!
Would that on the battle field our gallant chief had died!
Weep the Victor of Beinn Burb – weep him young and old:
Weep for him, ye women – your beautiful lies cold!”

“We thought you would not die – we were sure you would not go,
And leave us in out utmost need to Cromwell’s cruel blow –
Sheep without a shepherd, when the snow shuts our the sky –
O! why did you leave us, Eoghan? Why did you die?”

“Soft as woman’s was your voice, O’Neill! Bright was your eye,
O! why did you leave us Eoghan? Why did you die?
Your troubles are all over, you’re at rest with God on high,
But we’re slaves, and we’re orphans, Eoghan! – why did you die?”

All Around My Hat

My love she was fair, and my love she was kind
And cruel the judge and jury that sentenced her away
For thieving was a thing that she never was inclined to
They sent my love across the sea ten thousand miles away.

All around my hat, I will wear the green willow,
All around my hat for a year and a day
And if anyone should question me the reason for my wearing it
I’ll tell them that my own true love is ten thousand miles away.

I bought my love a golden ring to wear upon her finger
A token of our own true love and to remember me
And when she returns again, we never will be parted
We’ll marry and be happy for ever and a day.

All around my hat, I will wear the green willow,
All around my hat for a year and a day
And if anyone should question me the reason for my wearing it
I’ll tell them that my own true love is ten thousand miles away.

Seven, seven long years my love and I are parted
Seven, seven long years my love is bound to stay
Seven long years I’ll love my love and never be false-hearted
And never sigh or sorrow while she’s far, far away.

All around my hat, I will wear the green willow,
All around my hat for a year and a day
And if anyone should question me the reason for my wearing it
I’ll tell them that my own true love is ten thousand miles away.

Some young men there are who are preciously deceitful,
A-coaxin’ of the fair young maids they mean to lead astray
As soon as they deceive them, so cruelly they leave them
I’ll love my love forever though she’s far, far away,

All around my hat, I will wear the green willow,
All around my hat for a year and a day
And if anyone should question me the reason for my wearing it
I’ll tell them that my own true love is ten thousand miles away.

The Banks of the Lee

Oh! The banks of the Lee, the banks of the Lee,
And love in a cottage for Mary and me;
Ther’s not in the land a lovlier tide,
And I’m sure there’s no one as fair as my bride.

She’s modest and meek,
There’s a down on her cheek,
And her skin is as sleek
As a butterfly’s wing –
Then her step would scarce show
On the fresh fallen snow;
And her whisper is low,
But as clear as the spring.

Oh! The banks of the Lee, the banks of the Lee,
And love in a cottage for Mary and me;
I do not know how love is happy elsewhere;
I do not know how any but lovers are there.

Oh! So green is the grass, so clear is the stream,
So mild is the mist, and so rich is the beam,
That beauty should ne’er to other lands roam,
But make on the banks of the river its home.
When, dripping with dew,
The roses peep through,
‘Tis to look in at you
They are growing so fast;
While the scent of the flowers
Must be hoarded for hours,
‘Tis poured in such showers
When my Mary goes past.

Oh! The banks of the Lee, the banks of the Lee,
And love in a cottage for Mary and me –
Oh! Mary for me – oh! Mary for me!
And ’tis little I’d sigh for the banks of the Lee!

Air: A trip to the Cottage.

Oh! The Marriage by Thomas Osborne Davis

Oh! The marriage, the marriage,
With love and mo bhuachail for me,
The ladies that ride in a carriage
Might envy my marriage to me;
For Eoghan is straight as a tower,
And tender and loving and true,
He told me more love in an hour
Than the Squires of the county could do.

Then, oh! The marriage, the marriage,
With love and mo bhuachail for me,
The ladies that ride in a carriage
Might envy my marriage to me;

His hair is a shower of soft gold,
His eye is as clear as the day,
His conscience and vote were unsold
When others were carried away;
His word is as good as an oath,
And freely ’twas given to me;
Oh! Sure ’twill be happy for both
The day of our marriage to see.

Then, oh! The marriage, the marriage,
With love and mo bhuachail for me,
The ladies that ride in a carriage,
Might envy my marriage to me.

His kinsmen are honest and kind,
Their neighbours think much of his skill,
And Eoghan’s the lad to my mind,
Though he owns neither castle nor mill.
But he has a tilloch of land,
A horse and a stocking of coin,
A foot for a dance and a hand
In the cause of his country to join.

Then, oh! The marriage, the marriage,
With love and mo bhuachail for me,
The ladies that ride in a carriage,
Might envy my marriage to me.

We meet in the market and fair –
We meet in the morning and night –
He sits on the half of my chair,
And my people are wild with delight,
Yet I long through the winter to skim,
Though Eoghan longs more I can see,
When I will be married to him ,
And he will be married to me.

Then, oh! The marriage, the marriage,
With love and mo bhuachaill for me.
The ladies that ride in a carriage
Might envy my marriage to me.

Air: The Swaggering Jig.

The Rivers by Thomas Osborne Davis

There’s a far-famed Blackwater that runs to Loch Neagh;
There’s a fairer Blackwater that runs to the sea –
The glory of Ulster,
The beauty of Munster,
These twin rivers be.

From the banks of that river Benburb’s towers arise;
This stream shines as bright as a tear from sweet eyes;
This fond as a young bride,
That with foeman’s blood dyed –
Both dearly we prize.

Deep sunk in that bed is the sword of Monroe,
Since ‘twixt it and Oonagh, he met Owen Roe,
And Charlemont’s cannon
Slew many a man on
These meadows below.

The shrines of Armagh gleam far over yon lea,
Nor afar is Dungannon that nursed liberty,
And yonder Red Hugh
Marshal Bagenal o’erthrew
On Béal-an-atha-Buidhe.

But far kinder the woodlands of rich Convamore,
And more gorgeous the turrets of saintly lismore;
There the srteam, like a maiden
With love overladen,
Pants wild on each shore

It’s rocks rise like statues, tall, stately and fair,
And the trees and the flowers, and the mountains and air,
With Wonder’s soul near you.
To share with, and cheer you,
Make Paradise there.

I would love by that stream, ere my flag I unrolled;
I would fly to these banks my bethrothed to enfold –
The pride of our sireland,
The Eden of Ireland,
More precious than gold.

May their bodies be free from opression and blight;
May their daughters and sone ever fondly unite –
The glory of Ulster,
The beauty of munster,
Our strength and delight.

Air: Kathleen O’More