Dirge on the Death of Art O'Leary

Shot at Carraganime, Co. Cork, May 4, 1773

By Dark Eileen, his wife.


My closest and dearest!
From the first day I saw you
From the top of the market-house,
My eyes gave heed to you,
My heart gave affection to you,
I fled from my friends with you,
Far from my home with you,
No lasting sorrow this to me.


Thou didst bring me to fair chambers,
Rooms you had adorned for me;
 Ovens were reddened for me,
Fresh trout were caught for me,
Roast flesh was carved for me
From beef that was felled for me;
On beds of down I lay
Till the coming of the milking-time,
Or so long as was pleasing to me.


Rider of the white palm!
With the silver-hilted sword!
Well your beaver hat became you
With its band of graceful gold;
Your suit of solid homespun yarn
Wrapped close around your form;
Slender shoes of foreign fashion,
And a pin of brightest silver
Fastened in your shirt.
As you rode in stately wise
On your slender steed, white-faced,
After coming over seas,
Even the Saxons bowed before you
Bowed down to the very ground;
Not because they loved you well
But from deadly hate;
For it was by them you fell,
Darling of my soul.


My friend and my little calf!
Offspring of the Lords of Antrim,
 And the chiefs of Immokely!
Never had I thought you dead,
Until there came to me your mare
Her bridle dragged beside her to the ground;
Upon her brow your heart-blood splashed,
Even to the carven saddle flowing down
Where you were wont to sit or stand.
I did not stay to cleanse it—
I gave a quick leap with my hands
Upon the wooden stretcher of the bed;
A second leap was to the gate,
And the third leap upon thy mare.


In haste I clapped my hands together,
I followed on your tracks
As well as I could,
Till I found you laid before me dead
At the foot of a lowly bush of furze;
Without pope, without bishop,
Without cleric or priest
To read a psalm for thee;
But only an old bent wasted crone
Who flung over thee the corner of her cloak.


My dear and beloved one!
When it will come to me to reach our home,
Little Conor, of our love,
And Fiac, his toddling baby-brother,
 Will be asking of me quickly
Where I left their dearest father?
I shall answer them with sorrow
That I left him in Kill Martyr;
They will call upon their father;
He will not be there to answer.


My love and my chosen one!
When you were going forward from the gate,
You turned quickly back again!
You kissed your two children,
You threw a kiss to me.
You said, "Eileen, arise now, be stirring,
And set your house in order,
Be swiftly moving.
I am leaving our home,
It is likely that I may not come again."
I took it only for a jest
You used often to be jesting thus before.


My friend and my heart's love!
Arise up, my Art,
Leap on thy steed,
Arise out to Macroom
And to Inchegeela after that;
A bottle of wine in thy grasp,
As was ever in the time of thy ancestors.
Arise up, my Art,
Rider of the shining sword;
 Put on your garments,
Your fair noble clothes;
Don your black beaver,
Draw on your gloves;
See, here hangs your whip,
Your good mare waits without;
Strike eastward on the narrow road,
For the bushes will bare themselves before you,
For the streams will narrow on your path,
For men and women will bow themselves before you
If their own good manners are upon them yet,
But I am much a-feared they are not now.


Destruction to you and woe,
O Morris, hideous the treachery
That took from me the man of the house,
The father of my babes;
Two of them running about the house,
The third beneath my breast,
It is likely that I shall not give it birth.


My long wound, my bitter sorrow,
That I was not beside thee
When the shot was fired;
That I might have got it in my soft body
Or in the skirt of my gown;
Till I would give you freedom to escape,
O Rider of the grey eye,
Because it is you would best have followed after them.


My dear and my heart's love!
Terrible to me the way I see thee,
To be putting our hero,
Our rider so true of heart,
In a little cap in a coffin!
Thou who used to be fishing along the streams,
Thou who didst drink within wide halls
Among the gentle women white of breast;
It is my thousand afflictions
That I have lost your companionship!
My love and my darling,
Could my shouts but reach thee
West in mighty Derrynane,
And in Carhen of the yellow apples after that;
Many a light-hearted young horseman,
And woman with white spotless kerchief
Would swiftly be with us here,
To wail above thy head
Art O'Leary of the joyous laugh!
O women of the soft wet eyes,
Stay now your weeping,
Till Art O'Leary drinks his drink
Before his going back to school;
Not to learn reading or music does he go there now,
But to carry clay and stones.


My love and my secret thou.
Thy corn-stacks are piled,
 And thy golden kine are milking,
But it is upon my own heart is the grief!
There is no healing in the Province of Munster,
Nor in the Island smithy of the Fians,
Till Art O'Leary will come back to me;
But all as if it were a lock upon a trunk
And the key of it gone straying;
Or till rust will come upon the screw.


My friend and my best one!
Art O'Leary, son of Conor,
Son of Cadach, son of Lewis,
Eastward from wet wooded glens,
Westward from the slender hill
Where the rowan-berries grow,
And the yellow nuts are ripe upon the branches;
Apples trailing, as it was in my day.
Little wonder to myself
If fires were lighted in O'Leary's country,
And at the mouth of Ballingeary,
Or at holy Gougane Barra of the cells,
After the rider of the smooth grip,
After the huntsman unwearied
When, heavy breathing with the chase,
Even thy lithe deerhounds lagged behind.
O horseman of the enticing eyes,
What happened thee last night?
For I myself thought
That the whole world could not kill you
When I bought for you that shirt of mail.


My friend and my darling!
A cloudy vision through the darkness
Came to me last night,
At Cork lately
And I alone upon my bed!
I saw the wood glen withered,
I saw our lime-washed court fallen;
No sound of speech came from thy hunting-dogs
Nor sound of singing from the birds
When you were found fallen
On the side of the hill without;
When you were found in the clay,
Art O'Leary;
With your drop of blood oozing out
Through the breast of your shirt.


It is known to Jesus Christ,
I will put no cap upon my head,
Nor body-linen on my side,
Nor shoes upon my feet,
Nor gear throughout the house;
Even on the brown mare will be no bridle,
But I shall spend all in taking the law.
I will go across the seas
To speak with the king;
But if they will give no heed to me,
It is I that will come back again
To seek the villain of the black blood
 Who cut off my treasure from me.
O Morrison, who killed my hero,
Was there not one man in Erin
Would put a bullet through you?


The affection of this heart to you,
O white women of the mill,
For the edged poetry that you have shed
Over the horseman of the brown mare.
It is I who am the lonely one
In Inse Carriganane.