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Poetry Magnum Opus

Roisín Dubh (The Dark Rose)


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A Róisín ná bíodh brón ort fé'r éirigh dhuit:

Tá na bráithre 'teacht thar sáile 's iad ag triall ar muir,

Tiocfaidh do phárdún ón bPápa is ón Róimh anoir

'S ní spárálfar fíon Spáinneach ar mo Róisín Dubh.


Little Rose, be not sad for all that hath behapped thee:

The friars are coming across the sea, they march on the main.

From the Pope shall come thy pardon, and from Rome, from the East-

And stint not Spanish wine to my Little Dark Rose.


Raise your spirits, little Rose, after all that has befallen:

the friars will come over the sea, they will bestride the waters,

and from the Pope will come blessings, from Rome and from the East,

and we shall drink Spanish wine for our Little Dark Rose .


Is fada an réim a léig mé léi ó inné 'dtí inniu,

Trasna sléibhte go ndeachas léi, fé sheolta ar muir;

An éirne is chaith mé 'léim í, cé gur mór é an sruth;

'S bhí ceol téad ar gach taobh díom is mo Róisín Dubh.


Long the journey that I made with her from yesterday till today,

Over mountains did I go with her, under the sails upon the sea,

The Erne I passed by leaping, though wide the flood,

And there was string music on each side of me and my Little Dark Rose!


(no changes here, spot-on)


Mhairbh tú mé, a bhrídeach, is nárbh fhearrde dhuit,

Is go bhfuil m'anam istigh i ngean ort 's ní inné ná inniu;

D'fhág tú lag anbhfann mé i ngné is i gcruth-

Ná feall orm is mé i ngean ort, a Róisín Dubh.


Thou hast slain me, O my bride, and may it serve thee no whit,

For the soul within me loveth thee, not since yesterday nor today,

Thou has left me weak and broken in mien and in shape,

Betray me not who love thee, my Little Dark Rose!


You have killed me, my bride, though it serves you no reason,

the soul within me has loved you from beginning to end,

yet you have despised my weakness, you have broken me down,

you should not turn on your lover, my Little Dark Rose!


Shiubhalfainn féin an drúcht leat is fásaigh ghuirt,

Mar shúil go bhfaighinn rún uait nó páirt dem thoil.

A chraoibhín chumhra, gheallais domhsa go raibh grá agat dom

-'S gurab í fíor-scoth na Mumhan í, mo Róisín Dubh.

I would walk the dew with thee and the meadowy wastes,

In hope of getting love from thee, or part of my will,

Frangrant branch, thou didst promise me that thou hadst for me love-

And sure the flower of all Munster is Little Dark Rose!

I would walk with you, on fields or through dew,

in hopes of your love, your recognition,

but you are like the blossoms of a tree, flowering, promising,

the flower of all Munster is my Little Dark Rose!


Beidh an Éirne 'na tuiltibh tréana is réabfar cnoic,

Beidh an fharraige 'na tonntaibh dearga is doirtfear fuil,

Beidh gach gleann sléibhe ar fud éireann is móinte ar crith,

Lá éigin sul a n-éagfaidh mo Róisín Dubh.


The Erne shall rise in rude torrents, hills shall be rent,

The sea shall roll in red waves, and blood be poured out,

Every mountain glen in Ireland, and the bogs shall quake

Some day ere shall perish my Little Dark Rose!


(no changes … I mean, what can you do with a verse like that?)


OK, now here is the celebrated 1840s translation ....


Dark Rosaleen

translated by James Clarence Mangan


O MY Dark Rosaleen,

Do not sigh, do not weep!

The priests are on the ocean green,

They march along the deep.

There 's wine from the royal Pope,

Upon the ocean green;

And Spanish ale shall give you hope,

My Dark Rosaleen!

My own Rosaleen!

Shall glad your heart, shall give you hope,

Shall give you health, and help, and hope,

My Dark Rosaleen!


Over hills, and thro' dales,

Have I roam'd for your sake;

All yesterday I sail'd with sails

On river and on lake.

The Erne, at its highest flood,

I dash'd across unseen,

For there was lightning in my blood,

My Dark Rosaleen!

My own Rosaleen!

O, there was lightning in my blood,

Red lightning lighten'd thro' my blood.

My Dark Rosaleen!


All day long, in unrest,

To and fro, do I move.

The very soul within my breast

Is wasted for you, love!

The heart in my bosom faints

To think of you, my Queen,

My life of life, my saint of saints,

My Dark Rosaleen!

My own Rosaleen!

To hear your sweet and sad complaints,

My life, my love, my saint of saints,

My Dark Rosaleen!


Woe and pain, pain and woe,

Are my lot, night and noon,

To see your bright face clouded so,

Like to the mournful moon.

But yet will I rear your throne

Again in golden sheen;

'Tis you shall reign, shall reign alone,

My Dark Rosaleen!

My own Rosaleen!

'Tis you shall have the golden throne,

'Tis you shall reign, and reign alone,

My Dark Rosaleen!


Over dews, over sands,

Will I fly, for your weal:

Your holy delicate white hands

Shall girdle me with steel.

At home, in your emerald bowers,

From morning's dawn till e'en,

You'll pray for me, my flower of flowers,

My Dark Rosaleen!

My fond Rosaleen!

You'll think of me through daylight hours,

My virgin flower, my flower of flowers,

My Dark Rosaleen!


I could scale the blue air,

I could plough the high hills,

O, I could kneel all night in prayer,

To heal your many ills!

And one beamy smile from you

Would float like light between

My toils and me, my own, my true,

My Dark Rosaleen!

My fond Rosaleen!

Would give me life and soul anew,

A second life, a soul anew,

My Dark Rosaleen!


O, the Erne shall run red,

With redundance of blood,

The earth shall rock beneath our tread,

And flames wrap hill and wood,

And gun-peal and slogan-cry

Wake many a glen serene,

Ere you shall fade, ere you shall die,

My Dark Rosaleen!

My own Rosaleen!

The Judgement Hour must first be nigh,

Ere you can fade, ere you can die,

My Dark Rosaleen!



"Mangan's version is much greater than the original poem. It is supposed to be Hugh O'Donnell's address to Ireland at a time when the Irish chiefs were expecting help from Spain and from the Pope." – says one among many commentators.


Non-Irish-speakers (and I'm not all that great at it!!) appear to believe Mangan's translation is the real thing. It's dramatic, to be sure, overblown in the spirit of the age, but an entirely different poem. It has emotional power, granted, but in terms of translation from the Irish it is wildly inaccurate. In fact it comes across as a parody of the original. I'm stepping on to more dangerous ground by calling into question the translation by the beloved & sainted Padraig Pearse (the one in italics above). Pearse led the 1916 Rebellion, founded the Republic I belong to, and got himself shot for Ireland. Parts of his translation cannot or even should not be faulted, but other bits need to be rescued from the outdated (poetic) English of the late 19th century Gaelic Revival. I wouldn't be at all surprised if Thomas Kinsella or O Connor or one of the other well-known native speakers has made a more recent translation but I haven't come across it ... yet.


Slán agus beannacht,


Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

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I know nothing of translations. Both are beautiful to my ignorant eye. I love old, outdated English. There is a romance to it that modern English just does not match. Perhaps when our current English becomes outdated it will seem to the next generation more romantic than it does to me.

Thanks for the poetry and the history



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Yes, on all counts! Similar sounding things, too, but you can't say that in a family newspaper. I don't have any dread or love for the voracious Cathleen. I think she was (is) a bit of a bitch.


d. icon_wink.gif

Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

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