CELT document E860001-002

Aideen's Grave


Introductory Note

[Aideen, daughter of Angus of Ben-Edar (now the Hill of Howth), died of grief for the loss of her husband, Oscar, son of Ossian, who was slain at the battle of Gavra (Gowra, near Tara in Meath), A.D. 284. Oscar was entombed in the rath or earthen fortress that occupied part of the field of battle, the rest of the slain being cast in a pit outside. Aideen is said to have buried on Howth, near the mansion of her father, and poetical tradition represents the Fenian heroes as present at her obsequies. The Cromlech in Howth Park has been supposed to be her sepulchre. It stands under the summits from which the poet Atharne is said to have launched his invectives against the people of Leinster, until, by the blighting effect of his satires, they were compelled to make him atonement for the death of his son.]

Samuel Ferguson

Whole text

    Aideen's Grave

  1. They heaved the stone; they heap'd the cairn:
    Said Ossian "In a queenly grave
    We leave her, 'mong her fields of fern
    Between the cliff and wave.
  2. "The cliff behind stands clear and bare,
    And bare, above, the heathery steep
    Scales the clear heaven's expanse, to where
    The Danaan Druids sleep.
  3. "And all the sands that, left and right,
    The grassy isthmus-ridge confine,
    in yellow bars le bared and bright
    Among the sparkling brine.
  4.  p.7
  5. "A clear pure air pervades the scene,
    In loneliness and awe secure;
    Meet spot to sepulchre a Queen
    Who in her life was pure.
  6. "Here, far from camp and chase removed,
    Apart in Nature's quiet room,
    The music that alive she loved
    Shall cheer her in the tomb.
  7. "The humming of the noontide bees,
    The lark's loud carol all day long,
    And, borne on evening's salted breeze,
    The clanking sea bird's song
  8. "Shall round her airy chamber float,
    And with the whispering winds and steams
    Attune to Nature's tenderest note
    The tenor of her dreams.
  9. "And oft, at tranquil eve's decline
    When full tides lip the Old Green Plain,
    The lowing of Moynalty's kine
    Shall round her breathe again,
  10. "In sweet remembrance of the days
    When, duteous, in the lowly vale
    Unconscious of my Oscar's gale,
    She fill'd the fragrant pail,
  11. "And, duteous, from the running brook
    Drew water for the bath; nor deem'd
    A king did on her labour look,
    And she a fairy seem'd.
  12.  p.8
  13. "But when the wintry frosts begin,
    And in their long-drawn, lofty flight,
    The wild geese with their airy din
    Distend the ear of night,
  14. "And whne the fierce De Danaan ghosts
    At midnight from their peak come down,
    When all around the enchanted coasts
    Despairing strangers drown;
  15. "When, mingling with the wreckful wail,
    From low Clontarf's wave-trampled floor
    Comes booming up the burthen'd gale
    The angry Sand-Bull's roar;
  16. "Or, angrier than the sea, the shout
    Of Erin's hosts in wrath combined,
    When Terror heads Oppression's rout,
    And Freedom cheers behind: —
  17. "Then o'er our lady's placid dream,
    Where safe from storms she sleeps, may steal
    Such jo as will not misbeseem
    A Queen of men to feel:
  18. "Such thrill of free, defiant pride,
    As rapt her in her battle car
    At Gavra, when by Oscar's side
    She rode the ridge of war,
  19. "Exulting, down the shouting troops,
    And through the thick confronting kings,
    With hands on all their javelin loops
    And shafts on all their strings;
  20.  p.9
  21. "E'er closed the inseparable crowds,
    No more to part for me, and show,
    As bursts the sun through scattering clouds,
    My Oscar issuing so.
  22. "No more, dispelling battle's gloom
    Shall son for me from fight return;
    The great green rath's ten-acred tomb
    Lies heavy on his urn.
  23. "A cup of bodkin-pencill'd clay
    Holds Oscar; mighty heart and limb
    One handful now of ashes grey:
    And she has died for him.
  24. "And here, hard by her natal bower
    On lone Ben Edar's side, we strive
    With lifted rock and sign of power
    To keep her name alive.
  25. "That while, from circling year to year,
    Her Ogham-letter'd stone is seen,
    The Gael shall say, 'Our Fenians here
    Entomb's their loved Aideen.'
  26. "The Ogham from her pillar stone
    In tract of time will wear away;
    Her name at last be only know
    In Ossian's echo'd lay.
  27. "The long forgotten lay I sing
    May only ages hence revive,
    (As eagle with a wounded wing
    To soar again might strive,)
  28.  p.10
  29. "Imperfect, in an alien speech,
    When, wandering here, some child of chance
    Through pangs of keen delight shall reach
    The gift of utterance, —
  30. "To speak the air, the sky to speak,
    The freshness of the hill to tell,
    Who, roaming bare Ben Edar's peak
    And Aideen's briary dell,
  31. "And gazing on the Cromlech vast,
    And on the mountain and the sea,
    Shall catch communion with the past
    And mix himself with me.
  32. "Child of the Future's doubtful night,
    Wate'er your speech, whoe'r your sires,
    Sing while you may with frank delight
    The song your house inspires.
  33. "Sing while you may, nor grieve to know
    The song you sing shall also die;
    Atharna's lay has perish'd so,
    Though once it thrill'd this sky.
  34. "Above us, from his rocky chair,
    There, where Ben Edar's landward crest
    O'er eastern Bregia bends, to where
    Dun Almon crowns the west:
  35. "And all that felt the fretted air
    Throughout the song-distemper'd clime,
    Did droop, till suppliant Leinster's prayer
    Appeased the vengeful rhyme.
  36.  p.11
  37. "Ah me, or e'er the hour arrive
    Shall bid my long-forgotten tones,
    Unknown One, on your lips revive,
    Here, by these moss-grown stones,
  38. "What change shall o'er the scene have cross'd;
    What conquering lords anew have come;
    What lore-arm'd, mightier Druid host
    From Gaul or distant Rome!
  39. "What arts of death, what ways of life,
    What creeds unknown to bard or seer,
    Shall round your careless steps be rife,
    Who pause and ponder here;
  40. "And, haply, where yon curlew calls
    Athwart the marsh, 'mid groves and bowers
    See rise some mighty chieftain's halls
    With unimagined towers:
  41. "And baying hounds, and coursers bright,
    And burnish'd cars of dazzling sheen,
    With courtly train of dame and knight,
    Where now the fern is green.
  42. "Or, by yon prostrate altar-stone
    May kneel, perchance, and, free from blame,
    Hear holy men with rites unknown
    New names of God proclaim.
  43. "Let change as may the Name of Awe,
    Let rite surcease and altar fall,
    The same One God remains, a law
    For ever and for all.
  44.  p.12
  45. "Let change as may the face of earth,
    Let alter all the social frame,
    For mortal men the ways of birth
    And death are still the same.
  46. "And still, as life and time wear on,
    The children of the waning days,
    (Though strength be from their shoulders gone
    To lift the loads we raise,)
  47. "Shall weep to do the burial rites
    Of lost ones loved; and fondly found,
    In shadow of the gathering nights,
    The monumental mound.
  48. "Farewell! The strength of men is worn;
    The night approaches dark and chill:
    Sleep, till perchance an endless morn
    Descend the glittering hill."
  49. Of Oscar and Aideen bereft,
    So Ossian sang. The Fenians sped
    Three mighty shouts to heaven; and left
    Ben Edar to the dead.

Document details

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File description

Title statement

Title (uniform): Aideen's Grave

Author: Samuel Ferguson

Responsibility statement

Electronic edition compiled and proof-read by: Beatrix Färber and Seán Pilcher

Funded by: School of History, University College, Cork

Edition statement

1. First draft.

Extent: 2010 words

Publication statement

Publisher: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts: a project of University College, Cork

Address: College Road, Cork, Ireland—http://www.ucc.ie/celt

Date: 2014

Distributor: CELT online at University College, Cork, Ireland.

CELT document ID: E860001-002

Availability: The works by Sir Samuel Ferguson are in the public domain. This electronic text is available with prior consent of the CELT programme for purposes of private or academic research and teaching.

Notes statement

This poem was first published in the volume Lays of the Western Gael in 1864 (Peter Denman, states p. 73, 'it came off the press in the latter part of 1864').

Source description

Life and Work of Sir Samuel Ferguson

  1. Mary Catherine Guinness Ferguson, Sir Samuel Ferguson in the Ireland of his Day (Edinburgh/London 1896).
  2. Arthur Deering, Sir Samuel Ferguson, Poet and Antiquarian (Philadelphia 1931).
  3. Malcolm Brown, Sir Samuel Ferguson (Lewisburg) 1973.
  4. Robert O'Driscoll, An ascendancy of the heart: Ferguson and the beginnings of modern Irish literature in English (Dublin 1976).
  5. Joseph Th. Leerssen, Mere Irish and Fíor-Ghael: Studies in the idea of Irish nationality, its development and literay expression prior to the nineteenth century (Amsterdam/Philadelphia 1986).
  6. Terence Brown and Barbara Hayley (eds), Samuel Ferguson: a centenary tribute (Dublin: Royal Irish Academy 1987).
  7. Maurice Harmon, The Enigma of Samuel Ferguson, in: O. Komesu, M. Sekine (eds), Irish writers and politics (Irish Literary Studies 36) (Gerrards Cross 1989) 62–79.
  8. Peter Denman, Samuel Ferguson: the literary achievement (Gerrards Cross, Bucks. 1990).
  9. Eve Patten, 'Samuel Ferguson: a tourist in Antrim', in: Gerald Dawe and John Wilson Foster, (eds), The poet's place: Ulster literature and society: essays in honour of John Hewitt, 1907–87 (Belfast: Queen's University of Belfast, Institute of Irish Studies, 1991).
  10. Gréagóir Ó Dúill, Samuel Ferguson: Beatha agus Saothar (Baile Átha Cliath [=Dublin] 1993)).
  11. Gréagóir Ó Dúill, Sir Samuel Ferguson (1810–1886), in: Eamon Phoenix (ed), A century of northern life: The Irish News and 100 years of Ulster history, 1890s–1990s (Belfast 1995) 182–186.
  12. Sean Ryder, 'The politics of landscape and region in nineteenth-century poetry', in: Leon Litvack, Glenn Hooper (eds), Ireland in the nineteenth century: regional identity (Dublin 2000).
  13. Eve Patten, Samuel Ferguson and the culture of nineteenth-century Ireland (Dublin 2004).
  14. Peter Denman, William Carleton and Samuel Ferguson: lives and contacts, in: Gordon Brand (ed), William Carleton, the authentic voice (Gerard's Cross 2006) 360–377.
  15. Eve Patten, Samuel Ferguson's Hibernian Nights' Entertainments, in: James H. Murphy (ed), The Irish book in English, 1800–1891. The Oxford History of the Irish Book, 4 (Oxford: 2011).
  16. Matthew Campbell, 'Samuel Ferguson's Maudlin Jumble', in: Kirstie Blair, Mina Gorji (eds), Class and the canon: constructing labouring-class poetry and poetics, 1780–1900 (Basingstoke 2013).


  • Poems of Sir Samuel Ferguson are available on www.archive.org.

The edition used in the digital edition

Ferguson, Samuel (1918). ‘Aideen’s Grave’. In: Poems of Sir Samuel Ferguson‍. Ed. by Alfred Perceval Graves. Dublin: Talbot Press, pp. 6–12.

You can add this reference to your bibliographic database by copying or downloading the following:

  author 	 = {Samuel Ferguson},
  title 	 = {Aideen's Grave},
  editor 	 = {Alfred Perceval Graves},
  booktitle 	 = {Poems of Sir Samuel Ferguson},
  publisher 	 = {Talbot Press},
  address 	 = {Dublin},
  date 	 = {1918},
  pages 	 = {6–12}


Encoding description

Project description: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts

Sampling declarations

The whole poem.

Editorial declarations

Correction: The text has been proof-read twice.

Normalization: The electronic text represents the edited text.

Hyphenation: The editorial practice of the hard-copy editor has been retained.

Segmentation: div0= the individual poem, quatrains are marked lg.

Interpretation: Names of persons (given names), and places are not tagged. Terms for cultural and social roles are not tagged.

Profile description

Creation: 1858–1864

Language usage

  • The poem is in English. (en)

Keywords: Irish mythology; poetry; Celtic revival; 19c

Revision description

(Most recent first)

  1. 2014-06-10: File proofed (2), bibliographic details added; file parsed and validated; SGML and HTML files created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  2. 2014-06-09: File converted to XML; encoding checked; Provisional TEI header created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  3. 2014-06-06: File proofed (1); structural markup applied according to CELT practice. (ed. Seán Pilcher)
  4. 2014-06-06: Text and Introductory note captured. (data capture Seán Pilcher)

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