CELT document E860001-011

The Downfall of the Gael

Samuel Ferguson

Whole text


    The Downfall of the Gael

    O'Gnive, bard of O'Neill

  1. My heart is in woe,
    And my soul deep in trouble, —
    For the mighty are low,
    And abased are the noble:
  2. The Sons of the Gael
    Are in exile and mourning,
    Worn, weary and pale
    As spent pilgrims returning;
  3. Or men who, in flight
    From the field of disaster,
    Beseech the black night
    On their flight to fall faster;
  4. Or seamen aghast
    When their planks gape asunder,
    And the waves fierce and fast
    Tumble through in hoarse thunder;
  5.  p.39
  6. Or men whom we see
    That have got their death-omen, —
    Such wretches are we
    In the chains of our foemen!
  7. Our courage is fear,
    Our nobility vileness,
    Our hope is despair,
    And our comeliness foulness.
  8. There is mist on our heads,
    And a cloud chill and hoary
    Of black sorrow, sheds
    An eclipse on our glory.
  9. From the Boyne to the Linn
    Has the mandate been given,
    That the children of Finn
    From their country be driven.
  10. That the sons of the king —
    Oh, the treason and malice! —
    Shall no more ride the ring
    In their own native valleys;
  11. No more shall repair
    Where the hill foxes tarry,
    Nor forth to the air
    Fling the hawk at her quarry:
  12. For the plain shall be broke
    By the share of the stranger,
    And the stone-mason's stroke
    Tell the woods of their danger;
  13.  p.40
  14. The green hills and shore
    Be with white keeps disfigured,
    And the Mote of Rathmore
    Be the Saxon churl's haggard!
  15. The land of the lakes
    Shall no more know the prospect
    Of valleys and brakes —
    So transformed is her aspect!
  16. The Gael cannot tell,
    In the uprooted wild-wood
    And the red ridgy dell,
    The old nurse of his childhood:
  17. The nurse of his youth
    Is in doubt as she views him,
    If the wan wretch, in truth,
    Be the child of her bosom.
  18. We starve by the board,
    And we thirst amid wassail —
    For the guest is the lord,
    And the host is the vassal!
  19. Through the woods let us roam,
    Through the wastes wild and barren;
    We are strangers at home!
    We are exiles in Erin!
  20. And Erin's a bark
    O'er the wide waters driven!
    And the tempest howls dark,
    And her side planks are riven!
  21.  p.41
  22. And in billows of might
    Swell the Saxon before her, —
    Unite, oh, unite!
    Or the billows burst o'er her!

Document details

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Title statement

Title (uniform): The Downfall of the Gael

Author: Samuel Ferguson

Responsibility statement

Electronic edition compiled and proof-read by: Beatrix Färber and Andrea Lane

Funded by: School of History, University College, Cork

Edition statement

1. First draft.

Extent: 1296 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: 2016

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

CELT document ID: E860001-011

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 or teaching.

Notes statement

This is Ferguson's translation of the seventeenth-century poem

Title (poem): Mo thruaighe mar táid Gaoidhil

by Fearflatha Ó Gnímh. Fearflatha was head of the Ó Gnímhs, who were hereditary poets to the O'Neills of Clandeboye, in the modern area Antrim and Down. His floruit was between 1602 and 1638, and the poem was his answer to the collapse of the Gaelic Order with the Flight of the Earls on 14 September 1607. The Irish poem is available at CELT in file G402568, p. 144.

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).

Online resources

  1. Poems of Sir Samuel Ferguson is available on www.archive.org.
  2. Biographical infromation on Fearflatha Ó Gnímh (in Irish) is available on http://www.ainm.ie/Bio.aspx?ID=1444.

The edition used in the digital edition

Ferguson, Samuel (1918). ‘The Downfall of the Gael’. In: Poems of Sir Samuel Ferguson‍. Ed. by Alfred Perceval Graves. Dublin: Talbot Press, pp. 38–41.

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

  author 	 = {Samuel Ferguson},
  title 	 = {The Downfall of the Gael},
  editor 	 = {Alfred Perceval Graves},
  booktitle 	 = {Poems of Sir Samuel Ferguson},
  publisher 	 = {Talbot Press},
  address 	 = {Dublin},
  date 	 = {1918},
  pages 	 = {38–41}


Encoding description

Project description: CELT: Corpus of Electric Texts

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The whole poem.

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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 markedlg.

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

Profile description


Date: 1864

Language usage

  • The poem is in English. (en)

Keywords: Flight of the Earls; bardic poetry; collapse of Gaelic order; Gaelic revival; 19c; translation

Revision description

(Most recent first)

  1. 2016-06-22: File parsed and validated, SGML and HTML versions created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  2. 2016-06-21: Header edited; file proofed (2), file parsed and validated. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  3. 2016-06-20: Header created based on template; file proofed and encoded, introductory note written. (ed. Andrea Maria Lane)
  4. 2016-06-09: Text captured by scanning. (ed. Beatrix Färber)

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