CELT document T402570A

The Irish Vision at Rome

Unknown author

Edited by John T. Gilbert

Whole text


    An Síogaí Rómhánach

  1. I tell of a vision—no untrue tale;
    It was seen by my own eyes;
    It was heard with my own ears—
    No part of it shall be concealed.
    On a morning, I, alone,
    At Home on the Golden Hill of Cephas,
    Lay on a tomb-stone, shedding tears,
    Grieving over the grave of the noble Gaels.
    Beneath slept two, liberal of gifts—10 
    Deeply would they have mourned my condition—
    The great Earl of Tir Eoghain, land of the brave Mall,
    And O Donel, of the keen gold-hilted swords.
    As I lay oppressed with grief,
    Whom did I see descend from the summit15 
    But a white-necked, pearly maiden,
    Who would have won the prize from Venus for beauty,
    And from Minerva for form and grace.
    Elegantly traced were her slender eyebrows,
    Gold shone through her tresses,20 
    Snow and flame mingled in her cheek.
    On that spot to me she said,
    In a voice more melodious than harps,
    “Depart from the grave of the mighty chiefs;”
    “Long did they mourn—slowly broke their hearts.”25 
    Then, full of emotion and agony,
    She uttered a wail most mournful,
    Sad enough to draw tears from clerics,
    Even from stones—if possible.
    Then, wailing, she uplifted her arms,30 
    'And, with eyes raised to heaven,
    Addressed the King of the sky
    In these doleful words:
    O great God! I pray thee to hear me
    Is it sinful to ask a brief question? p.19135 
    Difficult seemingly to the learned,
    But to Thee all is plain.
    Uninformed I am and ignorant;
    But if all mankind
    Inherit the sin of the first man,40 
    Our father Adam, misled by Eve,
    Why should punishment be inflicted
    Most heavily on one race?
    Why should lowly slaves be freed?
    Why should those once free be now enslaved?45 
    Why are the poor and innocent hanged,
    And the guilty left joyful?
    Why are not heretics extirpated?
    Why are the faithful persecuted by evil-doers?
    Why are not Lutherans punished, 50 
    While true believers are done to death?
    Why are the lambs left bleeding?
    Why are wolves allowed to prey on the flocks?
    By what justice is Erin cast down?
    Why are her groans unheeded?55 
    Why are not the Gaels exalted?
    A people who at all times obeyed God.
    Since the advent of Holy Patrick,
    With the faith to Inis Ealga,
    Neiher reverse, nor pain, nor affliction,60 
    Nor foreign might, nor sore oppression
    Could take Christ's faith from the hearts of the Gaels.
    Their light was brilliant as the sun—
    It glittered as an angel,
    On it there fell neither blemish, stain, nor spot,65 
    Throughout Fodhla, on the sons of Miled.
    Alas, O Christ! this is true indeed.
    What dost thou require of us? Wilt thou not listen?
    Or is it thy will never again to look upon us—
    Upon us, who have always adored thee,70 
    Now punished unjustly under the Saxons.
    Surely, it was the Saxon brood, low
    And treacherous, which deserved to have been forsaken.
    They cast off the yoke of the Church
    And scoffed at the Mother of the only Son;75 
    They would not submit to God,
    But destroyed faith with venomous heresy.
    I desire not to name Henry the King,
    Who foully put away his wife
    For Ann Boleyn—his own daughter—80 
    And left the Church for Luther's teaching.
    With him I class Elizabeth,
    Who would not wed, but abandoned virtue, And wrought treachery on many.
    She made a wilderness of Eber's plain,
    And extirpated its men and women.85 
    Mary Stuart she put to death:
    To Elizabeth succeeded James, p.192
    Omen of desolation to Felim's land.
    He trampled down their race and stock;
    Their lands he measured with cords;90 
    Poem He put Saxons in the place of Gaels,
    And set up false religion in the churches.
    Soon after him came Charles—
    Like his father in deceit and falsehood.
    Unjust was his yoke on Leath Chuin.95 
    Every man in Leath Mogha was persecuted.
    He took from them their rents and rights,
    Their wealth, their sons, their weapons, their armour,
    With a third of their land and titles.
    It was he who required them to forsake God.100 
    He forbade parish mass-hearing;
    He proscribed the Gaelic tongue,
    And commanded Saxon speech for all.
    By him were mass and music prohibited.
    Every horror has been wrought upon Erin;105 
    A perpetual deadly curse is rained upon her;
    An atom of what was done would have been woe enough.
    I know not of the cause
    For which they were first oppressed.
    It was God's will to eschew this prince110 
    And those who did him homage.
    Parliamentarians, vile boors,
    Beheaded, with a keen sword,
    This fair-headed, evil King.
    During their time Erin awoke,115 
    And in Ulster uprose the first man—
    Mac Guire, of heroic Fenian race,
    And Mac Mahon, as in former time,
    Two valiant, true-hearted lions,
    Who prized not worldly wealth;120 
    With treacherous strangers they treated not.
    Until they together shed
    Their blood in crimsom pools,
    For love of the faith which they would not forsake.
    Not through dislike do I pass by Felim125 
    The red-white, curled, noble youth,
    Who made adventurers yell,
    And wrested spoil from niggard Scots.
    Then it was the hero set sail
    From Spain, in full array.130 
    The pure Owen Roe of the death-dealing host,
    Champion of spoils son of valiant Art,
    Grandson of Cormac the great O'Neill.
    Victorious hand, never worsted in fight,
    To this truth myself I pledge.135 
    On many a danger did Owen look
    From his first days of childhood
    Till Christ ended his career. p.193
    To attest this I appeal to God
    And to Spain, now full of grief for him;140 
    And to Almaigne, the favored of Caesar;
    And to France, which bravely fought him;
    And to the Low Countries, which are sad without him;
    And to the clans of Miled in the Kingdom of Erin.
    One half of Owen's deeds I cannot tell:145 
    To the province of Ulster he brought relief in distress;
    He mastered the strangers there,
    And swiftly drove away Leslie;
    He set on foot Montgomery of the fetters
    He scared the bare Scots;150 
    He wrought confusion on their people
    And broke down the fort of the false Moore.
    The brave man leagured Dublin city
    And laid waste its country.
    In Meath, of the treacherous Foreign Gaels,155 
    At Portlester, he slew hundreds.
    He struck terror into Birra and Nenagh,
    And from thence to Thpmond of Eber.
    He carried away spoil, in the face of the foe,
    From Inchiquin, over the mountain top.160 
    He brought to submission all Waterford
    And Duncannon of the arid channels,
    Loch Garman of sharp weapons,
    Ross and the fort of Ben Edair.
    By force he reduced Kilkenny.165 
    Mighty were his arms by the Shannon side,
    By the Abhan mdr, by the Nore,
    And by the rapid-rushing Barrow.
    On the banks of Suir his troops were busy,
    And from thence again to Erne.170 
    He held revels in the rath of Meadhbh,
    From Athlone he exacted fealty,
    And thence westward to distant Beara.
    He smashed the walls at Baile Seamuis,
    He made Sligo tremble at his glance,175 
    And by him the strangers were bound.
    By Mac Duach was told the pleasing news—
    In every harbour of Erin,
    It was said, declared, predicted, read,
    That the strangers had been suppressed.180 
    Owen the red,
    borne on the shoulders of the Gaels,
    A noble hero, lamb-like, airy,
    Standard-bearing, victorious, dauntless, blow-dealing,
    Preying, searching, protecting, wounding,185 
    Comely, curled, poetic, humane,
    Acute, diligent, plundering, festive,
    An active hero, a ready soldier,
    Keen bladed, swift, agile, bounding:
    A majestic, unsullied, stately cavalier, p.194190 
    Mighty, proud, haughty, armoured,
    Law-giving, foraging, routing, advancing,
    Loving, pleasing, social, prosperous.
    Let all know that if this bird had lived
    The flock would not be in the Phoenix nest,195 
    Neither strangers nor Cromwell would have been obeyed
    As they have been since the hour of his death.
    Although it is my grief that he has died,
    His death to me is no cause of woe,
    Since his days were shortened not by strangers,200 
    But by God, who was pleased to free him.
    Soon after him came with vigour
    The warlike lion, Bishop Emer,
    The man of steady, active head,
    Who excelled all in learning.205 
    The most upright-hearted of the Gaels.
    He broke the spirit and the law of the strangers,
    Stripped them of authority in Erin,
    And scattered the hosts of Charles.
    Woe for me was the shortening of his days,210 
    Not less my grief that he was Bishop of Down.
    Alas for the nobles of Ulster—the heroic champions;
    Alas for Henry Ruadh, inheritor of valour.
    Mac Guire, the Gaelic-hearted,
    And O'Cahan, the bounding hound,215 
    The hero of the routs, Felim, son of Tuathal,
    My blessing on them—I cannot name them.
    I am wretched, forsaken, persecuted.
    I ask again, oh mighty Son,
    Where be the prophecies of Holy Patrick?220 
    Of Berchan, or gentle Senan,
    Of Ciaran of Cluain, obeyed by all,
    Of Colum Cille, the cheerful-faced;
    Of Cailin, of Ultan, the laborious,
    Of Colman Ele, whose food was the green grass.225 
    Alas, alas, bitter is my sorrow,
    My cry, my wail, my weakness,
    My woe, my groan, my darkness, my acute grief,
    My omen, my ruin, my madness, my anguish.
    A third of their afflictions I know not:230 
    The Gaels are being wasted and deeply wounded,
    Subjugated, slain, extirpated
    By plague, by famine, by war, by persecution.
    It was God's justice not to free them.
    They went not together hand in hand.235 
    The land was not firmly united,
    And the clerics were ever divided.
    Some abounded in falsehood,
    Some aided the heretic horde,
    Many submitted to the strangers,240 
    Some craftily deceived the Gaels,
    Some affected to espouse the cause of Erin
    While in secret they ever deserted her, p.195
    Some feigned to oppose the strangers
    To whom they stealthily adhered.245 
    My curses shall ever rain on such clerics,
    And on their people till the judgment day—
    On those who loved not each other—
    Who made a wilderness of Eber's plain,
    Who rejected the noble Gaels,250 
    And on whom fell the curse of the last Nuncio,
    John Baptista, Archbishop of Fermo,
    Sole Legate of the Pope in Erin.
    This is the cause of my tears;
    This is the cause which has truly grieved me;255 
    This has cast a shadow on the sun's light;
    This has clouded the sky with gloom and terror;
    This has cast Europe under an eclipse,
    And put Christ's faith once more under a cloud;
    My curse for ever on the wolfish race.260 
    Yet I will not abandon hope,
    Since of Miled's stock there still survives
    Hugh the swarthy, sprung from heroic sires.
    The seers foretold that he
    Shall scatter the strangers far and wide.265 
    Still live the red-haired, fair-faced Felim,
    And Colonel Fearghal, the valiant hero,
    And Aed O'Brian—equal to hundreds—
    And O'Cavanagh, and the brave O'Tuathal.
    Still live the yet unvanquished bands—270 
    O'Ruarcs, O'llaghalliaghs, and O'Briens,
    O'Kellys, not weak in war,
    O'Conors, cavaliers renowned in story.
    And the Mac Carthys, unstained by treachery,
    The Dalcais of mighty deeds,—O'Briens,275 
    Sprung from Eremon and great Eber;
    And the men of Munster—land beloved of bards—
    And the Ulstermen, victors in a hundred fights,
    O'Maoileachlainn, the bounding hero,
    O'Maelmuaidh, the valiant leader,280 
    Mac Cochlan of the white-walled forts,
    O'Diomsaidh, the rushing wolf,
    O'Carrol, with the soldiery of Eile,
    O'Sullevan, from Beara's plain,
    O'More, O'Floinn, O'Doinn of the hills.285 
    Soon will the heroes combine;
    And, united hand in hand,
    They will vanquish the strangers at Saingel,
    And rout the foreigners at Mullaghmaistin.
    Then none shall league with the Saxon,290 
    Nor with the half naked Scot.
    Then shall Erin be freed from settlers,
    Then shall perish the Saxon tongue.
    The Gaels in arms shall triumph
    Over the crafty, thieving, false sect of Calvin. p.196295 
    Their nobles shall bear sway over unbelievers,
    And scatter the brood of Luther.
    True faith shall be uncontrolled;
    Poem The people shall be rightly taught
    By friars, bishops, priests, and clerics,300 
    And everlasting peace shall dwell in Erin.
    pray God—may He deign to hear—
    I pray Jesus—who sees all—
    And the holy Spirit with—one accord—
    Mary, our Mother, and Patrick of the shining tooth,305 
    Colum of my heart, and holy Brigid,
    That the Gaels may band together
    And achieve the great exploit,
    To drive out the strangers and set Erin free.
    Here ended the beauteous maiden310 
    Whom I have described to you.
    Suddenly, clapping her hands
    She ascended swiftly to the clouds.
    Thus she left me all alone—
    Prostrate on the tombstone of the Gaels—315 
    Without voice, vigour, or motion,
    Full of woe, affrighted at her tidings.
    I declare the age of the Lord in the year
    When I stood in Rome, a tearful stranger,
    One thousand with a half five tens and one hundred.320 
    Thus ends my story to you.
    May consolation come to the maiden who last night stood at O'Neill's grave
    With anguished heart, wailing for the noble Gael.
    Though I, miserable and weak, was deserted by her,
    Deep is my love for her and for those of whom she spoke.

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Title statement

Title (uniform): The Irish Vision at Rome

Editor: John T. Gilbert

Responsibility statement

Electronic edition compiled by : Beatrix Färber and Miriam Trojer and Miriam Trojer

Proof corrections by: and Miriam Trojer

Funded by: University College, CorkThe HEA via the LDT Project and PRTLI 4 and The EU under the LEONARDO Lifelong Learning Programme

Edition statement

1. First draft, revised and corrected.

Extent: 4,300 words

Publication statement

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

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

Date: 2009

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

CELT document ID: T402570A

Availability: Available with prior consent of the CELT project for purposes of academic research and teaching only.The electronic edition was published with the kind permission of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies who owns the copyright.

Notes statement

The Gaelic poem of the year 1650, styled the "Irish Vision at Rome," [...] is one of the few contemporary compositions which have come down to us from the native Irish of those times on their own affairs and in their own pleonasms characteristic of Gaelic compositions, the poem is of interest as an expression of the views of a native Irish author at an important epoch of his country's history. The scene is laid in Rome, at the grave of the exiled Ulster chiefs. There the poet represents Erin as appealing, in agonising tones, to the Almighty, on behalf of her people; but, while deploring the deaths of Owen O'Neill and Bishop Mac Mahon, she expresses her confidence in Hugh O'Neill and other surviving Irish leaders, and her belief in the ultimate triumph of their cause. (Gilbert, Cont. Hist. Aff. Irel. 3, vi-vii).

Source description

Manuscript sources of the Irish original

  1. Dublin, Royal Irish Academy, 23 K 36, scribe Muiris Mac Thaly, 1704.
  2. Maynooth, Russell Library, M 86, scribe Aodh Buidhe mac Cruitín, 1714.
  3. Dublin, Trinity College Library, H 4 19, scribe Aodh Ó Dálaigh, 1742–46. In this MS, the poem is attributed to Eoghan Ruadh mac an Bháird.
  4. Dublin, National Library, MS 32, formerly Cheltenham, Phillips 9774, scribe Pronsias Ó Mulloone, 1747–56.
  5. Dublin, National Library, MS 296, formerly Cheltenham, Phillips 14163, scribe Donnchadh Ó Floinn, Ennis, 1763.
  6. Dublin, Royal Irish Academy, 23 I 20, scribe Tadhg mac Ceártheigh, 1771.
  7. Dublin, Royal Irish Academy, 23 B 38, scribe Seumas Ó Murchúghadh, 1778.
  8. London, British Library, MS Egerton 155, scribe Fearghal Ó Raghallaigh, 1790–96.


  1. James Hardiman, Irish Minstrelsy, or, Bardic remains of Ireland, with English poetical translations (London 1831) vol. 2, 306–338. [The translation by Henry Grattan Curran is a free rendering.]
  2. Douglas Hyde, Lia Fáil 4, 195–211.
  3. Cecile O'Rahilly (ed.), Five seventeenth-century political poems, Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies 1952 (reprinted 1977).

Secondary literature

  1. R. B. McDowell, 'The problem of religious dissent in Ireland, 1660–1740'. Bulletin, Irish Committee of Historical Sciences 40 (1945).
  2. Jane H. Ohlmeyer (ed.), Ireland from independence to occupation 1641–1660 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1995).
  3. Joep Leerssen, Mere Irish and Fíor-Ghael: studies in the idea of Irish nationality, its development and literary expression prior to the nineteenth century (Critical Conditions: Field Day Essays, Cork University Press 1996).
  4. Jane H. Ohlmeyer, 'The civil wars in Ireland'. In: John Philipps Kenyon; Jane H. Ohlmeyer (eds.), The civil wars: a military history of England, Scotland, and Ireland 1638–1660 (Oxford: Oxford University Press 1998) 73–102.
  5. Micheál Ó Siochrú, Confederate Ireland 1642–1649: a constitutional and political analysis. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1998.
  6. Jane H. Ohlmeyer (ed.), Political thought in seventeenth-century Ireland: kingdom or colony. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press in association with the Folger Institute, Washington, DC, 2000.
  7. Pádraig Lenihan, Confederate Catholics at War 1641–49, Cork: Cork University Press, 2001.
  8. Michelle O'Riordan, Irish Bardic Poetry and Rhetorical Reality (Cork 2007).

The edition used in the digital edition

‘The Irish Vision at Rome’ (1880). In: A Contemporary History of Affairs in Ireland from 1641 to 1652‍. Ed. by John T. Gilbert. Vol. 3. Dublin: for the Irish Archaeological and Celtic Society, pp. 190–196.

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

  editor 	 = {John T. Gilbert},
  title 	 = {The Irish Vision at Rome},
  booktitle 	 = {A Contemporary History of Affairs in Ireland from 1641 to 1652},
  address 	 = {Dublin },
  publisher 	 = {for the Irish Archaeological and Celtic Society},
  date 	 = {1880},
  volume 	 = {3},
  pages 	 = {190–196}


Encoding description

Project description: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts

Sampling declarations

The present text represents pp. 190–196 of the volume 3, Appendix. Cecile O'Rahilly has stated that the translation given in Gilbert's volume is that of Hardiman's version.

Editorial declarations

Correction: Text has been proofread once.

Normalization: The electronic text represents the edited text.

Quotation: There are no quotations.

Hyphenation: The editor's hyphenation has been retained.

Segmentation: div0=the poem; stanzas are marked lg; and metrical lines l. Line-breaks are marked lb/ every five lines.

Interpretation: Names are not tagged, nor are terms for cultural and social roles. Foreign words are tagged.

Profile description

Creation: By an unkown translator.

Date: 19th century

Language usage

  • The text is in English. (en)
  • Some words are in Irish. (ga)

Keywords: bardic; poetry; 17c; vision; political; translation

Revision description

(Most recent first)

  1. 2009-08-05: SGML and HTML files created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  2. 2009-07-31: Whole file proofed (2); file parsed; additions made to header. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  3. 2009-07-28: File proofed and encoded to end; header constructed in line with Irish companion file. (ed. Miriam Trojer)
  4. 2009-03-06: File proofed and encoded to line 65. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  5. 2008-10-15: Text captured. (data capture Beatrix Färber)

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