The School Bag

‘O rosary that recalled my tear’

Aithbhreac Inghean Corcadahl
O rosary that recalled my tear,
dear was the finger in my sight,
that touched you once, beloved the heart
of him who owned you till tonight.

I grieve the death of him whose hand
you did entwine each hour of prayer;
my grief that is lifeless now
and I no longer see it there.

My heart is sick, the day has reached
its end for us two, brief the span
that I was given to enjoy
the converse of this goodly man.

Lips whose speech made pleasant sound,
in every land beguiling all,
hawk of Islay of smooth plains,
lion of Mull of the white wall.

His memory for songs was keen,
no poet left him without fee,
nobly generous, courteous, calm,
of princely character was he.

Poets came from Dun an Óir,
and from the Boyne, to him whose hair
was all in curls, drawn by his fame;
to each he gave a generous share.

Slim handsome hawk of Sliabh Gaoil,
who satisfied the clergy’s hopes,
salmon of Sanas of quite stream,
dragon of Lewis of sun-drenched slopes.

Bereft of this man, all alone
I live, and take no part in play,
enjoy no kindly talk, nor mirth,
now that his smiles have gone away.

Niall Og is dead; none of his clan
can hold my interest for long;
the ladies droop, their mirth is stilled,
I cannot hope for joy in song.

Gigha of smooth soil is bereft,
no need of music Dun Suibhne feels,
the grass grows green round the heroes’ fort;
they know the sorrow of the MacNeills.

The fort that brought us mirth, each time
we made our way there; now the sight
of it is more than I can bear
as I look on it from each height.

If Thou, Son of the living God,
has breached the cluster on the tree,
Thou has taken from us our choicest nut,
and plucked the greatest of the three.

The topmost nut of the branch is plucked,
Clan Neill has newly lost its head:
often the best of the generous men
descends to the MacNeill’s last bed.

His death, the finest of them all,
has sapped my strength, and cost me dear,
taking away my darling spouse,
O rosary that recalled my tear.

My heart is broken in my breast,
and will not heal till death. I fear,
now that the dark-eyed one is dead,
O rosary that recalled my tear.

May Mary Mother, the King’s nurse,
guard each path I follow here,
and may her Son watch over me,
O rosary that recalled my tear.     

Scots Gaelic - 15th century - translated by Derick Thomson