A Poem by Gilbride MacNamee in Praise of Cathal O’Conor
Author: E. C. Quiggin
An electronic edition
1. The Redhand has come to Croghan, I see his badge in his
hand; through the achievements of the patrons the ones
foretold of the verdant lands of Fal have been obtained.
2. The Redhand of Croghan has come as Berchan foretold,
certain our knowledge, he has assumed his kingdom by
Carn Fraeich, he has first stilled the storm.
3. Croghan’s Redhand has rendered fruitful the green woods
of the warm land; if a beetle strike any white hazel it
will yield a vat full.
4. His rule has put grain into the ground, it has made blossoms
to sprout through the tips of the branches; the sentences
of the bright shining light of the Greeks have caused mast
to grow in the oak-wood.
5. Ireland has recognised her ruler; she has brought forth
the increase of a quarter in one month, so that the forest
which trembled with age has put forth fruit again under
6. When comes the autumn the fruit will reach Galway’s
prince of the swift steeds; ear upon ear, cluster upon
cluster will there be from Kesh Corrin to Croagh.
7. Men of Erin, I will tell you Cathal’s manner, hearken upon
unto me, one of his hands — the left — is all red, he is a
fair-curly, bright-locked, handsome man.
8. The tip of his red hand is like to the ridge of a shield
wherewith rout is spread; the tip of his [other] white hand
is as though thou beheldest the thick part of the hoop of
a torque (?).
9. His deft hand is whiter than linen the day it is washed,
like a beam from the sun; scarce is his left hand paler than
the hue of the stones of its own ring.
10. Hand of Toirdelbach’s son of Tara which Marban no longer
alive foretold, thou hast received a token from Mary’s Son,
authority over all mighty Banba rests on it.
11. O ruddy hand of the Torch of Tuam, thou art the fairest
I have beheld, there is the counterpart of thy fresh death-dealing
hand beside Niall’s swarthy knee.
12. Below around his white-soled foot he placed a darkish
buskin with ornamental ribbing; round his beautiful long
hand swarthy on one side he will place a smooth bright-soft
13. After rising betimes he throws round him a scarlet mantle,
fair his body, [in] the mantle of the soft-eyed prince of the
Moy there is lace and green points.
14. If a battle-shout is raised in his garth it is not heard outside
for the density of the host, every whisper is heard there
when a man sings his lay.
15. The five provinces of Ireland would not restrain the host
of Cathal of the smooth poll, a competitive lay of bard or
bruileng restrains the bright retinue of the lofty, fair-haired
16. Toirdelbach Mór, monarch of Erin, father of the king from
Flann’s rath, if it be tried whose father is noblest Cathal’s
pledge will go to his posterity.
17. The son of Toirdelbach [has] flowing tresses, white his leg,
ruddy his hand, since the loss of his father Ireland has
found no spouse like to Cathal.
18. The noble of Croghan of sweet converse [spends] one
night in the south by the Shannon; another is spent in
the north by the man of the long visage [cheek] beside the
white, swan-visited Moy abounding in trout.
19. Toirdelbach’s son of the flowing locks spends a night at
Medb’s mighty Croghan, with horns of mead being quaffed
around him and fair youths plaiting their tresses.
20. What has gladdened the women of the world among the
Connaughtmen of Cnoc-an-Sgáil? what is in the cheeks of
the young man that has perturbed the fair women of Fál?
21. Was it a huge fire or mead of liberal prince that flushed
the face of the king of Ros Cré? or is it anger that made
his cheeks glow or is it a red that is ever there?
22. The radiance of the moon is in the cheeks of Connaughtmen
from Kesh when he is wounded; the faces of the host are
as the scorching of the sun when Ireland is pursuing him.
23. Let the Lord of Boyle not be without a host coming to
fetch his kine, the Lord of Croghan moves not a foot, for
his forces to be small is grievous to him.
24. When the curly-locked [prince] rises betimes on a summer’s
morning to hunt deer, there is dew on the grass, the blackbird
sings, the frost has yielded its strength.
25. Swift steeds by the Shannon’s bank on purple straths white
with flowers, a graceful stud on the carse of the Moy with
green-headed ducks on each ford.
26. The arms [elbows] of each apple-tree [are weighed] to the
ground in the land of Cathal of Cruachan Aoi, each bright
hazel therein perforce bends down.
27. Each smooth nut puts forth its shell at the end of its
branch on the margin of . . ., the yellow grain dons its husk
underneath a fresh bending brake.
28. A ruddy cluster on dark leaves amid green woods with
soft grass, in plentiful store the nuts fall down [lit. from
them, i.e. the woods] with their brown shells.
29. That Conn’s Half ever belonged to Tara’s prince is in the
Short Book, ’twere folly for Mug’s Half to dispute our books.
30. An injustice was done by thee methinks, Redhand, in
assigning Fodla of gentle sward, the northerners had the
choice of one of three things, Eas-ruaidh and Eas-dara
remained with thee.
31. No one of the descendants of the Redhand dare bend a
branch for the sake of its fruit, through the severity of
his rule no fosterling of his breaks off the yield of any
32. The lion of Linn Feic dispenses justice between friend and
foe, calm [lit. silent] weather will come as long as he sits
in judgement, he scotches not the truth and nurses not
33. O’Conor’s royal tribute is to plunder a steading for stealing
nut-shells, his fine for [despoiling] the stems of his white
hazels would be a drove of kine with smooth horns,
abounding with calves.
34. The rule of O’Conor of Cnoc Muaidhe has taught sense to
every robber, if any one have received a cow or horse on
loan he calls its own witness.
35. Croghan’s Redhand of gentle converse . . . twenty milchkine;
to all who are in his palace it will be a circuit of cattle,
in the tithe [only] two will reach him.
36. Since the princes of Connaught enthroned Cathal Redhand
whom women love, there is no longer any untilled field in
his realm, milk and crops are there.
© 2007 Thesaurus Linguae Hibernicae