The Irish Earls in Exile

A. M. Sullivan
c. 1900
CHAPTER LII. (continued)

There is not perhaps in the elegiac poetry of any language anything worthy of comparison with the "Lament for the Princess of Tyrone and Tyrconnell," composed by the aged and venerable bard of O'Donnell, Owen Roe Mac Ward. In this noble burst of sorrow, rich in plaintive eloquence and in all the beauty of true poesy, the bard addresses himself to Lady Nuala O'Donnell and her attendant mourners at the grave of the princes. Happily, of this peerless poem we possess a translation into English, of which it is not too much to say that it is in every sense worthy of the original, to which it adheres with great fidelity, while preserving all the spirit and tenderness of the Gaelic idiom. I allude to Mangan's admirable translation, from which I take the following passages:

"O woman of the piercing wail!
Who mournest o'er yon mound of clay
With sigh and groan,
Would God thou wert among the Gael!
Thou wouldst not then from day to day
Weep thus alone.
'Twere long before, around a grave
In green Tyrconnell, one would find
This loneliness;
Near where Beann-Boirche's banners wave,
Such grief as thine could ne'er have pined

"Beside the wave, in Donegal,
In Antrim's glens, or fair Dromore,
Or Killilee,
Or where the sunny waters fall
At Assaroe, near Erna's shore,
This could not be.
On Derry's plains—in rich Drumclieff—
Throughout Armagh the Great, renowned
In olden years,
No day could pass, but woman's grief
Would rain upon the burial-ground
Fresh floods of tears!

"O no!—from Shannon, Boyne, and Suir,
From high Dunluce's castle walls,
From Lissadill,
Would flock alike both rich and poor.
One wail would rise from Cruachan's halls
To Tara's hill;
And some would come from Barrow side,
And many a maid would leave her home
On Leitrim's plains,
And by melodious Banna's tide,
And by the Mourne and Erne, to come
And swell thy strains!

"Two princes of the line of Conn
Sleep in their cells of clay beside
O'Donnell Roe;
Three royal youths, alas! are gone,
Who lived for Erin's weal, but died
For Erin's woe!
Ah! could the men of Ireland read
The names these noteless burial stones
Display to view,
Their wounded hearts afresh would bleed,
Their tears gush forth again, their groans
Resound anew!

"And who can marvel o'er thy grief,
Or who can blame thy flowing tears,
That knows their source?
O'Donnell, Dunnasava's chief,
Cut off amid his vernal years,
Lies here a corpse,
Beside his brother Cathbar, whom
Tyrconnell of the Helmets mourns
In deep despair—For valor, truth, and comely bloom,
For all that greatens and adorns,
A peerless pair.


"When high the shout of battle rose
On fields where Freedom's torch still burned
Through Erinn's gloom,
If one—if barely one—of those
Were slain, all Ulster would have mourned
The hero's doom!
If at Athboy, where hosts of brave
Ulidian horsemen sank beneath
The shock of spears,
Young Hugh O'Neill had found a grave,
Long must the North have wept his death
With heart-wrung tears!


"What do I say? Ah, woe is me!
Already we bewail in vain
Their fatal fall!
And Erinn, once the Great and Free,
Now vainly mourns her breakless chain
And iron thrall!
Then, daughter of O'Donnell, dry
Thine overflowing eyes, and turn
Thy heart aside,
For Adam's race is born to die,
And sternly the sepulchral urn.
Mocks human pride!

"Look not, nor sigh, for earthly throne,
Nor place thy trust in arm of clay;
But on thy knees
Uplift thy soul to God alone,
For all things go their destined way
As He decrees.
Embrace the faithful crucifix,
And seek the path of pain and prayer
Thy Savior trod;
Nor let thy spirit intermix
With earthly hope and worldly care
Its groans to God!

"And Thou, O mighty Lord! whose ways;
Are far above our feeble minds
To understand;
Sustain us in those doleful days,
And render light the chain that binds.
Our fallen land!
Look down upon our dreary state,
And through the ages that may still
Roll sadly on,
Watch Thou o'er hapless Erinn's fate,
And shield at last from darker ill
The blood of Conn!"

There remains now but to trace the fortunes of O'Sullivan, the last of O'Neill's illustrious companions in arms. The special vengeance of England marked Donal for a fatal distinction among his fellow chiefs of the ruined confederacy. He was not included in the amnesty settled by the treaty of Mellifont. We may be sure it was a sore thought for O'Neill that he could not obtain for a friend so true and tried as O'Sullivan, participation in the terms granted to himself and other of the Northern chieftains. But the government was inexorable. The Northerns had yet some power left; from the Southern chiefs there now was nought to fear. So, we are told, "there was no pardon for O'Sullivan." Donal accompanied O'Neill to London the year succeeding James' accession; but he could obtain no relaxation of the policy decreed against him. He returned to Ireland only to bid it an eternal farewell! Assembling all that now remained to him of family and kindred, he sailed for Spain A.D. 1604. He was received with all honor by King Philip, who forthwith created him a grandee of Spain, knight of the military order of St. Iago, and subsequently Earl of Bearhaven. The king, moreover, assigned to him a pension, of "three hundred pieces of gold monthly."

The end of this illustrious exile was truly tragic. His young son, Donal, had a quarrel with an ungrateful Anglo-Irishman named Bath, to whom the old chief had been a kind benefactor. Young Donal's cousin, Philip—the author of the "Historiae Catholicae Iberniae"—interfered with mediative intentions, when Bath drew his sword, uttering some grossly insulting observations against the O'Sullivans. Philip and he at once attacked each other, but the former soon overpowered Bath, and would have slain him but for the interposition of friends; for all this had occurred at a royal monastery in the suburbs of Madrid, within the precincts of which it was a capital offense to engage in such a combat. The parties were separated. Bath Was drawn off, wounded in the face, when he espied not far off the old chieftain, O'Sullivan Beare, returning from mass, at which that morning, as was his wont, he had received holy communion. He was pacing slowly along, unaware of what had happened. His head was bent upon his breast, he held in his hands his gloves and his rosary beads, and appeared to be engaged in mental prayer. Bath, filled with fury, rushed suddenly behind the aged lord of Bear, and ran him through the body. O'Sullivan fell to earth; they raised him up—he was dead. Thus mournfully perished, in the fifty-seventh year of his age, Donal, the "Last Lord of Beare," as he is most frequently styled, a man whose personal virtues and public worth won for him the esteem and affection of all his contemporaries.

His nephew Philip became an officer in the Spanish navy, and is known to literary fame as the author of the standard work of history which bears his name, as well as of several publications of lesser note. Young Donal, son of the murdered chieftain, entered the army and fell at Belgrade, fighting against the Turks. The father of Philip the historian (Dermod, brother of Donal, Prince of Bear) died at Corunna, at the advanced age of a hundred years, and was followed to the grave soon after by his long-wedded wife:

"Two pillars of a ruined aisle—two old trees of the land;
Two voyagers on a sea of grief; long suff'rers hand in hand."