Ancient Irish Poem

Folamh anocht Dún Chearmna =(Dun Cearmna is empty tonight)

Meter: rannaigecht beg -- ógláchas

This is a dramatic poem, written from the viewpoint of the famous queen


She was the daughter of one high king (Flann Sionna, ard rí from 878-916)

and wife of another

(Niall Glúndubh, ard rí from 916?-919 - her third husband).

When he died fighting the Norse, legend has it that she

lived and died in poverty and starvation.

(History doesn't.)

She was used as an exemplar of how quickly life can change,

and it was popular to write "pityeful songs" from Gormfhlaith's

point of view.

This poem is part of a whole collection of such poems (the O'Gara MS).

Middle Irish = English Interpretation

Folamh anocht Dún Chearmna = The Fort of Cearmna is empty tonight

do Ráith Teamhra is cúis bhaoghail=

the movement of danger from the ringfort Tara

méad uaigneasa an dúin dreachglain=

great loneliness in the clean-faced fort

beart do bheartaibh an tsaoghail=

the arrow planning your plight

Ríoghradh fhial an dúin duasbhuig=

The generous fort of generous kings

ar nach bíodh uamhain foghla=

that had no fear of plundering

dá n-éis is truagh mar táimsi=

afterwards is pitied like a ghost

sgan ann acht áite folmha=

and without him it's just an empty place there

Gearr go rabhad 'na n-uathadh=

A corncrake in the deserted ones

Ráth Chruachan is Ráth Teamhra=

The ringfort Cruacha and the ringfort Tara

gá beag dóibh so do robhadh? =

do you need a little more warning?

folamh anocht Dún Chearmna=

Dún Chearmna is empty tonight

* Dún Chearmna/The fort of Cearmna: a fort on the Old Head of Kinsale.

Presumably, this would be a fort defending Ireland against the Norse --

but since Niall is dead, it's not doing that now.

Nobody else can organize the forces,

so Dún Chearmna is empty tonight.

* Ráth Chruachan is Ráth Teamhra/the ringfort Cruacha and the ringfort Tara

Cruacha was the fort of the legendary queen

Medbh of Connacht in the Táin Bó Cuailnge.

Tara was the fort of the high kings, abandoned after it was cursed.

Both had been long abandoned by the time of this poem's setting.

There is no new high king yet,

so the desolation is twice as bad.

More Gormfhlaith

O'Neill Genealogy

This page copied from Medieval Source Book. It is copy-permitted.

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