This is a dramatic poem, written from the viewpoint of the
famous queen, Gormfhlaith. 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).
Folamh anocht Dún Chearmna
do Ráith Teamhra is cúis bhaoghail;
méad uaigneasa an dúin dreachglain--
beart do bheartaibh an tsaoghail.
Ríoghradh fhial an dúin duasbhuig
ar nach bíodh uamhain foghla,
dá n-éis is truagh mar táimsi,
'sgan ann acht áite folmha.
Gearr go rabhad 'na n-uathadh,
Ráth Chruachan is Ráth Teamhra
gá beag dóibh so do robhadh? --
folamh anocht Dún Chearmna.
The Fort of Cearmna is empty tonight --
the movement of danger from the ringfort Tara;
great loneliness in the clean-faced fort--
the arrow planning your plight.
The generous fort of generous kings
that had no fear of plundering,
afterward is pitied like a ghost,
and without him there, it's just an empty place.
A corncrake in the deserted ones,
The ringfort Cruacha and the ringfort Tara --
do you need a little more warning?
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.
Here's another Gormfhlaith song.
Back to the medieval Irish poem index
Stop me before I err again! Mail me your comments at email@example.com
Home Page Medieval Irish Poetry Maureen's Filk Jewel Riders Home Page
This page belongs here. It is copy-permitted.