209 Marbhnadh Cathaoir Mac Cába - Lament for Charles MacCabe
Marbhnadh Cathaoir Mac Cába - Elegy for Charles MacCabe
Uaill-chumha Chearbhalláin os cinn uaighe Mhic Cába

MacCabe, in disguise, awaits Carolan's arrival on his way to Fermanagh.

The occasion of the poem was the long absence of Carolan from the region, and his present return. He was leaving his home in Mohill one evening and going to visit his patrons, the Maguires in Co. Fermanagh. Knowing this, Charles MacCabe put on the clothes of a peasant, changed his voice and thus disguised, met Carolan on the road near Fenagh churchyard. They exchanged greetings and Carolan asked about the news of the country.

MacCabe replied that the only news was of the death and burial in Fenagh churchyard of a harper and the harper's name was Charles MacCabe... "Alas, alas", cried Carolan. "Is he really dead?" "Yes, and buried too," said MacCabe confirming it with an oath. "Could you show me his grave that I may pay him my last tribute and respect?" asked Carolan, giving him 5 shillings for his trouble. Mac Cabe brought him accordingly to his own pretended grave. When Carolan found himself alone, he yielded to grief and gave way to tears. He knelt and lamented his faithful follower, Charles MacCabe.... Dónal O'Sullivan.

le Toirdhealbhach Ó Cearbhalláin
1. Is truagh sin, muise agus mé tuirseach i ndiaidh mo shiubhail,
Air uaigh mo charad agus mé folcadh na ndeór go búan,
Ní bhuair mé agam , sé do lagaidh air radharc mo shúl,
Acht truaidh-lear dhaingean agus leabaidh don gcré bhí cúmhang.

That's a sad thing, indeed! and me tired after my journey.
At the grave of my friend and me shedding tears copiously.
Not vexing to me, that which weakened the sight of my eyes,
But great unshakable sorrow and the narrow bed of clay.

2. [Ní Cathaoir mo Chathaoir mar chathaoir na ndaoine;
Ní Cathaoir mo Chathaoir mar chathaoir na righeadh
Níor rugaidh ariamh éan Chathaoir ó túsuighead an díle,
Cathaoir air bith mar mo Chathaoir; ba í cathaoir bhreágh an tsiamsa í.]

My Charles is not the Charles that is the chair of the people; [1]
My Charles is not the Charles that is the chair of the kings;
Not since the flood has a bird like Charles been born,
Any Charles like my Charles is a fine chair for entertainment.

3. [Ba tú seabhac na hÉirne agus Déirdre de Chlainne Bhaoisgne;
Ba tú bradán ruadh Loch Érne sé mo léan thú bheith sinte.
"Rún searc mo chléigh thú", mar dubhairt Deirdre le Naoise.
Nó an dtiocfá dom' fhéachaint lá éigin de'n mhí seo?]
You were the falcon of the Erne and Deirdre of Clan Baoisgne;
You were the red salmon of Loch Erne, my anguish that you are laid low.
"Secret love of my bosom you are", as Deirdre said to Naoise.
Or would you come looking for me some day of this month?

4. Ní tréan mo labhairt a's ní mhesaim gur cúis náire é,
Och! is caidhean bocht scaite mé, chailleas mo chúl báire,
Níl pian, níl peannoid, níl galar air bith comh crúaidh cráite
Mar éag gcard ná sgaradh na gcompánach.

My speech is not strong and I don't think it a cause for shame,
Oh! I am a lone detached bird, I lost my support,
No pain, no penance, no disease is so severely agonizing
As the death of a friend or separation from companions.

5 . B'fhuras aithne damsa o raibh tú do mo shéunadh
Nuair fuair mé do litir agus i gan réla [2]
Acth má tá ré sa gcinneamhuint go sgarfam ó na chéile,
Ní bhfuir mé ariamh leagadh nach dtiucfadh liom éirghe.

Easier for me to accept that you were avoiding me
When I got your letter and it without a six-pence
But, if there is a time when destiny separates us,
I have never been knocked down whence I did not arise.

Dónal O'Sullivan has a different version of verse 2. It is as follows:

Ní cathoir mar chathoir an Cathaoir fó 'gcaoiniom,
Ach Cathaoir ba taitneamhaighe ná cathaoir na ríoghtha.
Níor shuidh Cathaoir i gcathaoir ó caitheamh al díle
Ba taitneamhaighe nó mo Chathaoir, 'sé Cathaoir a' tsiams' é.

The Cathaoir for whom I weep is no common cathaoir,
But a Cathaoir more splendid than the cathaoir of kings.
No Cathaoir sat on a cathaoir since the time of the flood.
Who was more splendid than my Cathaoir, Cathaoir the delightful.

According to Walker (p.317), Charles MacCabe then disclosed his identity and 'rallied the good-natured bard on his giving such a sincere proof of his affection for one who had so often made him the butt of his wit'.
This is one of the most touching of Carolan's compositions. The scribe of the poem was Michael Killeen of Keadue. You may remember that Carolan was very fond of practical jokes which both he and Charles MacCabe had a habit of playing on each other.

[1] In order to understand the second verse, you have to grasp the play on words. Cathaoir is MacCabe's first name (Charles in English), and the same Irish word cathaoir means a chair or a seat. Carolan often used plays on words as a pun with MacCabe. So the capitalized Cathaoir means Charles, the lower case cathaoir means chair or seat.

[2] The six-penny bit was referred to as "réal" in Irish, and the "réla" in the poem might be a mis-spelling of "réal", or some plural variant of "réal". It makes sense when you include line one of the stanza. Carolan was clearly disappointed in his friend.



Source: The poems of Carolan, Tomás Ó Máille, Irish Texts Society,1916, pg 162 No 50. & notes pg 301.
Replay background music: Lament for Charles MacCabe
Musical notations from Donal O'Sullivan vol 1.
Graphics from an Irish Cemetary at dusk.
Translated from the Irish Gaelic by Frank Osborne, Kansas City, Mo.
For phonetics consult the pocket dictionary Fóclóir Póca.

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