A Celebration 
of Women Writers

"The Betrayal of Clannabuidhe" by Ethna Carbery [aka Mrs. Seumus MacManus, Anna Johnston] (1866-1902)
From: The Four Winds of Eirinn: Poems by Ethna Carbery. (Anna MacManus.), Complete Edition, Edited by Seumas MacManus. Dublin, Ireland: M. H. Gill and Son, Ltd. 1906. pp. 146-149.

Editor: Mary Mark 

[Page 146] 


(Belfast Castle, November, 1574).

From Brian O'Neill in his Northern home
  Went swiftly a panting vassal,
Bidding the lord of Essex come
  To a feast in his forded castle,
To a friendly feast where the gleaming foam
  Of the wine-cup crowned the wassail.

To Brian O'Neill came his gentle wife,
  And wild were her eyes of warning;
"A banquet-chamber of blood and strife
  I dreamt of 'twixt night and morning,
And a voice that keened for a chieftain's life–"
  But he laughed as he kissed her, scorning.

"In peace have I bidden the strangers here,
  And not to the note of battle;
My flagons await them with bubbling cheer,
  I have slaughtered my choicest cattle;
And sweetest of harpings shall greet thine ear,
  A rúin! o'er the goblet's rattle."

In pride he hath entered his banquet hall,
  Unwitting what may betide him,
Girded round by his clansmen tall,
  And his lady fair beside him;
From his lips sweet snatches of music fall,
  And none hath the heart to chide him.

[Page 147] 

Hath he forgotten his trust betrayed
  In the bitterest hour of trial?
Hath he forgotten his prayer half-stayed
  At the Viceroy's grim denial?
And the bloody track of the Saxon raid
  On the fertile lands of Niall?

Essex hath coveted Massareene,
  And Toome by the Bann's wide border,
Edendhucarrig's dark towers–the scene
  Of hard-won fight's disorder;
And Castlereagh, set in a maze of green
  Tall trees, like a watchful warder.

Brian O'Neill he hath gazed adown
  Where the small waves, one by one, met
The sward that sloped from the hilltops thrown
  Dusky against the sunset;
Sighed in his soul for his lost renown
  And the rush of an Irish onset.

Woe! he is leagued with his father's foe,
  Hath buried the ancient fever
Of hate, while he watches his birthright go
  Away from his hands for ever;
No longer Clan-Niall deals blow for blow,
  His country's bonds to sever.

Over the Ford to his castle grey
  They troop with their pennons flying–
(Was that the ring of a far hurrah,
  Or the banshee eerily crying?
In glittering glory the gallant array
  Spurs hard up the strand, low-lying.

[Page 148] 

Three swift-speeding days with the castle's lord
  They had hunted his woods and valleys;
Three revelling nights while the huge logs roared,
  And the bard with his harp-string dallies,
Freely they quaffed of the rich wine, poured
  As meed of the courtly sallies.

(Yet one fair face in the laughing crowd
  Grew wan as the mirth waxed faster,
Her blue eyes saw but a spectral shroud,
  And a spectral host that passed her;
Her ears heard only the banshee's loud
  Wild prescience of disaster.

Gaily the voice of the chieftain rang,
  Deeply his warriors blended
In chant of the jubilant song they sang
  Ere the hours of the feasting ended;
But hark! Why that ominous clash and clang?
  And what hath that shout portended?

What speech uncourteous this clamour provokes,
  Through the midst of the banter faring?
Forth flashes the steel from the festal cloaks,
  Vengeful and swift, unsparing,–
And Clannabuidhe's bravest reel 'neath the strokes
  Strive blindly, and die despairing.

O'Gilmore sprang to his Tanist's side
  Shrilling his war-cry madly–
Ah! far are the kerns who at morning-tide
  Would flock to the summons gladly;
The echoes break on the rafters wide,
  And sink into silence sadly.

[Page 149] 

Captive and bleeding he stands–the lord
  Of the faithful dead around him;
Captive and bleeding–the victor horde
  In their traitorous might surround him;
From his turrets is waving their flag abhorred,
  And their cruel thongs have bound him.

. . . .

Cold are the fires in the banqueting hall,
  Withered the flowers that graced it,
Silent for ever the clansmen tall
  Who stately and proudly paced it;
Gloom broods like a pall o'er each lofty wall
  For the foul deed that disgraced it.

There is grief by the shores of the Northern sea,
  And grief in the woodlands shady,
There is wailing for warriors stout to see,
  Of the sinewy arm and steady;
There is woe for the Chieftain of Clannabuidhe,
  And tears for his gentle lady.


Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom


[Page 146]

* Pronounced Clan-na-bwee.

Editor: Mary 
Mark Ockerbloom