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Thousand years of poetry. 2016

Thousand years of poetry. First painting of new series

poem1 (1)


An Droighnean Donn ( the blackthorn Bush) 3ft 6″  by 4ft 6″

The first poem I researched that would go towards this new series was

‘The Blackthorn Bush’


Gaelic version

An Droighnean Donn [1]

Sileann cead fear gur leo fein

Nuair olaim lionn,

Is teann a dha dtrian sios diom ag cuimhne

Ar do chomhradh liom;

Sneachta seidhte ‘s ‘e da shior-chur

Ar siladh Ui Fhloinn,

S’ ta’ mo ghradh-sa mar bhlath na a-airne

Ar an Droighnean donn


The Blackthorn Bush

A hundred men think I am theirs

When I drink wine;

But they go away when I start to think

On your talk and mine.

Slieve O Flynn is quiet, silent with snowdrift’s hush,

And my love is like sloe blossom

On the Blackthorn Bush.


The tale of the Blackthorn Tree

It’s about a man who went to the fair one day, and he met this dark-haired girl at the fair. And one of them fell for the other, or whatever you call it, and they went off together and they spent all day under a blackthorn tree. And when the evening came, they were in love, as the saying goes, and he gave her a ring as a token of their friendship.

And he said, ‘I’ll be seeing you as soon as I go home and make arrangements to bring you to my father’s house, and we’ll get more acquainted, and I’d like to marry you.’ Famous last words. Anyway, when he came home, he more or less forgot about [her]. And there was a year gone; and she heard the local gossip talking about this certain man getting married to a certain woman the week after next.

And this is the man that gave her the ring. So she set out, and she dressed herself as a woman of the roads. And she came to the house where the pre-wedding – as I told you before, they used to have a pre-wedding before the real wedding. And the custom was, and still is, if a woman comes to the door – a travelling woman, which she was disguised as – the intended bridegroom gives her a glass of wine.

And if a man comes to the door, the intended bride gives him a glass of whiskey or maybe stronger if she has it – poitín. So she came in, and he came up to her and offered her a glass – this is what they call hospitality, you know – he gave her a glass of wine and he started talking to her. And when she had finished the wine, she put the ring he had given her into the glass, and she handed the glass back to him.

And she said, ‘Fuair mé féirín lá aonaigh ó bhuachaill deas’ … But she finally convinced him that she was the woman; when he saw the ring, he knew then. And what he did, he broke up with the woman he was supposed to marry, and he married the woman that he spent the day under the blackthorn tree with. Now did he do right or did he do wrong?

Fuair mé féirín ó lá aonaigh ó bhuachaill deas
Fuair me céad póg ina dhiaidh sin ó phlúr na bhfear
Lá an Léan ar an té a déarfadh nach thú mo ghean
‘S an lá ina dhiaidh sin nach deas a d’éalóinn faoi na coillte leat.

I got a keepsake on a fair-day from a handsome young man
And a hundred sweet kisses from my own darling John

Consume them, confuse them who says you’re not true
And through lonesome glens and valleys I’ll wander with you.

Is síleann céad bean gur leo féin mé nuair a ólaim leann
Téann dhá dtrian síos díom nuair a smaoiním ar a gcomhrá liom
[Sneachta séite a bheith dhá shíor-chur ar Shliabh Uí Fhloinn]1
‘S go bhfuil mo ghrá-sa mar bhláth na n-áirní ‘gabháil an droighneán donn.


I wish I had a small boat on the ocean I’d roam
I would follow my darling where e’er he would go

I would sooner have my true love to sit, sport and play 2
Than all the gold and silver by land or by sea.

Now, there’s a verse there that’s very important: Is fear gan chéill a théanns i dréim leis an gclaí a bheadh ard. She’s more or less saying, ‘It’s a terrible fool who tries to get acquainted with people higher above than theirselves.’ Is an claí beag íseal lena thaobh a leagfadh sé a lámh. ‘And the little wall beside him—’ or his own equal, is just beside him, that he could lay a hand on if he wanted to. Lá léan ar an té a déarfadh nach tú mo ghean. ‘Well my curse on these who says you cannot be mine.’ Trí ghleanntáin cheo agus [unintelligible] a leanfainn leat féin (?). ‘And through lonesome glens and valleys I would follow you through.’ Now, the last verse is this:

Come all—What she’s trying to say is, ‘Don’t miss a chance. When you get the chance, do it. And don’t be sorry either. But even the flowers fall off the trees.

Come all you pretty fair maids, get married in time
To some handsome young man that will keep up your pride

Beware of winter’s evenings, when cold breezes come on
That will shake the blossoms early on the droighneán donn.


The Blackthorn Tree / An draighneán donn

The poem from the top is shown slightly different here, though the interpretation and meaning are the same.

(Síleann) céad acu gur leo féin mé nuair a ólaim dram,
Théid dhá dtrian síos liom nuair a smaointim ar a gcomhrá liom,
(Com is míne aici) fá dhó ná an síoda atá ar Shliabh Uí Fhloinn,
Tá mo ghrá-sa mar bhláth na n-áirní atá ar an draighneán donn.


A hundred of them think that I am theirs when I drink a dram,
Two thirds of them go away(?) when I think of their conversations with me,
Her waist (?) is twice smoother that the silk on O’Flynn’s Mountain,
My love is like the sloe-blossom on the blackthorn bush.





‘An Draighneán Donn’ (The Blackthorn Tree) a very well-known song throughout Ireland, is most commonly associated with the west of Ireland although Douglas Hyde wrote that ‘there is no spot in the country where it is not to be still found, and it is as common in English as it is in Irish, but we do not always find in it the same verses’. See Abhráin grádh Chúige Connacht; or Love songs of Connacht (Dublin, 1893), 33. There are many different versions of this song both in Irish and in English. It occurs variously with both male and female perspectives. Charlotte Brooke included a version of it in Reliques of Irish poetry (Dublin, 1789) and Edward Bunting published a melody entitled ‘Droignan Dón’ or ‘The Brown Thorn’ in The general collection of ancient Irish music (Dublin, 1796), 2. Early editions of Connacht versions of the song appear in James Hardiman, Irish minstrelsy (2 vols, London, 1831), vol. 1, 234-7, and Douglas Hyde, Abhráin grádha Chúige Connacht, 30-3. A Munster version of the song was published in John O’Daly, The poets and poetry of Munster (Dublin, 1849), 287-91, alongside a translation by James Clarence Mangan. A ten-verse version of the song is included in Dónal O’Sullivan, Songs of the Irish (Dublin, 1960), 49-51. For further bibliographical and discographical references, see Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin, A hidden Ulster: people, songs and traditions of Oriel (Dublin, 2003), 192, 515-16. Another three verses (i.e. part 2) of this song are on a separate track in the Doegen collection.

(Two more versions of poem)

The Blackthorn Tree


You’ll find me in the hedgerows down the lanes where cowslips grow,
accompanied by hawthorn and my kin, the damson tree,
and while you look at bluebells growing wildly at my feet
you may, just as a fleeting glance, look up and notice me.

Around that time my petals of the purest white will form,
while whiskers like an old man’s beard sprout from their yellow mouth,
but quickly as my blossoms fall, this “mother of the wood”
falls silent to the eye to grow, my fruit that’s facing south.

Those tiny green-like baubles swell beside my fearsome thorn
upon contorted branches bent and crooked, all askew,
but though I grow irregular, my wood is firm and strong
to bear my harvest of the gods for wise men to accrue.

October sees my wholesome yield, dark blue with angel dust,
the sprinkled wax that forms a bloom on every sour sloe.
For those with knowledge pick my plum not for a sweet dessert,
but make a jam or mix with gin to set the cheeks aglow.

Then as the year draws to a close, my leaves and fruits bestrewn,
another hunter casts his eye to find among my fare
a bough that’s straight and strong of heart to make a walking stick,
but search he will, and search he must to find that which is rare.

My powers are as strong today as they were long ago.
My bark, my leaf, my flowers sought to heal throughout the land,
this “keeper of the secrets” this old friend of Wiccan charm,
so use, but don’t abuse me, or my thorn will prick your hand.

Dan Lake

Droignean Donn. (Blackthorn Tree)

I am lately captivated by a handsome young man
And I’m sadly complaining of my own darling John,
I am roaming all day until night-time comes on
To be sheltered by the green leaves of my Droignean(?) Donn.

Next day I’ll get a Fairing from that handsome young man
Twenty sweet kisses from my own darling John,
Consume them(?) confuse them that say I’m not true
Through the green groves and valleys I’ll wander for you.

My love is fairer than a fine summer’s day
His breath is far sweeter than the fresh mown hay,
His hair shines like bright gold, it revives(?) by the sun,
His skin like the blossoms of the Droignean(?) Donn.

Oh, I wish I had a small boat, on the ocean I’d row
I’d follow my darling wherever he’d go.
I’d rather have that young man to love sport and play
Than all the gold and treasures between land and sea.

So, come all you pretty fair maids, get married in time
To some handsome young man who will keep up your prime,
Beware of the winter evening, cold breezes come on
Consuming the early(?) blossom of the Droignean(?) Donn


Each of the poems or songs above here helped me to produce this painting, which is named The Blackthorn Tree. The words of each, poem or Song, maybe similar in thought but they convey a different angle to my train of thought.


Hope you enjoy it



[1] (Medieval Irish Lyrics), translated by James Carney, first edition 1967. Dolmen Press, pp 95

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