An t-Oileán Úr

The New World
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This is a traditional Irish song by an unknown poet, mid to late 1700s, arranged by Altan. It appears on Atlan's first s more...

This is a traditional Irish song by an unknown poet, mid to late 1700s, arranged by Altan. It appears on Atlan’s first studio album Horse With A Heart, released in May 1989. See another version An t-Oileán Úr by Clannad.

Now a traditional folk song in Ireland, this poem displays the reluctance of native Irish Catholics to emigrate at a time when many Scots-Irish Protestants in Ulster, descended from lowland Scots, were leaving by the thousands for America.

An tOileán Úr (“The New Island”) is the traditional name for America in Ireland. As early as the 1490s the term “the New Isle” was current in England as a synonym for the New World.

Translation from the National Humanities Center:

I once took a notion that I would leave my people and depart for the New Island, 2 and so I did. As I left I prayed the High King of Heaven to preserve me through all dangers to the end of my journey.

Once there I walked twenty miles and never met a Christian 3 — No, nor even a horse or a cow or a sheep grazing on the meadow. There was nothing but dense woods and deep glens resounding with the roar of wild beasts, and the people wore no more clothes than would amount to a thread twisted between the fingers.

Then I chanced upon a house, and the people there asked me where I came from and in what country I had been reared. We spoke in English, and I answered that I had been brought up in Ireland — in the wood of Lisreagh, beside Lough Erne.

No sooner had I spoken than an old woman rose from her cozy nook beside the fire and came over to shake my hand. “God bless you of all the people I’ve ever met — for I myself was reared in Lisbellaw.

“Many were the pleasant days I spent in Ireland and beside Lough Erne in the wood of Lisreagh; there’s no other place like it from Wales to the Head of Howth or from Cork to Lisbellaw.”

When I saw these people I made up my mind that I would be happier to live the rest of my life and die in Ireland, for that is where I would find kind and delightful young folk to pass the time with me by day and by night.

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I made a decision
And I followed it with certainty
That I could escape my family
Over on the New Island
I was turning away
From the High King above me
Who kept me from every misfortune
Which could end my journey

I walked twenty miles
And I didn't meet a soul
A horse, a cow or a sheep
Grazing in the field
Only dense woods and glens
And roaring wild beasts
Men and women
In tatters

But I happened into a house
When I met some people
They asked me my name
What land I was from
I told them in English
That I was raised in Ireland
By the side of Loch Éirne
In the woods of Lios na Raoch

There was an old woman
In the corner knitting socks
She joyfully arose
And shook my hand
"Bless my soul, my countryman
You are truly one of us
I was raised in Ireland
In Baile Lios Béal Áinetha"

I made a decision
And I followed it with certainty
That I would return to Ireland
The place where I would be buried
As I might find gentle folk and young folk
Who are friendly and delightful
With whom I could spend
The night and the day

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