An Bonnán Buí

The Yellow Bittern
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Cathal Buí Mac Giolla Ghunna (1680-1756) is one of the four most prominent of the south Ulster and north Leinster poet more...

Cathal Buí Mac Giolla Ghunna (1680-1756) is one of the four most prominent of the south Ulster and north Leinster poets in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. He has been described as ‘an Irish-speaking Christy Moore, an incisive ballad singing entertainer for a totally Irish-speaking community of poor people living at or below subsistence in the early 18th century.’ He was one of a school of ballad poetry that included Peadar Ó Doirnín, Art Mac Cumhaigh, and Séamas Dall Mac Cuarta.

Mac Giolla Ghunna was probably born in Fermanagh and, having initially studied to be a priest, settled for a career as a rake-poet. It has been remarked about his poetry that ‘of the handful of poems attributed to him, most are marked by a rare humanity, but none can match An Bonnán Buí (The Yellow Bittern) with its finely-judged blend of pathos and humour’. Although “Cathal Buí”, as he is still affectionately termed in the folklore of Bréifne, is now little known in Ireland, his masterpiece An Bonnán Buí is one of the best known songs in Irish. “An Bonnán Buí” was based in Lough MacNean, which is situated between Fermanagh and Cavan. A monument in his honour lies near there, which was unveiled by Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh.

A study of the Bréifne school of poetry is forthcoming from Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin. His memory is celebrated annually in his home country – Blacklion (Cavan) and Belcoo (Fermanagh), with a festival for young poets named in his honour, Féile Chathal Buí.

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English (machine translation)

As sirens thanks to poor, my sorrow in you are lying,
And your bones stretched beneath the bushes,
your beak and throat were the color of the yellow gold
and your lips very nice on bare flagstones,
would gcuirteá news about my dhéinse
you were in bondage to the thirst,
Oh, I would sill Lough Erne géimneach from
a to wet your mouth and your heart in the center.

And there was a sheep I cry,
the blackbird, the thrush or the little green bird,
But my yellow bittern poor full of heart,
is that like myself in shnua is nothing,
He was constantly drinking drink,
and they say so mbímse turn
but devil get that tear their scaoilfead not postponed
for fear to die of thirst.

And my wife told me to let the drink,
as I'd only live for a short time,
consisted I said gray that she was in héitheach,
As if all my life the drink in question to find,
and do not you see that bird with the smooth neck,
which expired with thirst?
And neighbors bosom, wet your mouths,
as you will not drop him after you die.

And tomorrow as Sunday
is my pockets-he will be under a lot,
Oh, women are the host I have adhered to,
and the amount I drank my number one,
and there's no two bhreáichte High King down from
a would give it two or to obtain a pin drop,
and King's grace, treachery is
not given you found me in my heart.

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