A Vision of Connaught in the Thirteenth Century

Patrick Weston Joyce


The ancient Irish people—like those of Greece and Rome and several other countries—believed that when a just and good king reigned, the country was blessed with fine weather and abundant crops, the trees bended with fruit, the rivers teemed with fish, and the whole kingdom prospered. This was the state of Connaught while Cahal of the Red Hand reigned in peace. And it is recorded that when he died, fearful portents appeared, and there was gloom and terror everywhere. James Clarence Mangan, a Dublin poet who died in 1819, pictures all this in the following fine poem. He supposes himself to be living on the river Maine in Germany, and he is brought to Connaught in a vision ("entranced"), where he witnesses the prosperity that attended Cahal's reign. This he sets forth in the first part of the poem: but a sudden mysterious change for the worse comes, which he describes in the last two verses. The whole poem forms a wild misty sort of picture such as one might see in a dream.[6]

I walked entranced[7]

Through a land of Morn;

The sun with wondrous excess of light

Shone down and glanced

Over seas of corn

And lustrous gardens aleft and right.

Even in the clime

Of resplendent Spain

Beams no such sun upon such a land;

But it was the time,

It was in the reign,

Of Cahal More of the Wine-red Hand.

Anon stood nigh

By my side a man

Of princely aspect and port sublime.

Him queried I—

“Oh, my Lord and Khan,[8]

What clime is this, and what golden time?”

When he—“The clime

Is a clime to praise,

The clime is Erin's the green and bland;

And it is the time,

These be the days

Of Cahal More of the Wine-red Hand!”

Then saw I thrones

And circling fires,

And a dome rose near me as by a spell,

Whence flowed the tones

Of silver lyres,

And many voices in wreathèd swell;

And their thrilling chime

Fell on mine ears

As the heavenly hymn of an angel-band—

“It is now the time,

These be the years,

Of Cahal More of the Wine-red Hand!”

I sought the hall,

And behold! … a change

From light to darkness, from joy to woe!

King, nobles, all,

Looked aghast and strange;

The minstrel-group sate in dumbest show!

Had some great crime

Wrought this dread amaze,

This terror? None seemed to understand!

It was then the time,

We were in the days,

Of Cahal More of the Wine-red Hand.

I again walked forth;

But lo! the sky

Showed fleckt with blood, and an alien sun

Glared from the north,

And there stood on high,

Amid his shorn beams, a SKELETON.

It was by the stream

Of the castled Maine,

One Autumn eve, in the Teuton's land,

That I dreamed this dream

Of the time and reign

Of Cahal More of the Wine-red Hand!


[6] Mangan wrote many poetical translations from the Irish, as well as from the German and other languages. This "Vision of Connaught" is however an original poem, not a translation.

[7] Observe the rhymes:—entranced, glanced—morn, corn— light, right: and so all through the poem: occurring every third line—which is unusual. Mangan was particularly skilled in rhyme and metre.

[8] Irish, Ceann [can], meaning 'head,' one of the Gaelic titles for a chief.