“Roisin Dubh (Dark Rosaleen)”


Gaelic. The singer laments being kept from his dark Rose. He warns that help is coming from the Pope but they will be apart. He would do anything if he could be with her. The end of the world will come before she would die.


Hayes: "This impassioned ballad, entitled in the original 'Roisin Dubh' (or The Black Little Rose), was written in the reign of Elizabeth by one of the poets of the celebrated Tirconnellian chieftain, Hugh the Red O'Donnell. It purports to be an allegorical address from Hugh to Ireland, on the subject of his love and struggles for her, and his resolve to raise her again to the glorious position she held as a nation before the irruption of the Saxon and Norman spoilers."

Sparling: "Mangan ... always maintained that it was in reality a love-song with an infusion, but no more, of allegorical meaning."

Sparling p. 136 states that "Furlong's version is much more literal but this [Mangan's version] conveys a better idea of the intense fire and passion of the original."

Paddy Tunney sings a Gaelic three verse version on IRPTunney02. The notes to that album have a translation by either Tunney or Peter Boyle. The published translation among ADDITIONAL references closest to that translation is Eleanor Hull's seven verse translation [Hoagland pp. 145-146], though parts of other translations are recognizable. The description is based on Eleanor Hull's and James Clarence Mangan's version. - BS

Hoagland attributes this to Owen Row Mac Ward, who presumably is the poet of Red Hugh O'Donnell mentioned by Hayes. (For Red Hugh, see the notes to "O'Donnell Aboo (The Clanconnell War Song)"). It seems reasonable to attribute the poem to the sixteenth century, given the references to religious persecution, but while that is surely the earliest possible date, there is nothing in the song to prevent a seventeenth century date, or even one from the early eighteenth, I think. (Sullivan attributes it to the nineteenth century, which seems improbable.) Kinsella says that Mangan's translation is "from the Irish of Costello."

The translations are so diverse that it is sometimes difficult to see them as from the same original. Some of this may be because the translators (notably Paidraic Pearse) had axes to grind. - RBW


  • Paddy Tunney, "Roisin Dubh" (on IRPTunney02)


  1. ADDITIONAL: Edward Hayes, The Ballads of Ireland (Boston, 1859 (reprint of 1855 London edition)), Vol II, pp. 19-21, "Dark Rosaleen" [translated by James Clarence Mangan (1803-1849)]
  2. Kathleen Hoagland, editor, One Thousand Years of Irish Poetry (New York, 1947), pp. 143-145, "Dark Rosaleen" [translated by James Clarence Mangan (1803-1849)]; pp. 145-146, "Roisin Dubh" [translated by Eleanor Hull]; pp. 146-148, "Roisin Dubh" [translated by Padraic Pearse]
  3. H. Halliday Sparling, Irish Minstrelsy (London, 1888), pp. 134-135, 500, "Roisin Dubh" [translated by Thomas Furlong (1794-1827)]; pp. 136-139, 504, "Dark Rosaleen" [translated by James Clarence Mangan (1803-1849)]
  4. Charles Sullivan, ed., Ireland in Poetry, p. 60, "Dark Rosaleen (1 text) [translated by James Clarence Mangan (1803-1849)]
  5. Donagh MacDonagh and Lennox Robinson, _The Oxford Book of Irish Verse_ (Oxford, 1958, 1979), pp. 56-58, "Dark Rosaleen" (1 text) [translated by James Clarence Mangan (1803-1849)]
  6. Thomas Kinsella, _The New Oxford Book of Irish Verse_ (Oxford, 1989), pp. 273-275, "Dark Rosaleen" (1 text) [translated by James Clarence Mangan]
  7. Walter de la Mare, _Come Hither_, revised edition, 1928; #192, "Dark Rosaleen" (1 text) [translated by James Clarence Mangan (1803-1849)]
  8. BI, RcRoiDub


Author: see notes
Earliest date: 1963 (IRPTunney02)
Found in: Ireland