“The Flower of Gortade”


The singer calls upon the muses to describe the Flower of Gortade. He compares her to many classical queens and beauties. The girl, Margaret O'Kane, must leave for America, and hopes Ireland will someday welcome her back


This is a strange piece in many ways. Sam Henry credits it to "[the] local blind poet Kane, in honor of his sister," but his text seems composite: four eight-line stanzas of classical allusions in praise of the woman, and then two first-person stanzas in which she prepares to depart.

In addition, the classical allusions are rather a mess. Homer is called a great poet, but one who "sang of Athenians and Spartans so bold." Spartans are certainly mentioned in the Iliad -- Helen of Troy was properly Helen of Sparta, and Menelaus became King of Sparta as her husband. Mentions of the Athenians and Athens are few, however. Menestheus King of Athens brought fifty ships to Troy, but was so obscure a figure that the Greeks couldn't even agree if he died there.

In the next few lines, the poet commits the common abomination of referring to Greek goddesses by their Latin names.

Hector is described as having "consorts" (plural), but he had only one wife, Andromache.

The story then shifts to the story of Susanna, which is Biblical/Apocryhal (one of the Additions to Daniel). And so it goes. - RBW


  1. SHenry H178, pp. 233-234, "The Flower of Gortade" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Tunney-StoneFiddle, pp. 120-121, "The Flower of Gortade" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Roud #2740
  4. BI, HHH178


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1927 (Sam Henry collection)
Keywords: beauty emigration
Found in: Ireland