Róisín Dubh (song)

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A Black Rose as Symbol of Ireland
"Róisín Dubh"

"Róisín Dubh" (pronounced Ro-sheen dove or Ro-sheen doo, meaning "Black Little Rose"), written in the 16th century[citation needed], is one of Ireland's most famous political songs. It is based on an older love-lyric which referred to the poet's beloved rather than, as here, being a metaphor for Ireland. The intimate tone of the original carries over into the political song. It is often attributed to Antoine Ó Raifteiri, but almost certainly predates him.[1] Originally translated from the Irish language by James Clarence Mangan, this translation is credited to Pádraig Pearse.

The song is named after Róisín Dubh, probably one of the daughters of Aodh Mór Ó Néill, earl of Tyrone in the late 16th Century. The song is reputed to have originated in the camps of Aodh Rua Ó Domhnaill[citation needed].


This song is traditionally sung in the Irish language, with few if any recordings of the English existing. This song belongs to the 'aisling' or 'vision' songs of the 17th century.[citation needed] The reason behind the transposing of Ireland as a maiden was not merely poetic, but also avoided the English persecution of the time on songs about Ireland.[citation needed]

Irish[2] English

A Róisín ná bíodh brón ort fé'r éirigh dhuit:
Tá na bráithre 'teacht thar sáile 's iad ag triall ar muir,
Tiocfaidh do phárdún ón bPápa is ón Róimh anoir
'S ní spárálfar fíon Spáinneach ar mo Róisín Dubh.

Is fada an réim a léig mé léi ó inné 'dtí inniu,
Trasna sléibhte go ndeachas léi, fé sheolta ar muir;
An éirne is chaith mé 'léim í, cé gur mór é an sruth;
'S bhí ceol téad ar gach taobh díom is mo Róisín Dubh.

Mhairbh tú mé, a bhrídeach, is nárbh fhearrde dhuit,
Is go bhfuil m'anam istigh i ngean ort 's ní inné ná inniu;
D'fhág tú lag anbhfann mé i ngné is i gcruth-
Ná feall orm is mé i ngean ort, a Róisín Dubh.

Shiubhalfainn féin an drúcht leat is fásaigh ghuirt,
Mar shúil go bhfaighinn rún uait nó páirt dem thoil.
A chraoibhín chumhra, gheallais domhsa go raibh grá agat dom
-'S gurab í fíor-scoth na Mumhan í, mo Róisín Dubh.

Dá mbeadh seisreach agam threabhfainn in aghaidh na gcnoc,
is dhéanfainn soiscéal i lár an aifrinn do mo Róisín Dubh,
bhéarfainn póg don chailín óg a bhéarfadh a hóighe dhom,
is dhéanfainn cleas ar chúl an leasa le mo Róisín Dubh.

Beidh an Éirne 'na tuiltibh tréana is réabfar cnoic,
Beidh an fharraige 'na tonntaibh dearga is doirtfear fuil,
Beidh gach gleann sléibhe ar fud éireann is móinte ar crith,
Lá éigin sul a n-éagfaidh mo Róisín Dubh.

Little Rose, be not sad for all that hath behapped thee:
The friars are coming across the sea, they march on the main.
From the Pope shall come thy pardon, and from Rome, from the East-
And stint not Spanish wine to my Little Dark Rose.

Long the journey that I made with her from yesterday till today,
Over mountains did I go with her, under the sails upon the sea,
The Erne I passed by leaping, though wide the flood,
And there was string music on each side of me and my Little Dark Rose!

Thou hast slain me, O my bride, and may it serve thee no whit,
For the soul within me loveth thee, not since yesterday nor today,
Thou has left me weak and broken in mien and in shape,
Betray me not who love thee, my Little Dark Rose!

I would walk the dew with thee and the meadowy wastes,
In hope of getting love from thee, or part of my will,
Fragrant branch, thou didst promise me that thou hadst for me love-
And sure the flower of all Munster is Little Dark Rose!

Had I a yoke of horses I would plough against the hills,
In middle-Mass I'd make a gospel of my Little Dark Rose,
I'd give a kiss to the young girl that would give her mouth to me,
And behind the liss would lie embracing my Little Dark Rose!

The Erne shall rise in rude torrents, hills shall be rent,
The sea shall roll in red waves, and blood be poured out,
Every mountain glen in Ireland, and the bogs shall quake
Some day ere shall perish my Little Dark Rose!


Róisín Dubh has been frequently performed and recorded, both in its own native Irish and translated into English. (However, quality of the translations vary greatly, from strict to those bearing no relationship to the original Irish.) It has been sung by numerous Irish traditional singers including the late Joe Heaney and Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill, as well as in genres ranging from classical to rock and jazz.

The instrumental range is as wide as the vocal, but the instruments best suited to render this air authentically are the native Irish uilleann pipes, flute, fiddle, and whistle, as these are capable of making the "caoine" ("cry") – that is the note-shaping and changing that is characteristic of the native Irish music. However, other versions using different instruments are also widely available.

Musicians/composers who have performed or recorded the song include:


  1. ^ Duanaire, 1600–1900: Poems of the Dispossessed; Thomas Kinsella (Editor), Seán Ó Tuama (Editor); ISBN 0851053645
  2. ^ Ó hAodha, Séamus. Óir-Chiste Filíochta. (Comhlucht Oidechais na hÉireann, Teóranta: Baile Átha Cliath, 1922)