Róisín Dubh (song)

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A Black Rose as Symbol of Ireland
"Róisín Dubh"

"Róisín Dubh" ([ˈrˠoːʃiːnʲ d̪ˠʊvˠ], "Dark Rosaleen" or "Little Dark 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]


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, O'Neill's daughter being either married or betrothed to the O'Donnell leader in their teenage years.[citation needed]

This song is traditionally sung in the Irish language, with only a few recordings of the English existing. It has been translated from the Irish language by James Clarence Mangan and Patrick Pearse. The following translation is by Thomas Kinsella (The New Oxford Book of Irish Verse, 1986).

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.

Roisin, have no sorrow for all that has happened to you
The Friars are out on the brine. They are travelling the sea
Your pardon from the Pope will come, from Rome in the East
And we won't spare the Spanish wine for my Roisin Dubh

Far have we journeyed together, since days gone by.
I've crossed over mountains with her, and sailed the sea
I have cleared the Erne, though in spate, at a single leap
And like music of the strings all about me, my Roisin Dubh

You have driven me mad, fickle girl- may it do you no good!
My soul is in thrall, not just yesterday nor today
You have left me weary and weak in body and mind
O deceive not the one who loves you, my Roisin Dubh

I would walk in the dew beside you, or the bitter desert
In hopes I might have your affection, or part of your love
Fragrant small branch, you have given your word you love me
The choicest flower of Munster, my Roisin Dubh

If I had six horses, I would plough against the hill
I'd make Roisin Dubh my Gospel in the middle of Mass
I'd kiss the young girl who would grant me her maidenhead
And do deeds behind the lios with my Roisin Dubh!

The Erne will be strong in flood, the hills be torn
The ocean will be all red waves, the sky all blood,
Every mountain and bog in Ireland will shake
One day, before she shall perish, my Roisin Dubh.


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 ones 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"), 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 these:




  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)