(C. 1670 – 1729)
Rugadh Aogán Ó Rathaille i Screathan an Mhíl gar do Cill Airne i gCo. Ciarraí thart ar 1670. Duine de ardfílí na hÉireann ab ea é. Bhí a shinsir mar bhreithiúna riamh is oidí is ollúna le seanchas ag Cárthaigh Mhúscraí fad is a bhí siad i réim. Teaglach gustalach ab ea iad and fhuair Aogán oideachas maith. Bhí Laidin agus Béarla maith aige agus eolas breá aige ar litríocht is stair na hÉireann. B’é Aogán an duine ba shine den ‘scoil nua’ de fhilí Muimhneacha – lucht na n-amhrán. Thug sé binneas agus ceolmhaireacht nua isteach san amhrán. Lean na filí eile a tháinigh ina dhiaidh sa Mhumhan ag déanamh aithrise ar a chuid filíochta. Bhí an-thionchar ag an dán Mac an Cheannaí, mac Rí Shéamuis ag filleadh go hÉirinn. Cás na hÉireann, daoirse na nGael agus céimsíos an aosa-dána bunús a chuid filíochta. Théadh sé thart ar cuairt chuig tithe na n-uaisle Gaelacha sin a bhí fós i réim : muintir Cheallacháin is muintir Chaoimh ina measc. Scríobhaí ab ea é freisin.
Tá eolas againn gur dhein sé cóip de Foras Feasa ar Éirinn sa bhliain 1722 ar san mhuintir Mhic Síthigh i nDromcollachair Co. Luimní. Teaghlach ársa ab ea iad le traidisúin láidir mar oifigigh airm in arm na Gearaltach. Ruairí Mac Síthigh a bhí i gceannas an géag seo agus seanuncail ab ea é don t-Athair Nioclás Mac Síthigh, Sagart Paróiste an Chloichín, Co. Thiobraid Árann a dúnmharaíoch le gallaibh i 1766. Cé gur chuimhin leis an tráth go raibh meas ar na filí agus go raibh siad imeasc uaisleacht saibhir céad bliain roimhe sin thuig sé go raibh an ré sin imithe agus go raibh ortha an mhórdháil a chaitheamh díobh. B’éigean dóibh a slí bheatha do bhaint amach gan cabhair ó éinne.
Do cailleadh Aogán Ó Rathaille sa bhliain 1729 agus an dán deireanach a chum sé ná Cabhair ní Ghairfead. Bhí sé croí briste agus gan dóchas, Sean Éire na Gael scriosta agus faoi réim allurach ar cuma leo teanga ná cultúr na tíre. Deireann sé gur gar dó éag gan mhoill agus go – ‘rachad ‘na bhfasc le searc na laoch don chill, na flatha fá raibh mo shean roimh éag do Chríost’ Chuireadh Aogán Ó Rathaille i reilig Mhucrois, Cill Airne taobh leis na Cárthaig, Prionsaí Dheas Mhumhain.
Egan O’Rahilly (c.1670-1729), is believed by many to be one of the greatest writers ever in the Irish language. He was born near Killarney, Co. Kerry into one of the old learned families who had provided judges, teachers and historians to the old Gaelic order. His family had served the powerful MacCarthy clan who had dominated south Munster for centuries. He received a good education and spoke English and Latin and had a deep knowledge of Irish history and literature. In his youth he lived through the Catholic revival under James II when hopes of a restoration of the old order were high. O’Rahilly knew that a century earlier the learned classes were wealthy and had high status among the ruling class. Following the removal of the Irish Army to France with King James, the breaking of the Treaty of Limerick and the hardening of the penal laws by the new Protestant Ascendency the poet witnessed the almost total destruction of the society he loved. In his later poetry he laments its passing, the banishment of the old families and his own impoverishment. One of the last lines of poetry written by Aogán Ó Rathaille says that in death he will lie with the great princes whom his family had served for centuries. He had his wish and was buried in Muckross Abbey, Killarney beside the MacCarthies, Princes of Desmond.
The Irish people lamented the destruction that centuries of British rule had done to their country, while the English continued to dismiss the Irish and their culture as primitive and barbaric. In stanzas five and six of Gile naGile Ó Rathaille excels in painting a picture of this contrast in perceptions and how it has altered his beloved Ireland.
Heart pounding, I ran, with a frantic haste in my race,
By the margins of marshes, through swamps, over bare moors
To a powerful palace I came, by paths most strange,
To that place of all places, erected by druid magic,
All in derision they tittered a gang of goblins
And a bevy of slender maidens with twining tresses
They bound me in bonds, denying the slightest comfort,
and a lumbering brute took hold of my girl by the breasts.
(Ó Tuama 2002 )
Poet Seamus Heaney and piper Liam O’Flynn perform Ó Rathaille’s Gile na Gile on the album The Poet and the Piper.
A traditional slow air called Ó Rathaille’s Grave is performed by Matt Molloy on the album Stony Steps. It has also been recorded by Denis Murphy and Julia Clifford on the album The Star Above the Garter and by Joe Burke on the album The Tailor’s Choice.