Mudcat Café message #932588 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #45138   Message #932588
Posted By: Felipa
13-Apr-03 - 05:06 PM
Thread Name: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
sorry, 'brún' in the 2nd verse above should be 'brón'

from :


An bhfaca tú an Chúileann 's í ag siúl ar na bóithre?
Maidin gheal drúchta 's gan smúit ar a bróga?
Is iomaí ógánach súilghlas ag trúth lena pósadh,
Ach ní bhfaighidh siad mo rúnsa ar an gcuntas is dóigh leo.

An bhfaca tú mo bhábán lá breá 's í 'na haonar,
A cúl dualach drisleanach go slinneân síos léithe,
Mil ar an ógbhean, 's rós breá 'na héadan,
'S is dóigh le gach spriosán gur leannán leis féin í.

An bhfaca tú mo spéirbhean 's í taobh leis an toinn,
Fáinní óir ar a méaraibh 's í a' réiteach a cinn.
Is é dúirt an Paorach 'bhí 'na mhaor ar an loing
Go mb'fhearr leis aige féin í ná Éire gan roinn.

From P. Colum's Anthology of Irish Verse on line at
and from Kathleen Hoagland, 1000 Years of Irish Poetry

Maurice O'Dugan [?**] (c 1641), trans. by Samuel Ferguson

O had you see the Coolun,
Walking down the cuckoo's street,
With the dew of the meadow shining
On her milk-white twinkling feet!
My love she is, and my coleen oge,
And she dwells in Bal'nagar;
And she bears the palm of beauty bright,
From the fairest that in Erin are.

In Bal'nagar is the Coolun
Like the berry on the bough her cheek;
Bright beauty dwells for ever
On her fair neck and ringlets sleek;
Oh, sweeter is her mouth's soft music
Than the lark or thrush at dawn,
Or the blackbird in the greenwood singing
Farewell to the setting sun.

Rise up, my boy! make ready
My horse, for I forth would ride,
To follow the modest damsel,
Where since our youth were we plighted,
In faith, troth, and wedlock true -
She is sweeter to me nine times over,
Than organ or cuckoo!

For, ever since my childhood
I loved the fair and darling child;
But our people came between us,
And with lucre out pure love defiled;
Ah, my woe is is, and my bitter pain,
And I weep it night and day,
That the coleen bawn of my early love,
Is torn from my heart away.

Sweetheart and faithful treasure,
Be constant still and true;
Now for want of hers and houses
Leave one who would ne'er leave you,
I'll plege you the blessed Bible,
Without and eke within,
That the faithful God will provide for us,
Without thanks to kith or kin.

Oh, love, do you remember
When we lay all night alone,
Beneath the ash in the winter storm
When the oak wood round did groan?
No shelter then from the blast had we,
The bitter blast or sleet,
But your gown to wrap about our heads,
And my coat around our feet.

Barry T at Mudcat: , 15 Jan 01

"In his book Love Songs of the Irish, Mercier Press 1977, James Healy gives this overview...
The original song has been attributed to a priest, Oliver O'Hanley (c1700-1750), written in praise of a County Limerick beauty named Nelly O'Grady, but the tune may be much older than his song. Some attribute it to a seventeenth century bard from Benburb named **Muiris Ua Duagain, but in the absence of documentary evidence anything we know about this beautiful song is speculation."

I haven't got an Irish version with any mention of Ballinagar. There are many Irish songs containing the line "An cuimhin leat an oíche úd?", do you remember that night, similar to Ferguson's last verse.

James Stephens poem ,The Coolun, is very different:
"Come with me, under my coat,
And we will drink our fill
Of the milk of the white goat,
Or wine if it be thy will ;
And we will talk until
Talk is a trouble, too,
see the rest at

Of course, there are other songs which speak of a lovely cúilfhionn, but don't go to the famous air. For instance, according to Dónal O'Sullivan and Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin, "Ar a' mBaile Seo Tá an Chúilfhionn" ("Erigh Maully Shaugh Coolin" in Bunting) and Cúilfhionn Brócach are versions of Eamann Mhágáine. (I don't see the resemblance myself, but probably I don't know the version fo Eamann Mhágáine they refer to)