Aodh Ruadh Ó Domhnaill

Thomas MacGreevy

To Stiefán MacEnna

Juan de Juni[[1]] the priest said, Each J becoming H,

Berruguete,[[2]] he said,
and the G was aspirate,

Ximénez,[[3]] he said then
And aspirated first and last.

But he never said
And -- it seemed odd -- he
Never had heard
The aspirated name
Of the centuries-dead
Bright-haired young man
Whose grave I sought.

All day I passed
In greatly built gloom
From dusty gilt tomb
Marvellously wrought
To tomb
At mouldy inscriptions
With fingers wetted with spit
And asking
Where I might find it
And failing.

Yet when
Unhurried --
---Not as at home
---Where heroes, hanged, are buried
---With non-commissioned officers' bored maledictions
---Quickly in the gaol yard --[[4]]

They brought
His blackening body
To rest
Princes came
Behind it

And all Valladolid knew
And out to Simancas all knew
Where they buried Red Hugh.

MacGreevy felt the following note integral to the understanding of the poem and insisted that it be printed as an addendum:

Aodh Ruadh Ó Domhnaill, "Red" Hugh O'Donnell, Prince of Tirconaill, went to Spain to consult with King Philip III after the defeat of the Irish and Spanish at Kinsale in 1601. He was lodged in the castle of Simancas during the negotiations but, poisoned by a certain James Blake, a Norman-Irish creature of the Queen of England (Elizabeth Tudor), he died there. As a member of the Third Order of Saint Francis, he was buried in the church of San Francisco at Valladolid. This church was destroyed during the nineteenth century and none fo the tombs that were in it seems to have been preserved.

Later, MacGreevy:

In the case of "Aodh Ruadh Ó Domhnaill" I should refuse permission to alter the title even if it had been asked for politely, for with that title -- it means Red Hugh O'Donnell -- it is known to the Irish in every part of the world, almost as well known I dare to say as Yeats's "Inisfree"; and, equally important, the presence of the aspirating h in each word of the title is the point of departure of the poem and the actual preoccupation of the first ten lines.

(c) Estate of Thomas MacGreevy, 1991; from Collected Poems of Thomas MacGreevy: An Annotated Edition by Susan Schreibman (Dublin: Anna Livia Press; Washington, D.C: The Catholic University of America Press, 1991); see also the Thomas MacGreevy Hypertext Chronology, foundation of an important research tool in this leading figure of Irish modernism