Róisín Dubh

Sean-nós singing style

Sean-nós singing is a highly-ornamented style of solo, unaccompanied singing defined by Tomas Ó Canainn as:

…a rather complex way of singing in Gaelic, confined mainly to some areas in the west and south of the country. It is unaccompanied and has a highly ornamented melodic line….Not all areas have the same type of ornamentation–one finds a very florid line in Connacht, contrasting with a somewhat less decorated one in the south, and, by comparison, a stark simplicity in the northern songs…

Uploaded by  on Jan 8, 2012

A Róisín, ná bíodh brón ort ná chás anois
tá do phárdún ó’n Róimh agus ó’n bPápa agat
tá na bráithre ag teacht thar
sáile agus ag tríall thar muir
‘S ni ceilfear fíon Spáinneach ar mo Róisín Dubh

Tá grá agam i mo lár dhuit le blíain anois
grá cráite, grá cásmhar, grá ciapaithe
grá a d’fhág mé gan sláinte, gan rían, gan ruith
is go bráth, bráth, gan aon fháil a
leagadh ar mo Róisín Dubh

Beidh an Éirne ina tuilte dearga ‘s an spéir ‘na fuil
beidh an saol ina choghadh craorach
is réadfar chnoic
beidh gach gleann sléibhe ar fuid Éireann
agus móinte ar crith, la eigin
sula n-eagfaidh mo Róisín Dubh



O MY Dark Rosaleen,
Do not sigh, do not weep!
The priests are on the ocean green,
They march along the deep.
There ‘s wine from the royal Pope,
Upon the ocean green;
And Spanish ale shall give you hope,
My Dark Rosaleen!
My own Rosaleen!
Shall glad your heart, shall give you hope,
Shall give you health, and help, and hope,
My Dark Rosaleen!

Over hills, and thro’ dales,
Have I roam’d for your sake;
All yesterday I sail’d with sails
On river and on lake.
The Erne, at its highest flood,
I dash’d across unseen,
For there was lightning in my blood,
My Dark Rosaleen!
My own Rosaleen!
O, there was lightning in my blood,
Red lightning lighten’d thro’ my blood.
My Dark Rosaleen!

All day long, in unrest,
To and fro, do I move.
The very soul within my breast
Is wasted for you, love!
The heart in my bosom faints
To think of you, my Queen,
My life of life, my saint of saints,
My Dark Rosaleen!
My own Rosaleen!
To hear your sweet and sad complaints,
My life, my love, my saint of saints,
My Dark Rosaleen!

Woe and pain, pain and woe,
Are my lot, night and noon,
To see your bright face clouded so,
Like to the mournful moon.
But yet will I rear your throne
Again in golden sheen;
‘Tis you shall reign, shall reign alone,
My Dark Rosaleen!

My own Rosaleen!
‘Tis you shall have the golden throne,
‘Tis you shall reign, and reign alone,
My Dark Rosaleen!
Over dews, over sands,
Will I fly, for your weal:
Your holy delicate white hands
Shall girdle me with steel.
At home, in your emerald bowers,
From morning’s dawn till e’en,
You’ll pray for me, my flower of flowers,
My Dark Rosaleen!

“Róisín Dubh” (pronounced Ro-sheen dove, meaning “Dark Rose”), written in the 16th century, 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. 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.

I saw this comment on another youtube version of the song. It sums up the acquired singing, which is not very easy to learn. I know this, as we had to do some songs like this in the choral societies and choirs I belonged to in the past. It was hard work, but very deep.

The more I learned about sean-nós singing, the more I grew to love it. Not all of it sounds as sweet as this – some of it is nasal and ‘rough’ sounding, but as I learned the songs and the rules of sean-nós, I began to understand it more and gained a greater love for it. That is why I think it is wrong to dismiss it because of the so-called ‘wailing’.

Sean Williams says at Irish Singing here

Sean-nós singing is one of the finest of the traditional Irish arts. It is often characterised by unaccompanied performance in Irish or in English; free rhythm, relative lack of vibrato or dynamic change, and especially by the use of rapid, melismatic ornamentation. I first studied sean-nós singing in the early 1980s when I was a graduate student at the University of Washington in ethnomusicology.

List of traditional Irish singers – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


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