Tá Grá agam duit, a Mháire

I am in love with you, Mary.

Véarsa 1 Verse 1
Tá grá ‘gam duit, a Mháire le tuilleadh ‘s le bliain I have loved you, o Mary, for over a year now
Is páirt agam duit a ghrá ghil, thar a bhfeaca[1] de mhnáibh[2] riamh. And I have affection for you, my dearest love, more than any other woman I have ever seen.
Do chúl trom fáingeach[3] ba bhreátha ná ‘n sneachta ‘s ná ‘n ghrian Your heavy, ringleted hair was brighter than the snow or the sun
Is is bocht a’ bás [a] bhí i ndán duit agus mise dhá thriall. And poor was the death that awaited you while I was trying to find you.
Véarsa 2 Verse 2
Dá gcasfaí minisdir [4]i lúib coille orm nó aoire bó If I met a minister in a quiet corner of the wood or even a cowherd,
Scafaire d’fhear eagailse[5] nó ógánach óg, A tall, well-made churchman or a youth,
Níor peaca liomsa leanbh le haon fhear dá bhfuil beó It would be no sin for me to have a child by any man alive
Ach gurb é mac m’athar do chealgaigh mo chroí ‘stigh go deó. But it was my father’s son who deceived my heart forever.
Véarsa 3 Verse 3
Tá aon deirfiúirín amháin agam agus í insa chill I have one little sister and she is in her grave
An úir ag gabháil chuichi agus í go doimhin [ ] [ ][6] The earth heavy on top of her and she deeply [ ] [ ].
B’í siúd an chúilfhionn bhí múinte is ba bhreátha guth cinn She was the fair lady who was well brought-up and had the finest singing voice.
Is nár fhág sí dúil agam i súgradh ná i ngáire geal grinn. And she left me unable to take pleasure in entertainment or in bright, cheerful laughter.


At first glance, this seems like an example of a ‘man’s love song,’ beautiful but conventional. In the last line of the first verse, however, the atmosphere changes with the mention of the beloved’s death.

It is the girl herself who speaks in the second verse and she makes the assertion, shocking by the standards of the day, that it would be no sin for her to bear a child by any of the men she mentions. She refers to ‘my father’s son.’ Is this her brother, her half-brother, her step-brother? ‘Cealgaigh’ has a number of meanings such as ‘deceived,’ which seems likeliest but it also means ‘wounded,’ annoyed,’ ‘seduced,’ ‘stung.’ Was he responsible for her death or for her pregnancy or both?

The brother laments the death of his only sister in verse 3 and praises her beauty and her singing voice. His grief seems genuine, he has lost all zest for life.

There is, therefore, an element of mystery in what at first appears to be a conventional love song. I have not found this text in any other published collection.

[1] Thar a bhfaca mé

[2] Dative plural of ‘bean’

[3] The spelling ‘fáingeach’ instead of ‘fáinneach’ suggests a nasal pronunciation so I have deliberately retained it. This nasalised ‘nn’ sound is common to this day in the Irish of Muscraí, Co. Cork and in An Rinn, Co. Waterford.

[4] ‘Minister,’ i.e. a Protestant clergyman, is meant here; the spelling reflects the pronunciation.

[5] Should be ‘eaglaise’.

[6] Two syllables missing from text. The second must rhyme with ‘cill’, ‘cinn’ and ‘grinn’.