Rosheen Doo (Roisín Dubh)

Neither James Clarence Mangan, Patrick Pearse, Frank O'Connor or the myriad other translators faced up to the raw sexual energy of the original.

The facts are that the regular clergy of Penal times were soft on sex, but not so the Franciscan Friars. The regular clergy were educated in Salamanca in Spain. Though celibate, they recognised that trangression was normal and forgivable. They took little blame for giving in to the weakness of the flesh in their own lives and were forgiving of extra-marital sex in their congregations.  Not so the Friars. They strongly denounced the sins of the flesh and travelled round the dioceses and parishes giving missions and preaching against sin and sex. After a mission was over and the preachers left, matters could return to normal. Roads in the west of Ireland were poor, so the Friars visited many communities by boat.

Though Catholics were denigrated under the Penal Laws, the 18th century was the first century of peace of the millenium, and there was considerable prosperity, before the population explosion of the early 19th century that turned Daniel O'Connell's Ireland into a nation of beggars. Elopements and love-marriages were common. After the Great Famine of 1845 to 1848, the regular clergy became much more severe; great efforts were made to keep young people apart, and make sure that marriages were arranged that would produce economically viable households. Love and Sex were suppressed, a condition that held sway until very recently.

So, back to the 18th century when love was in the air.

  1. "Sail away, sail away, sail away ...:" Sailing is an old metaphor for sensual arousal or enjoyment;
  2. "O my America ...:" While countries, parishes and regions were often given female personality, geographic features like mountains and lakes were common metaphors, in the 18th century, for female attributes;
  3. The great river (for example, the Erne in the original) was a metaphor for ejaculation;
  4. "In the name of Love ...": Young love thought it could overcome all obstacles.

Rosheen, do not be saddened by what happened to you;
The preachers have left and gone; they are sailing o'er the blue.
Absolution will come from the Pope in Rome to you,
And the Holy Wine won't be denied to my Rosheen Doo.

Long are the hours I spent wooing her, yesterday until today.
Over mountains I travelled with her, and my sails upon the sea.
The great river she took in her stride, though its flood was great,
And sweetly, on every side, how the violens played!

You are my delight and the torment of my heart.
You dominate my mind in the middle of the Mass.
Neither heaven nor hell will ever force us to part,
For we are bound together with iron bonds of the heart.

I would tramp the hot desert, though my lips be parched;
I would face the icy lands at the periphery of the earth;
I would tame wild horses to plough across the hill,
Or turn mountains into valleys, whatever be your will.

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