Sunday, April 10, 2011

426. The Diplomatic Mission of Conor MacArt

An Chuairt Taidhleoireachta na Conchubhair Mac Airt
Aisteach go raibh sí agus contúirteacha,
bean le fear éigin eile.

 January, 1562

I have a strong dislike for boats and the sea,
bare planks between your soul and perdition,
with wind and the rain adding to the sorrow.

Hours and hours we spent on the ocean
with the cattle moaning in childlike fear below
and myself moaning likewise above them.

We came to Bristol, a town of the English,
a marvellous great city of well-dressed people
very happy and pleased with themselves.

We had horses to hire for the road to London
on the further side of the kingdom, we stayed
at villainous flea-ridden inns all along that weary road.

London, my dear, makes Dublin look like a village
with all its tall houses pushed together, leaning
on one another, its sights and its sounds and smells.

We came to the court, at a place called Hampton,
a sturdy stone palace by the side of the river
and there the Queen came out to meet us.

She is a frail looking woman of middle years,
very white in the face and enormously prepared
in her dress and visage to meet the day.

Very grand did she look but quite kind withal
as her courtiers clucked and fussed around her.
We were asked to leave our swords and axes behind.

The discussion was long and polite but wearisome.
These people do not understand us; I think we
need to prepare ourselves for the coming war.

Not quite entirely fictional since there is a precedent with Granuaile, the pirate queen:
And, somewhat earlier (upon which this poem is based) the visit of Shane O'Neill in 1562:
Accompanied by the Irish Earls of Ormonde and Kildare, he reached London on 4 January 1562. William Camden describes the wonder which O'Neill's wild gallowglasses occasioned in the English capital, with their heads bare, their long hair falling over their shoulders and clipped short in front above the eyes, and clothed in rough yellow shirts.