‘Twas Brídeóg night, near old Kildare, – just fifty years ago, –
And Tully maidens made St. Bride in garments white as snow;
For, one, as pure as Brigid, – with a namesake’s girlish pride,
Gave up her wardrobe, lovingly, to honor good “St. Bride”.
Dear heart! I’ve knelt beside her grave (when Autumn leaves were pale)
‘Neath Graylock’s mountain1 shadow , – in North Adam’s golden vale; –
Another land thief’s victim, by the feudal laws of Might! –
And, in her home, a rack-rent slave is chained this Brídeóg night!
The names our fathers loved so well, in mother, wife, and child, –
Are all too plain for lady-shams, by senseless sounds beguiled.
When “Pet” and “Flo” and “Poll” and “Puss”, are types of Fashion’s craze,
Poor Oscar Wilde’s aesthetic farce deserves its meed of praise!
No wonder strangers mock us, if the póiríns2 of our race
Deem Brigid antiquated, – even Patrick commonplace!
Yet courtly dames nursed baby Brides; and Knighthood waits an heir
To peerless Patrick Sarsfield, – lord of Tully, in Kildare!
In Erin’s calendar of Saints not one has such a claim
On exiles from Cealldaradh3 shrine as holy Brigid’s name.
But thoughtless jokes, and vulgar sneers, our silly maids dismay,
Who brought the dear Baptismal gift, from Inisfail4 away.
For fourteen hundred years it graced the noblest Irish girls; –
The light and life of hall and cot, – the convent’s saintly pearls, –
And winsome, sweet, and musical it seemed to Norman knight,
When wooing some young Brighid Bán5 the belle of Brídeóg night.
I’ve kissed the hearthstone of St. Bride, and played through ruins vast,
Of cells and grand cathedral, of “Kildarra’s” glorious past; –
That mystic Round-Tower, too, I’ve climbed, to reach the jackdaw’s nest;
While moss-grown tombs lay thick beneath – where Saints and Chieftains rest.
And still, in dream-land’s Shamrock Clime, soft thoughts of cousin Bride
Protect her little tameless mate from hands too harsh to guide.
False Land of Nod! – full fifty years have silvered nut-brown hair,
Since boyhood’s dawn, that Brídeóg night, in Tully of Kildare.
Washington DC, January 1883.
Poem about Brideog Night (1st February) in Kildare by Richard Oulahan, published in the Irish American Weekly, New York, 1883
Brídeóg – (pronounced Breedhogue) – “An image of St. Brigid, used on the eve of that Saint, by unmarried girls, with a view to discover their future husband” – O’Reillys Irish-English Dictionary)
Perhaps I was too young to notice any superstition, like that of “Halloween”, connected with the Brideog; but I believe “future husbands” were neither sought nor secured by supernatural agency in Kildare. – AUTHOR (R.Oulahan).
Footnotes by R. Oulahan –
- Graylock is the highest mountain above North Adams, Massachusetts
- Póirín – a small potato
- Cealldara – (Kildare). The cell (or church) of the oak. The term “Kill” or “Cill” is a Saxon corruption of the old Irish word “ceall” (a cell or church). Thomas Davis in the old “Spirit of the Nation” takes notice of this fact in the notes to his poem of “The Geraldines”.
- Inisfail – Ireland, The Isle of Destiny
- Brighid Bán – Fair Brigid
Biographical note on author, compiled by John Malone –
Richard Oulahan was born in Co. Dublin in 1822, but apparently spent much of his youth with his grandparents at Tully in Kildare. He emigrated to the United States around 1849, following involvement with the “Young Ireland” movement, and having been a contributor to The Nation magazine. At the outbreak of the US Civil War he joined the Union forces as First Lieutenant in the 164th New York Infantry in 1862. He was destined not to serve long with the 164th, being wounded and discharged due to disability in Sept. 1863. Oulahan received a brevet-Major rank for his services. He was a committed Fenian both before and after the US Civil War, campaigning and fund raising for various Irish causes, and was later an advocate of Home Rule- he carried out a correspondence with Charles Stewart Parnell on the issue. His post-war career saw him working in the Treasury Department, a position secured by political connections. Richard Oulahan died in Washington on 12th June, 1895, where his remains were interred in Mount Olivet Cemetery.