Donal Oge

Score title

Donal Oge


Libby Larsen

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Program note

The 8th century poem “Donal Oge,” (Anonymous) is an abandoned lover’s anguished lament. In it the singer begs Donal Oge to take her with him, saying that if he does she will devote herself to him fully, even if in physical danger. She argues that he has made impossible promises to her, all of which he has broken, yet she would do anything to stay near him. She pleads that she would be better for him than a “high, proud, spendthrift lady”. She cries out in torment that he has taken everything from her and finally that she mortally fears that he has taken God from her.

"Donall Oge: Grief of a Girl's Heart“ was translated from Gaelic into English by Lady Augusta Gregory, renown Irish dramatist, folklorist and leader in the Irish literary Revival. For this setting, I have used seven of the poems’ fourteen stanzas. This ballad has been traced to the 8th century, suggesting that name Donal Oge (Donald the Young), the object of the poem, may possibly be traced to historical figures through Irish the rule of 11th-12th century Clan MacCarthy in the House of Desmond back in time to the 8th and 9th century rule of the house of Carbery in the over kingdom of Munster in the 8th century. It is most likely that the Donal Oge of the poem is a composite folklore figure formed over the centuries in which this ballad has been sung.

—Libby Larsen