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DONACHA RUA

Donacha rua of Donegal,
(Holy Mary, how slow the dawn!)
This is the hour of your loss or gain:
Is go d-tigeadh tu mo mhúirnín slán![1]

Donacha rua, but the hour was ill
(O Mary Mother, how high the price!)
When you swore you'd game with Death himself;
Ay, and win with the devil's dice.

Donacha rua, you must play with Death
(Mary, watch with him till the light!)
Through the dark hours, for the words you said,
All this strange and noisy night.

Donacha rua, you are pale and cold;
(How the demons laugh through the air!)
The anguish beads on your frowning brow;
Mary set on your lips a prayer!

Donacha rua, you have won the toss:
(Mother, pray for his soul's release!)
ShufiBe and deal ere the black cock crows,
That your spirit may find its peace.

Donacha rua, you have played a king;
(How strange a light on your fingers fall!)
A voice, “I was cold, and he sheltered me…”
The trick is gained, but your chance is small.


Donacha rua, now an ace is yours;
(Mother Mary, the night is long!)
“I was a sin that he hurried aside…”
O for the dawn and the blackbird's song!

Donacha rua, now a ten of suit;
(Mother Mary, what hot winds blow!)
“Nine little fives hath he saved in his path…”
And the black cock that does not crow.

Donacha rua, you have played a knave;
(O what strange gates on their hinges groan!)
“I was a friend who had wrought him ill;
When I had fallen he cast no stone…”

Donacha rua, now a queen has won!
(The black cock crows with the flash of dawn.)
And she is the woman who prays for you:
Is go d-tigeadh tu mo mhúirnín slán!


  1. “May you, my darling, come safely!”