Séamus Dall Mac Cuarta was born in Omeath in 1650 He became blind, a victim of smallpox or one of the many other debilitating diseases that took more children back then, than were spared.Despite losing his sight at an early age Seamus Dall Mac Cuarta lived to achieve an enduring reputation as one of the masters of poetry in Irish. He was one of the best known Gaelic poets of Creggan, These poets did not write for publication, but for public recital and sharing, so that their poems passed into the repertoire of various performers at fairs, weddings, wakes, patron days, sheebeen seisiuns, and fireside recitals in ceilidh houses.
Eventually, manuscript copies of their poems were circulated among interested performers. Luckily, numerous manuscripts by these scribes and collectors are still to be found in the collections held by the Royal Irish Academy, and University College Dublin, as well as fragments found in collections in Belfast, and in European libraries from Cambridge to Rome to Harvard University.
Out of the fifty of Mac Cuarta’s poems depicting contemporary events, religious themes, the great Gaelic and Anglo-Norman families of his area and on his own blindness. His most famous poem “Welcome to the Bird” is the most well known as it was recited by many a student as part of the Irish exam syllabus. Seamus Dall Mac Cuarta died in 1732, his body is laid to rest in an unmarked grave in Co Meath and a commemorative stone in tribute to him and his works is located in the grounds of The Dolmen Centre in Omeath.
Here is the poem, Fáilte don Éan (Welcome to the bird)
Fáilte don éan is binne ar chraoibh
Labhras ar caoin na dtor le gréin;
Domsa is fada tuirse an tsaoil
Nach bhfeiceann í le teacht an fhéir.
Cluinim, cé nach bhfeicim a gné,
Seinnm an éan darb ainm cuach;
Amharc uirthi i mbarra géag
Mo thuirse ghéar nach mise fuair.
Gach neach dá bhfeiceann cruth an éin,
Amharc Éireann deas is tuaidh,
Blátha na dtulca ar gach taoibh,
Dóibh is aoibhinn bheith dá lua.
Mo thuirse nach bhfuaireas bua ar m’amharc d’fháil
Go bhfeicim ar uaigneas uaisle an duilliúir ag fás!
Cuid de mo ghruaim – ní ghluaisim chun cruinnithe le cách
Ar amharc na gcuach ar bhruach na coille go sámh.
Welcome to the Bird
Welcome to the bird, the sweetest in the trees
Who sings the beauty of the shrubs to the sun;
For so long a time I’ve been tired of life
For I cannot see her when the grass is new.
I can hear it, though I cannot see her,
The chant of the bird they call cuckoo;
To look on her in the branches above
‘Tis my bitter grief that I don’t have that gift.
Each one may behold the charm of the bird,
For all Ireland is gazing, north and south,
With all of the flowers on the hills around,
And everyone can speak of such things with delight.
My sorrow that I did not receive the gift of sight
So that in my loneliness I could watch the beauty of the leaves as they grow!
Part of my sadness – I’m not along with all those peopleAs they go at their leisure to watch the cuckoos at the forest’s rim.