Laoiseach Mac an Bhaird

Laoiseach Mac an Bhaird was an early Modern Irish poet who likely lived during the late sixteenth century. His surname, “Mac an Bhaird,” translates to “son of the bard.” Families with the name likely descended from Donegal, Ireland, where they served as bards to the O’Donnell family and were known for their scholarship.

Few surviving poems are attributed to Mac an Bhaird. “On the Cutting Down of an Ancient Tree,” a poem attributed to the sixteenth century, was edited and first published by Osborn Bergin in Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review in 1926 and later published in Gaelic in the collection Irish Bardic Poetry (The Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1970). “Christ’s Five Wounds” was translated and published in a book of Irish bardic poetry by Lambert McKenna in 1939.

“A fhir ghlacas a ghalldacht” [Brothers], the poem for which Mac an Bhaird is likely best known, has been translated variously as “Civil Irish and Wild Irish” and “Courtier and Rebel.” Bergin has explained that the poem “is apparently meant as a reproach to someone who has adopted the dress and manners of a Tudor courtier” in contrast to another figure who has “chosen the harder but more adventurous life of a rebel.” The poem was first published in The Penguin Book of Irish Poetry (Penguin, 2010), edited by Patrick Crotty, and republished in The Map and the Clock (Faber & Faber, 2016), edited by Carol Ann Duffy and Gillian Clarke. The poem was most recently published in The Translations of Seamus Heaney (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2022), edited by Marco Sonzogni.