‘Oh! solitary fort, that standest yonder,
What desolation dost thou not reveal!
How tarnished is the beauty of thine aspect,
Thou mansion of the chaste and gentle melodies!
Demolished lie thy towering battlements –
The dark loam of the earth has risen up
Over the whiteness of thy polished stones;
And solitude and ruin gird thee round.
Thy end is come, fair fortress, thou art fallen –
Thy magical prestige has been stripped off –
Thy well-shaped corner-stones have been displaced
And cast forth to the outside of thy ramparts.’
‘Thy doorways are, alas! filled up,
Thou fortress of the once bright doors!
The limestones of thy top lie at thy base,
On all the sides of thy fair walls.
Over the mouldings of thy shattered windows,
The music that to-day breaks forth
Is the wild music of the birds and winds,
The voices of the stormy elements!
O, many-gated Court of Donegal,
What spell of slumber overcame thee,
Thou mansion of the board of flowing goblets,
To make thee undergo this rueful change?’
‘The reason that he left thee as thou art
Was lest the black ferocious strangers
Should dare to dwell within thy walls,
Thou fair-proportioned, speckled mansion!
Lest we should ever call thee theirs,
Should call thee in good earnest Dun-na-gall,
This was the reason, Fortress of the Gaels,
That thy fair turrets were o’erthrown.
Now that our kings have all been exiled hence
To dwell among the reptiles of strange lands,
It is a woe for us to see thy towers,
O, bright fort of the glossy walls!’
Extracts from George Petrie’s 1840 translation of an Irish-language poem Address to the Ruins of Donegal Castle written in 1601 after the building’s intentional mutilation (to prevent it falling into English hands) by then-owner Red Hugh O’Donnell.