Monday, February 26, 2024

Tadhg Gaelach Ó Súilleabháin

Tadhg Gaelach Ó Súilleabháin (1715―1795), known in English as Timothy O'Sullivan, is an Irish poet probably born in County Limerick. There are few records concerning his early life, although it is thought that he was a teacher.

His early verse is typical of Munster poetry of the time, including romantic verse, laments, drinking songs, and eulogies for members of the Catholic gentry. He was publicly a Jacobite supporter, and was once imprisoned in Cork for drinking the health of Bonnie Prince Charlie.

In the 1760s he moved to County Waterford and underwent a spiritual conversion, forsaking the writing of secular verse. In the nineteenth century Ó Súilleabháin’s poems were often sung as hymns in Munster churches. The plaque pictured above, was erected in 2001 in the grounds of the Cathedral in Waterford. Ó Súilleabháin died, in 1795, while at prayer in their recently-built Cathedral.

I am indebted to the poet Pádraig J. Daly for sending me a copy of Furnace of Love (Dedalus, 2002) the book of his translations of Tadhg Gaelach Ó Súilleabháin’s religious poetry. The following is from that collection.

from Poem of Jesus


Great Son of the resplendent city of enchanting light,
Mercy of Paradise, Person of the Holy Three,
Heart’s Love, pardon my twisted thinking
And steer my soul without turbulence into your kingdom, Jesus.
Amen, O Jesus,
Who bought me dearly
On the cross on Friday,
Your enemies harassing You,
Far from your people,
Your mother beside You,
Pitifully keening;
And I, maliciously,
Since life began in me,
Flaying You fiercely.
Five hundred thousand times
One hundred regrets are mine
That that is how I repaid You.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Wipf & Stock.