Ó Bruadair, Dáibhidh (Dáibhí) (c.1625–1698), bardic poet, was one of the last practitioners of the old learning cultivated within the Irish bardic schools and one of the most prolific Gaelic poets of the post-Classical Modern Irish period. At least eighty of his poems have been preserved in Irish manuscripts from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century, and these form the corpus of John C. MacErlean's (qv), three-volume edition (with English translations), Duanaire Dháibhidh Uí Bhruadair (1910–17). Breandán Ó Conchúir, who reexamined the manuscript transmission, has noted only one poem by Ó Bruadair which escaped MacErlean's notice, and a few attributed to Ó Bruadair whose authorship requires further investigation (see Riggs, Dáibhí Ó Bruadair, 55). The full corpus includes religious verse, political poetry, satires, eulogies, elegies, and epithalamia, most of which are addressed to the poet's main patrons, the MacCarthys and Barrys in Co. Cork, and the Fitzgeralds and Bourkes in Co. Limerick.
Ó Bruadair's poetry contains an invaluable personal response to the tumultuous political events of the period: the Cromwellian conquest (1649–53), the partial recovery of lands following the restoration of Charles II (1660), and the defeats of the Irish Jacobite army at the Boyne, Aughrim, and finally Limerick (1691). He responds bitterly to dispossession and the loss of Irish language and custom; however, his writings also reveal the tenacity of the native tradition, various strands of which intersect in his work: the medieval and the modern, the oral and the literary, the older syllabic metres and the popular amhráin (‘song metres’). Archaic glossary words (e.g. sionn ‘mockery’) (DIL) mix with a contemporary vocabulary apparently invented to mock the chaos and lowbred speech of the times (see Harrison, Éigse, xvi, pt 2 (1975), 97–112). Gerard Murphy (qv), who parsed Ó Bruadair's distinctive blend of the classical literary language and spoken Munster Irish, remarked that Ó Bruadair is in the tradition ‘not just as one guided by it but as one who is its master’ (IER, lxxviii (1952), 340).
Biographical details The surviving biographical details are few. John MacErlean (i, pp xiv–xx) challenged a long accepted tradition that Ó Bruadair was a native of Co. Limerick and argued that he was born in east Cork, in the barony of Barrymore, around 1625. MacErlean presents persuasive evidence, noting early poems addressed to the Barrys and MacCarthys in Cork, Ó Bruadair's association with Diarmaid mac Sheáin Bhuí Mac Cárthaigh (qv), who headed a school of poetry in Blarney, and the transmission of Ó Bruadair's work by scribes living in Cork, most notably, John Stack, Eoghan Ó Caoimh (qv), and Seán na Ráithíneach Ó Murchadha (qv). Ó Bruadair speaks in one poem of Sir James Cotter (qv), who lived in the parish of Carrigtohill (in the barony of Barrymore), as a native of the same district as himself, and refers to Barrymore as tír mo bhuinphréimhe ‘the land of my original stock’ (MacErlean, iii, 192). The Christian name ‘Dáibhí’, common among the Barrys, may indicate that his parents were dependants of a branch of that family, as Dara Binéid has proposed (Searc na Suadh (2003), 5). The surname ‘O Brodir’ appears frequently in Barrymore in the census of 1659, and two tenants named ‘D. Broder’ are listed in a schedule of lands from 1768 in the townland of Monaneage, near Knockraha (where Ó Bruadair seems to have spent the end of his life), suggesting that his kinsmen remained in Barrymore (Ó Buachalla, Cork Hist. Soc. Jn., li (1946) 32, 39).
Little is known about Ó Bruadair's family. Ó Bruadair refers to his children (MacErlean, ii, 40), though no details of his parents or his marriage survive. He had a son, William (d. 1 January 1728/9), who is honoured in a lament composed by Seán Ó Murchadha na Ráithíneach, penned in a pocket notebook which was recovered fortuitously from the small town of Dana in Western Massachusetts (Ó Donnchadha, Seán na Ráithíneach (1954), 139–41; Ó Conchúir, Studia Hib., xxxi (2000–01), 169–74). Nearly half of the poem extols William's illustrious father. William ‘mac Dáibhí’ is praised as son of the poet skilled in Irish, English, and Latin texts, and as mac an scéaluidhe bhéal-bhinn Féinne (son of the eloquent teller of fiannaíocht tales). The poet mentions William's burial in Uí Liatháin, a further indication of family connections in east Cork.
Education Where Ó Bruadair received his education is uncertain, though his early education may have been under the patronage of the Barrys (see Binéid, Searc na Suadh, 4–5). The lament noted above praises Ó Bruadair's knowledge of Latin and English diction, and Ó Bruadair himself claims a command of Laidean ghasta is Béarla glic (‘fluent Latin and clever English’) (MacErlean, ii, 26). Ó Bruadair frequently mocks English speech; however, his knowledge of English is indicated by a letter written to Chief Justice John Keating (qv) (see below), a rhymed doggerel to friends in Kerry (ibid., ii, 16–18), and the testimony of the scribe John Stack who, not wishing to ‘soil’ his manuscript any further with the foreign language, omitted nine stanzas of English verse from a lament composed by Ó Bruadair (ibid., ii, 98–100). Ó Bruadair was familiar with the older syllabic metres, and archaisms such as the infix pronoun (Ó Fiannachta, Léachtaí Cholm Cille, xiii (1982), 134), which were obsolete in the spoken language, further indicate formal training in a school of poetry. Forus feasa ar Éirinn, by Geoffrey Keating (qv), provided an important source of Irish history and literature, and Ó Bruadair's copies of ‘Leabhar Iris Chloinne Uí Mhaoilchonaire’ (compiled c.1611), and preparation of a genealogy for Fr Conchubhar Mac Cairteáin, point to a knowledge of genealogical sources. He was well versed in fiannaíocht, drawing on both literary and oral sources (see Ó Briain, Éigse, xxxi (1999), 60–72).
Patrons Scribal notes attached to copies of an early poem, ‘Do chonnradh foirceadal’ (MacErlean, i, 20–25), indicate that Dáibhí Ó Bruadair was living in Castlelyons (Caisleán Ó Liatháin), Co. Cork, in 1648, and it is possible that he experienced the war of the 1640s in that region. He seems to have moved from east Cork to Limerick, and settled in Claonghlais around the year 1658, when references to Limerick topography begin to appear in his poems. The reason for the move is uncertain; however, it is possible that the poet was pushed out of his native Barrymore to make way for Old English families from the Munster ports who were assigned lands in Barrymore and Muskerry (see NHI, iii, 365). Whether by choice or necessity, Ó Bruadair found generous patrons in Limerick and composed poetry for the Fitzgeralds of Claonghlais, who resided at Springfield (Gort na Tiobrad), and the Bourkes of Cahirmoyle (Cathair Maothal). Springfield Castle, the home of Ó Bruadair's patron Edmond FitzGerald, and later, his son Sir John Fitzgerald (qv), still stands.
Ó Bruadair may have been drawn to the region, as Breandán Ó Madagáin has proposed (N. Munster Antiq. Jn., xxxiii (1991), 46–7), by the climate of learning fostered by Cúchonnacht Ó Dálaigh, who conducted a school of poetry at ‘Tolcha’ (Tullaha), near the present-day village of Broadford (Béal an Átha). Cúchonnacht composed a poem celebrating the birth of Sir John Fitzgerald (MacErlean, i, 190–91), who later became Ó Bruadair's patron, and the school was still flourishing at the time of Cúchonnacht's death in 1642. Whether Ó Bruadair attended the school is uncertain, but it may have been through this small community of learning and patronage that he became poet to Sir Edmond Fitzgerald and his son Sir John Fitzgerald. He composed an elegy on Sir Edmond (d. 1666), which describes the hospitality of Springfield Castle, the local topography, and the ancestral burial ground at Askeaton abbey. He summons Sir Edmond's son, Sir John Fitzgerald, home from Nantes, France, to assume his place as heir (MacErlean, i, 138–83).
The Fitzgeralds, like all royalists, had suffered in the Cromwellian confiscations; however, around the year 1670 Sir John Fitzgerald obtained the restoration of some 3,000 acres in Co. Limerick, including Springfield Castle. He was later arrested and tried for complicity in the ‘popish plot’ (1679–82), and Ó Bruadair vehemently defends his innocence. The eulogy ‘Searc na suadh’ praises Chief Justice John Keating, who played a key role in Sir John's acquittal (MacErlean, ii, 264–86). Ó Bruadair also sent a letter of thanks, written in English, and his remarks include an ironic self-portrait, narrated with a satiric tone which characterises much of Ó Bruadair's verse: ‘The Author of the Inclosed Poem is a man not concerned at all in the Weighty affairs of this World, yet see'th and can smile or frown on things as well as any other fool. He is a great Lover and admirer of honest men and as great a hater of the adverse party. He holdeth his abode in the proximity of a quiet company, the Dead, being banished [from] the society of the living, for want of means to rent as much as a house and a Garden amongst them. He lives like a sexton without salary in the Corner of a Churchyard in a Cottage (thanks be to God) as well contented with his stock, which is only a little Dog, a Cat and a Cock, as the Prince of Parma with all his Principalities’ (MacErlean, ii, 286).
Events and poetry Events of the century frame and, to some extent, shape Ó Bruadair's poetry. Ó Bruadair bitterly laments the destruction and cultural disintegration following the campaign of Oliver Cromwell (qv) in the poem ‘Créacht do dháil me’ (MacErlean, i, 26–50). The nobles are ‘dispersed and scattered’ (scáinte scartha); Ireland, once wedded to the Irish chieftains ‘who first put a ring on the finger of her hand’ (do chéadchuir fáinne ar bárr a baise), is now the caomhthach cáirdis (bedfellow) of lowbred foreigners. A mocking litany of new English names is juxtaposed with the honoured names of ancient Irish heroes who are now mourned by Ireland, their spouse. Ó Bruadair, like many of his near contemporaries, interprets the defeat of the Irish as God's punishment for their sins, political disunity, and neglect of religion.
Ó Bruadair scorns the lowbred Cromwellian who occupies the lands of the Gaelic and Anglo-Norman families, and castigates an upstart peasantry who ape the manners and language of the new colonists. Wealth, once bestowed on the poet for well-wrought eulogies, becomes the attribute of a niggardly, arrogant class. The abandonment of learning is a constant theme, and is vividly expressed in ‘D'aithle na bhfileadh n-uasal’, composed for the children of Cúchonnacht Ó Dálaigh, whom the poet complains have forgotten the noble poets and ‘drinkers of wisdom’ (MacErlean, iii, 4; de Brún, Ó Buachalla, & Ó Concheanainn, Nua-dhuanaire, i (1971), 55). Disenchanted and bitter, O Bruadair composes a ‘mocking jingle’ (guagán gliog) to suit the insipid literary tastes of the new order (MacErlean, i, 70–78).
Ó Bruadair observes the chaos around him with a critical eye, but the year 1674 seems to have brought sudden personal misfortune: poverty, social rejection, and loss of status. The episode is the subject of the poem ‘Is mairg nár chrean re maitheas saoghalta’ (MacErlean, ii, 24–32), in which he depicts his life of privilege in the cathair ghléighil ‘bright city’, an image of the inherent falseness of this world, with a foreboding of his imminent downfall, as Liam P. Ó Murchú has proposed (see Riggs, Dáibhí Ó Bruadair (2001), 60). The precise reason for this abrupt change of fortune is unclear; however, the poet is slighted by those who once welcomed him, and he is reduced to physical labour, digging the earth with a spade. The hard summer of 1674 also brought famine to Ireland, and Ó Bruadair's personal misfortune was perhaps accentuated by widespread destitution. In the same year Ó Bruadair complains of Ireland's complicity in her fate, and laments the abandonment of custom in the dirge-like refrain, cuireamar féin an samhradh i gcill (we ourselves buried summer in the churchyard) (MacErlean, ii, 34–7).
Several occasional poems are addressed to the family of Seán de Búrc of Cahirmoyle (Cathair Maothal), Co. Limerick, and his wife Anna ní Urthuile, daughter of John Hurley of Knocklong. Ó Bruadair composed a wedding poem (dúan pósta) for their daughter, Úna de Búrc, who married Doiminic Roche (c.1662), and around Christmas in 1674/5 he composed an epithalamium upon the marriage of another daughter, Eleanor de Búrc, to Oliver Stephenson. Ó Bruadair adopts the guise of a disreputable crosán (buffoon) – perhaps an ironic symbol of his own reduced status – and enacts a comic performance at the wedding feast: ‘Mise an crosán taibhseach tuisleach,/tadhlaim taisbhean,/bím ó bpoitghoil suas go sursainn/cluas re caiseal (I am a showy, stumbling crosán; I visit a tender maiden; I am [full] up to the belt from drinking-feats; an ear [propped] against a stone wall) (MacErlean, ii, 48–97). He coaxes the bride to bed and, acting as poet-priest, blesses the couple. Ó Bruadair's intimate asides to his patroness, Anna ní Urthuile, during the feast, and his praise of her generosity in later poems, attest to their long and close friendship. Nine months after reciting the epithalamium, Ó Bruadair returns to Cahirmoyle to lament the death of the bride, Eleanor de Búrc, in childbirth: goirt an oifig aoinbhliadhna/caithréim a fáinne sa feart (bitter was the office of one year, the rite of her ring and her grave) (MacErlean, ii, 114). Another elegy of uncertain date was composed on the death of Caitlín de Búrc, which left Cathair Maothal i mbeirt bhróin ‘Cathirmoyle in a garb of sorrow’ (ibid., 126).
Later in the century, when the catholic monarch James II (qv) assumed the throne (1685), there was a brief upsurge of patriotic fervour and renewed hopes of reestablishing the old order. Ó Bruadair, a staunch royalist and catholic, extols James II in ‘Caithréim an Dara Séamuis’ as the cnú na cléire (darling of the poets) and the fiadh agus féinnidh Eorapa (stag and warrior of Europe) (MacErlean, iii, 79). He envisions a reemergence of native language and custom: the recitation of fiannaíocht and performances of the damhsa an ghadaraigh (dance of the withe) will resume, and the Irish phrase cia súd will replace the English ‘who's there’? (ibid., 128–30). The Jacobite leader Patrick Sarsfield (qv) is extolled for his heroic advance against William of Orange (qv) at Limerick in ‘Caithréim Phádraig Sáirséal’ (ibid., 142–56). This exultant mood was short-lived, however, and Ó Bruadair laments the crushing defeat of the Jacobite army in the moving poem ‘An longbhriseadh’ (‘The shipwreck’), an image of overwhelming defeat which has become a metaphor for the seventeenth century (ibid., 164–80). Ó Bruadair sinks deeply into poverty and despair. His hope for patronage is extinguished, and he bitterly renounces his craft: ‘ós críoch di mo stríocadh go seanabhrógaibh/ finis dom scribhinn ar fhearaibh Fódla’ (since the end of it is my being reduced to old shoes, finis to my writing for the men of Ireland) (ibid., 180). Ó Bruadair seems to have spent his final years transcribing manuscripts and genealogies. A fragmentary manuscript (TCD, MS 1292), consisting of twenty-two pages, is thought to have been written in his own hand.
Final days A scribal note attached to a Latin elegy on Ó Bruadair composed by Father Conchubhar Mac Cairteáin (de Brún, Éigse, xii (1967–8), 327–30) suggests that Ó Bruadair spent his final days in Knockraha in Barrymore, and states that he lived most of his life in Claonghlais in Co. Limerick. (‘A ccnoc [sic] Rátha a Marrachaibh móra budh eadh do Dháibhídh Ó Bhruadair dar canadh an mbarbchaoine shuas, gidheadh as air an Gclaonghlais a ccontae Luimnigh, do mhair sé an roinn budh mhó agus budh thamhsgamhla dá shaoghal.’) We do not know where he died or where he was buried. No Irish elegy survives to honour the poet who praised and lamented his patrons. A few lines in Mac Cairteáin's Latin lament honour Ó Bruadair as the last master of poetry with a notorious gift for verbal wit and humour: ‘Quis posthac nobis nativa poemata condet?/Quis dabit innocuos arte vagare jocos?’ (Who after this will compose native poetry for us?/Who will disseminate harmless jests with the work of art?) (ibid., 328; translation by the present writer). Tradition preserves conflicting dates of the poet's death. Mac Cairteáin gives the obit 1710; however, a manuscript transcribed by Piaras Móinséal in 1814, from a manuscript written by Eoghan Ó Caoimh c.1701, states that Ó Bruadair died in January 1697 (1698). Ó Caoimh's simple phrase conveys sorrow on Ó Bruadair's passing: ‘Dáibhí ua Bruadair d’éag a mí January, Anno Domini, 1697, et adubhart Eogan as truagh leam a éag gan amhrus’ (de Brún, Clár Lámhscríbhinní Gaeilge (1967), 131) (Dáibhí Ó Bruadair died in January, 1697 ; and Eoghan said: ‘sad indeed is his death to me.’)
Legacy Ó Bruadair was probably the last person of the old learning writing in Co. Limerick (Ó Madagáin, An Ghaeilge i Luimneach (1974), 23). His work has been translated and adapted by Modern Irish poets. James Stephens (qv) captures the force of a vituperative satire on an upstart servant girl who refused the poet a drink in ‘A glass of beer’, and the deep personal despair of ‘An longbhriseadh’ (‘The shipwreck’). Michael Hartnett (qv) wrestles with Ó Bruadair's diction in the selected translations, O Bruadair (1985). Eavan Boland, drawing on the imaginative description by Sean O'Faolain (qv) of Ó Bruadair composing verses en route to the wedding feast, opens The lost land with an image of the poet (unnamed) on the road to Cahirmoyle, arriving at a cold hearth, the feast over and the audience dispersed. Ó Bruadair indeed stands at the crossing of two worlds: a poet rooted in the old Gaelic order, stepping into modern Ireland.
A plaque commemorating the poet was placed on the gate of Springfield Castle, the estate of Ó Bruadair's patron, Sir John Fitzgerald, in 1970. In Broadford (Béal an Átha), on 4 May 1998, Mary McAleese, president of Ireland, unveiled a statue of the poet made by Cliodhna Cussen. Poets and scholars met in his honour in Drumcollogher, Co. Limerick, on 23–4 May in the same year. A seminar on Ó Bruadair's work was organised by the Irish Texts Society, in conjunction with the combined departments of Irish at UCC on 11 November 2000. The essays were edited by Pádraigín Riggs and published by the Irish Texts Society under the title Dáibhí Ó Bruadair: his historical and literary context (2001).