Caoineadh na dTrí Muire (1)

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  • Teideal (Title): Caoineadh na dTrí Muire (1).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 781503.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Joe Heaney Collection, University of Washington.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): Irish.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Esther Warkov.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 03/03/1978.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): interview.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Well, Good Friday, you see, was a time that, when I was growing up a little boy, our grandmother, who… had a fantastic way of… doing the lament, and she used to really do the lament, and gather us around her. And not a murmur would be out of us until she finished the Passion of Christ right from the cross, when Peter was standing there, and the Blessed Virgin came up to Peter and she said, ‘Who is that man on the cross of passion?’ And Peter said, ‘Don’t you recognize your own son, Mother?’ And then she said, ‘Is that the son that I carried for nine months? Is that the son who was born in the stable? Is that the son I reared on my knees? Oh, child’, she says, ‘your face and mouth is bleeding’.

And then they go on to the streets of Jerusalem. And they lifted her up to get her out of the way, and they threw her down on the bare stones. And… he said, ‘Beat me, but don’t touch my mother!’ And the answer he got back: ‘We’ll crucify you, and beat your mother!’

And then it goes on to tell how Simon, who was such a man, that… he was laughing at him when he started out first, and he took pity on him when he fell with the cross three times, you know, and Simon helped him with the cross, you know, up to Calvary.

And of course, on Calvary, when he was dying, the fourth king — the man who set out on Christmas Eve — gave him a drop of the bottle of water he was carrying. He was a poor king, that’s all he could give him. And he kept the bottle of water for thirty-three years ’til that day, and he gave it to him. And this is how my grandmother used to do it.

‘S a Pheadair, a aspail, an bhfaca tú mo ghrá bán?
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Chonaic mé ar ball é dhá ruaigeadh ag an námhaid.
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Muise, cé hí sin siar a bhfuil a gruaig le fána?
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Muise, cé a bheadh ann mara mbeadh mo mháithrín?
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Muise, cé hé an fear breá atá ar chrann na páise?
Ochón, is ochón ó!
An é nach n-aithníonn tú do mhac, a mháithrín?
Ochón, is ochón ó!
An é sin an maicín a d’iompair mé trí rátha?
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Nó an é sin an maicín a rugadh ins an stábla?
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Nó an é sin an maicín a hoileadh in ucht Mháire?
Ochón, is ochón ó!
A mhicín mhúirneach tá do bhéal is do shróinín gearrtha.
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Is crochadh suas í ar ghuaillí árda
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Is buaileadh anuas í faoi leacrachaí na sráide.
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Muise, buailigí mé féin, ach ná bainidh le mo mháithrín!
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Maróidh muid thú féin, agus buailfidh muid do mháithrín.
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Is cuireadh go cnoc Chealbhraí é ag méadú ar a pháise;
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Bhí se ag iompar na croiche agus Simon lena shála.
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Is cuireadh táirní maola thríra chosa ‘gus a lámha
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Is cuireadh sleá thrína bhrollach alainn.
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Muise éist, a Mháthair, is ná bí cráite
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Tá mná mo chaointe le breith fós, a Mháithrín.
Ochón, is ochón ó!


[Blessed Virgin] ‘Peter, apostle, have you seen my fair love?’
[Peter] ‘I saw him just now, being chased by the enemy.’
[Soldier] ‘Who is that going past with her hair in disarray?’
[Jesus] ‘Who would that be only my mother?’
[Blessed Virgin] ‘Indeed, who is that lovely man on the tree of passion?’
[Jesus] ‘How can you not recognize your son, Mother?’
[Blessed Virgin] ‘Is that the son that I carried for three seasons? Is that the son who was born in the stable?’
[Blessed Virgin] ‘Is that the son who was nurtured at Mary’s breast?
Oh my darling little son, your mouth and little nose are cut.’
She was raised up on high shoulders
And cast down onto the flagstones of the street.
[Jesus] ‘Beat me, but don’t touch my mother!’
[Soldier] ‘We’ll kill you, and we’ll beat your mother!’
And he was taken to the hill of Calvary, to increase his passion.
He was carrying the cross, and Simon at his heels.
Blunt nails were driven through his feet and hands
And a spear through his lovely breast.
[Jesus] ‘Listen, Mother, and don’t be tormented
the women who will mourn for me me have yet to be born.’


As Angela Partridge points out, the title by which this lament is known in Joe’s native Carna is Caoineadh na Páise (The Passion Lament). However, he accepted the title Caoineadh na dTrí Muire, which was given to the song following his first public performance of it in Dublin (Partridge, op. cit., 31). Caoineadh na dTrí Muire was a title associated with the song/poem in County Mayo. Versions from Donegal, Clare, Cavan, Kerry and Cork have also been recorded.

The song is best understood as a conversation between a number of participants including Peter, Jesus, the Blessed Virgin, and the Roman soldiers. This device advances the story with the greatest possible economy, allowing us to focus on the emotional intensity of each moment, from the viciousness of the soldiers to the disbelief and distress of Mary and finally to the quiet stoicism of Jesus, offering comfort to his distraught mother.

This is surely the most famous of the songs that Joe brought to public notice, and one of his own favourites. Along with Amhrán na Páise and Oíche Nollag, this lament reveals his deep reverence both for the spirituality of the subject-matter and for the tradition that his grandmother and others like her held up for her grandchildren and her community every year. As Máirtín Ó Cadhain wrote following Joe’s first public performance of this song in Dublin, In Caoineadh na dtrí Muire he brings home to us the joys and sorrows of Mary with the intimacy and poignancy of a Fra Angelico painting (quoted in Angela Partridge, Caoineadh na dTrí Muire: Téama na Páise i bhFilíocht Bhéil na Gaeilge, Dublin 1983, 4).

It seems to have been the case that singing this lament was, for Joe’s grandmother and other women in the community, not so much a performance as a very personal, painful, emotional experience. Angela Partridge, recording the song in 1975 from a near neighbour of Joe’s in Aird Thoir, Máire a’ Ghabha (Máire Bean Uí Cheannabháin), describes how the singer broke down in tears in the middle of the song and was unable to continue, saying ‘Tá mé goite chomh fada ansin is tá mé in ann… mar léifidh tú scéal ar ‘chuile mháthair, mar nach mbeidh ‘chuile mháthair mar sin lena mac féin? Gortaíonn Caoineadh na Páise mé an-mhór.’ (I’ve gone as far as I can… for you know it’s the story of every mother, for wouldn’t every mother be like that with her own son? Caoineadh na Páise really hurts me.) (Partridge, op. cit. 167-80).

This song was recorded while Joe was Artist in Residence at University of Washington.