This is a dramatic poem, written from the viewpoint of the famous queen,
Gormfhlaith. She was the daughter of one high king (Flann Sionna, ard rí from
878-916) and wife of another (Niall Glúndubh, ard rí from 916?-919 --- her third
husband). When he died fighting the Norse, legend has it that she lived and died
in poverty and starvation. (History doesn't.) She is used as an exemplar of how
quickly life can change, and it was popular to write "pityeful songs" from
Gormfhlaith's point of view. This poem is part of a whole collection of such
poems (the O'Gara MS).
Dubhach sin, a dhúin na ríogh,
Giodh dubhach ataoisi anocht,
Gach flaitheas acht flaitheas Dé
That gloom, oh fort of the kings,
It is gloomy beside you tonight,
Each kingdom but the kingdom of God --
* Néill na Naoi nGiall/Niall of the Nine Hostages: Not Gormfhlaith's dead husband. He was the ard rí of Ireland in St. Patrick's time. The nine hostages were sent to stay with him as assurance that their kin (the tribal/provincial kings) would not fight against him.