Roisin Dubh hornpipe

Also known as Black Rose, The Black Rose (Roisin Dubh), My Dark Rosaleen, Roisin Dubh, Rosin Dubh.

There are 39 recordings of a tune by this name.

A tune by this name has been recorded together with The Steampacket (a few times).

Roisin Dubh has been added to 1 tune set.

Roisin Dubh has been added to 140 tunebooks.

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Four settings

X: 1
T: Roisin Dubh
R: hornpipe
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
A3/2{BA}F/2|A2 D2 FA e3/2d/4e/4|f>edB A>F E3/2D/4E/4|F>E D4 d3/2e/4f/4|gf/4e/4d/4e/4 f>e dc A3/2F/4A/4|
e3/2d/4e/4 f>e d2 d3/2e/4f/4|g3/2(3f/4e/4d/4 f>e dc A3/2F/4A/4|e3/2d/4e/4 f>e dB A>F|A2 D2 FA e3/2d/4e/4|
f>e dB A>F E3/2D/4E/4|F>E D4 A3/2 {BA} F/2|A2 D2 FA e2|(3f/4a/4f/4 d/4e/4 f>e dB A>FE|
A/2F/2D/2E/2 F>E D4|de/4f/4 g>f e/2d/2B/2d/2 f>e|dc A>A B/2A/2F/2A/2 e>f|e/2d/2 {e} f>e d2 de/2f/2g|fede f>edc|
A3/2F/2A/2e3/2 f>e d2|A3/2{BA}F/2 A2 D2 FA|e2 f/2e/2d/2e/2 f>edB|A>FE>A F/2D/2E/2 F>E|{F}D4||
X: 2
T: Roisin Dubh
R: hornpipe
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
AF/A/|D3 E/D/F/A/e3 |{fe}d/e/f3 ed3|BA3 FE3| D<E F3E D2|D4 D2 AF/A/|
D3 E/D/F/A/e3 |{fe}d/e/f3 ed3|BA3 FE3| D<E F3E D2|D4 D2||
de/f/ g5f|e<d (3f>ed c<A B/A/F/A/|e2 d<e f>e d2|de/f/ g3f e<d| (3f>ed c<A|
B/A/F/A/ e2 d<e f2|f>e d2 B>A AF/A/ D2|D2 E<D F<A e2{fef}|
d<e f3e d2|d>B A2 F2 E2|D<E F2 E2 D2| D4 D4||
# Added by JACKB .
X: 3
T: Roisin Dubh
R: hornpipe
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
|:{F}A4 FA3 | D6 FA | {d}e3 f/2e/2 d2 e f3 | e d3 B A3 | {F}A3 F D E3 | {FEDE}FE D6 |
{A}d>ef2 g<f d<e | (f/2e/2d/2c/2)/2 d3 {edc}A3| F<A d<e def2 | e/2f/2e/2d/2 d6|
A<d e/2f3 g<f z {efedc}d2 |{edc} A4 F<A d<e | {fede} f3 e d3 B zF/2A3 z|
F/2A3 F<A {B}A |D6FA | {d}e3 f/2e/2 d2 e f3 | e d3 B A3 | {F}A3 F D E3 | {FEDE}FE D6 :|
X: 4
T: Roisin Dubh
R: hornpipe
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
|:AB/2A/2 FG/2A/2 D3A| FAe4f/2e/2d/2(e/2|f4){g}fe{g}e(d | d6){A}B2|{B}A/2F/2E6F/2E/2D/2E/2|F3{A}F {A}E>{A}E{A}(D2|HD8)|
d3e<fg3|{a}g f{a}f e/2e/2 d3e/2f/2|{G}A5 {c}B/2A/2FA|e4 f/2e/2d/2(e/2 | f3){g}f e3{f}e | d8|
d3e<fg3|{a}g f{a}f e/2e/2 d3e/2f/2|{G}A5 {c}B/2A/2FA |e4 f/2e/2d/2(e/2 | f3){g}f e3{f}He | d<(B B5)d/2B/2|
A2{B}A F<A HD3A| FAe4f/2e/2d/2(e/2|f4){g}fe{g}e(d | d6){A}B2|{B}A/2F/2E6F/2E/2D/2E/2|F3{A}F {A}E>{A}E{A}(D2|HD8):|

Sixteen comments

Mise Eire

Slow Air


Daithic, you had me going here as I’ve never heard anyone attempt to play this tune as a hornpipe! The melody is also like the old slow air Roisín Dubh but as I don’t know this tune I wouldn’t know how close it is. Maybe someboy who knows it will be able to clarify this.


Apologies about tempo confusion Bannerman! Couldnt select Slow Air from the list, but got an email from Jeremy informing me that the session is not really intended for slow airs.
You are correct though it is the old slow air Roisin Dubh.

Slow Air

Daithic, sorry I should have realised this as I recall the problem of categorisation of airs has come up before. I don’t know your views on this but my own are that slow airs are every bit (if not more) a part of the Irish traditional session as jigs, reels and hornpipes, etc. and that they are deserving of a category in their own right.

Airs as part of session

Bannerman, I totally agree with the idea that Slow Airs deserve a category of their own.

However, the problem of categorisation is more to do with the limits of current ABC software, i.e. when you submit a tune there is no "Slow AIr" category built into the notation system. I think this is more to do with the complex structure and very subjective and personal nature of how a Slow Air is played rather than oversight on the part of the people who write this software. There is no exact rhythm or tempo for playing a slow air; the phrasing can’t really be measured or notated properly - it’s up to the player to learn a feel for it, which can take years if the musician is to do justice to the air. I’m sure you’re aware of all this; the only solution I can see is for people to somehow submit the dots for their own version of the tune but this will translate poorly compared with a transcription for say a reel or a jig.


Conán McDonnell

You’re totally correct on this Conán that slow airs have a complexity (most of them derive from songs of the traditional and sean nós where the melody follows the phrasing of the lyrics) and additionally a good performer will build in feeling which cannot be transcribed. However, I still feel that it’s possible to notate them with maybe a "health warning" or guidance in the comments to overcome this to a certain extent. Tomás Ó Cannáin (piper and ex-Fílí member) produced a very useful book of more than a hundred slow airs and put them into the nearest appropriate time signature - for example "ar Éireann Ní Neosfainn Cé Hí" works well in 3/4 while "Anach Cuan" is notated in 4/4. Could this system be adopted for the session site.

Good idea

I think you’ve come up with a good solution. It would certainly stimulate plenty of debate as to which is the most appropriate time signature for specific airs, especially from singers who, in my view, we don’t hear from anywhere near as much as we should on the board.

Please read the Frequently Asked Questions.

Bannerman, Conan — you’re wanted in the Principal’s office right away.

Notating slow airs

I don’t know whether this would work with ABC, but could slow airs be notated without a time signature and without bar lines. This would get round the problem of trying to squeeze notes into bars when they simply won’t go (see the sheet music on this site to the ‘waltz’ An Cuilin for an example of impossible notation. There would have to be some indication of phrasing though - would the brackets work for this purpose? Having no fixed bar lengths would also strongly suggest that the music was to be played with some freedom of rhythm. - surely better than calling the tunes waltzes or hornpipes!

Mise Eire

I came late to this thread and thought I’d throw in my ha’penny worth on the subject.
The most lyrical translation of Roisin Dubh is that by James Clarence Mangan (I think) and he uses My Dark Rosaleen. The song is sung to a person and not ‘a little black rose’ which is a nonsensical translation, and the person is ‘Ireland’.
The original ballad was sung during repressive times when the sentiments would have been regarded as treason (‘terrorist’ today) and would have earned the singer a spell in the British equivalent of the Guantanamo.
My favourite line is ‘and Spanish wine will give you hope, my Dark Rosaleen’. Whenever I raise a glass of Rioja (not often enough) I say the line. Of course the Spanish wine (fin Spaineach) refers to Spanish troops.
Sean O Riada used the songs and traditional tunes in his composition for the film Mise Eire, just as Beethoven and Mozart used the folk songs of their countries in their symphonies.
I’ll have to go now and look up the words of the original song. I think the Irish version was in my old Leaving Cert book.
All the best

The Words

Here is one version I found (though the English may be another version as well - I don’t speak Irish)


A Róisín, ná bíodh brón ort ná chás anois
tá do phárdún ó’n Róimh agus ó’n bPápa agat
tá na bráithre ag teacht thar
sáile agus ag tríall thar muir
‘S ni ceilfear fíon Spáinneach ar mo Róisín Dubh

Tá grá agam i mo lár dhuit le blíain anois
grá cráite, grá cásmhar, grá ciapaithe
grá a d’fhág mé gan sláinte, gan rían, gan ruith
is go bráth, bráth, gan aon fháil a
leagadh ar mo Róisín Dubh

Beidh an Éirne ina tuilte dearga ‘s an spéir ‘na fuil
beidh an saol ina choghadh craorach
is réadfar chnoic
beidh gach gleann sléibhe ar fuid Éireann
agus móinte ar crith, la eigin
sula n-eagfaidh mo Róisín Dubh


O MY Dark Rosaleen,
Do not sigh, do not weep!
The priests are on the ocean green,
They march along the deep.
There ‘s wine from the royal Pope,
Upon the ocean green;
And Spanish ale shall give you hope,
My Dark Rosaleen!
My own Rosaleen!
Shall glad your heart, shall give you hope,
Shall give you health, and help, and hope,
My Dark Rosaleen!

Over hills, and thro’ dales,
Have I roam’d for your sake;
All yesterday I sail’d with sails
On river and on lake.
The Erne, at its highest flood,
I dash’d across unseen,
For there was lightning in my blood,
My Dark Rosaleen!
My own Rosaleen!
O, there was lightning in my blood,
Red lightning lighten’d thro’ my blood.
My Dark Rosaleen!

All day long, in unrest,
To and fro, do I move.
The very soul within my breast
Is wasted for you, love!
The heart in my bosom faints
To think of you, my Queen,
My life of life, my saint of saints,
My Dark Rosaleen!
My own Rosaleen!
To hear your sweet and sad complaints,
My life, my love, my saint of saints,
My Dark Rosaleen!

Woe and pain, pain and woe,
Are my lot, night and noon,
To see your bright face clouded so,
Like to the mournful moon.
But yet will I rear your throne
Again in golden sheen;
‘Tis you shall reign, shall reign alone,
My Dark Rosaleen!

My own Rosaleen!
‘Tis you shall have the golden throne,
‘Tis you shall reign, and reign alone,
My Dark Rosaleen!
Over dews, over sands,
Will I fly, for your weal:
Your holy delicate white hands
Shall girdle me with steel.
At home, in your emerald bowers,
From morning’s dawn till e’en,
You’ll pray for me, my flower of flowers,
My Dark Rosaleen!

Roisin Dubh, X:3

My transcription of sean-nós singer Seosamh Ó hÉanaí (Joe Heaney), as heard on his 1996 album "Say a Song", but transposed into D major to be suitable for pipes and whistle. The meter and time of the notes is only approximate, and the measures do not add up correctly - it’s a sean-nós song.

There is another even more beautiful version of this song by Nioclás Tóibín, but the album it is on, "Rinn na Gael", is out of print and I don’t have a copy. If I can ever get a copy, I will transcribe that one too.

Sean-nós singing

I meant to add this quote to my previous comment:

‘…no aspect of Irish music can be fully understood without a deep appreciation of sean-nós singing. It is the key which opens every lock’ - Tomas Ó Canainn

Roisin Dubh, X:4

This is the version I was taught by Brian McNamara; he took it from the sean-nós singing of Nioclás Tóibín, which recording he played for us repeatedly as we learned it. Since I can’t get a hold of a copy of the Tóibín recording, this is as close as I can get.