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The Dawning of the Day

"The Dawning of the Day" (Irish: Fáinne Geal an Lae, literally "The bright ring of the day") is the name of two old Irish airs.

  • "Fáinne Geal an Lae" (sometimes called "The Golden Star"), an air composed by the harpist Thomas Connellan in the 17th century.[1][2]
  • An Irish-language song with this name ("Fáinne Geal an Lae") was published by Edward Walsh (1805-1850) in 1847 in Irish Popular Songs and later translated into English as "The Dawning of the Day". It has become well known as the melody to which Patrick Kavanagh's On Raglan Road is sung.[3] It is often played as a march and is one of the first tunes that a student of Irish music will learn.

O'Connellan's "Fáinne Geal an Lae" is often confused with the later pentatonic melody to which the words "The Dawning of the Day" is set. The O'Connellan air is different in a number of respects, although there are melodic resemblances. Words are still sung to variants of it which mostly use only the first half of the air as printed in Bunting and other collections.

The Irish-language lyrics of "Fáinne Geal an Lae" describe an Aisling where the poet encounters a mysterious beautiful woman. In this case, she upbraids him as a frivolous rake and points to the approaching dawn.


Notes: Helen of Troy is used in the translation rather than the literal Venus simply for its rhythm.

The final verse is a poetical rather than literal translation, which would be:

She said to me "go away
and let me go - you rake!
there from the south the light is coming
with the dawning of the day"


  1. ^ O'Neill, Francis (1922). Waifs and Strays of Gaelic Melody. Chicago.
  2. ^ Bunting, Edward (1840). Ancient Irish Music.
  3. ^ Kavanagh, Peter (1980). Sacred Keeper. Kildare: Goldsmith Press. p. 126.

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