One third of his poems are devoted to Mary - the sun of all maidens, who is The Mother of God. Other themes explored, include Christ's sacrifice on the Cross, the Holy Trinity and the confession of waywardness. In addressing the Holy Cross he writes in the fourth stanza:
"To thee I pray with fervour Ever. O tree of virtue
Cross that bore the King of Kings
Protect me 'neath thy safeguard".
Amongst his non-religious poems is one of praise of Donal McCarthy More, the last king of Desmond who died in 1596, which has a final stanza in honour of the O'Keeffe. The concession of a final quatrain is interesting. Geoffrey Fionn, writing two centuries earlier in allegorical terms, describes the visit of his patron Maurice Fitzmaurice to the English king in London. To this he added a single quatrain in praise of O'Brien of Thomond, At a party held in Enniskillen 1586, Eochaid O'Hussey was asked by Hugh Maguire "Why did O'Dalaigh make this quatrain for the Munster prince? Was it a sign of love?". Eochaid's answer was that it was not because of his love for Conor O'Brien but because O'Brien used to give Geoffrey a horse each year for the concession. The poet was, in modern parlance, his. publicity agent.
Presumably, a similar arrangement applied between the poet Aongus and O'Keefe. McCarthy More was the chief patron of Aongus and, in lieu of monetary payments, the O'Dalys were granted certain rights, the most unusual being the right to the wedding garment of every girl married in Desmond and Duhallow.
This was actually taken on the wedding day, as appears from a petition to a Cork jury in 1576, by an outraged Margaret ni Scully, whose clothes were taken from her by force on behalf of O'Daly Fionn, the chief rhymer. (Murchada: Family Names of Cork 1985; p.116).
According to Ciaran O'Murchu he had a bardic school in Duhallow. Most likely the school was in Ballydaly. A person of that name was attained there in the early 1600's and a Scottish poet, visiting the poet Seaffraidh O'Donnchu in Killaha, called on his way to an O'Daly poet who was living there at the time.
Aongus na nAor.
Far less complimentary to the O'Keefe clan was the poet- satirist, Aongus Rua O'Dalaigh of Ballyroon. At Carew's instigation, he vindictively satirised the prominent Irish families in his work "The Tribes of Ireland". This was translated by John O Donovan in the mid 19th Century and published by Tower Books of Cork in 1976. Aongus had this to say of Art O'Keeffe, Lord of Clara:
"The frieze rag of O'Keeffe of Clarach is no shelter against the wind, although his head is hoary the lice are numerous in every fold of his raiment.
little Robin, yonder in the bush
though little food would serve your turn: If you were a night in the O'Keeffe house your breast would fall to your back" (O'Donovan, Ed. 1976:p.66)
At this time, Art Og was head of the O'Keeffe clan and they held castles at Dromagh and Duarigle. In revenge for his satires Aongus Rua was fatally stabbed by a servant of the O'Meaghers in Tipperary, in 1617. He exempted the O'Daly clan from his general abuse of the Irish tribes.
What happened to Aongus Fionn?
We know from the Patent Rolls of King James I that Malone O'Daly Fionn was slain in 1600. He held lands in Noughaval and in Ballydaly which were later granted by the King to John King of Dublin. In 1601, a pardon was granted to Donal O'Daly, alias Vicar of Ballydaly, and in 1612 a grant was made to Francis Blundell of Kilmacloyne ( otherwise Ballydaly) a parcel of the estates of Ennis O'Daly who was attained i.e. deprived of rights because of conviction for treason (Patent X James I). If this is Aongus Fionn, then he must have died some years beforehand i.e. prior to 1610.
The Battle of Kinsale was a turning point in that the underlying social system, which had supported the Bards, collapsed. In 1607, the Earls left Lough Swilly and sailed for Quilleboeuf, at the mouth of the Seine in France. This departure was known as "The Flight of the Earls". Of the 99 noble lords who departed, 61 are known by name and included O'Neill and O'Donnell.