For St. Patrick’s day

Last night exchanging emails with Ed Schmahl, I turned to Irish poetry.  Here is one from the late 17th century by Daibhni O Brudair, lamenting the decline of the Irish language and culture.  Which was certainly happening then, just after the decisive defeat of O’Neill and his forces at Kinsale, leaving the English in full control of the country.  Anyway:

The High Poets Are Gone    by Dáibhni Ó Brudair

D’aithle na bhfileadh n-uasal,
truaghsan timheal an tsaoghail;
clann na n-ollamh go n-eagna
folamh gan freagra faobhair.

Truagh a leabhair ag liatha,
tiacha nach treabhair bhaoise;
ar ceal níor chóir a bhfoilcheas,
toircheas bhfear n-óil  na gaoise.

D’aithle na bhfileadh dár ionnmhas éigse is iul
is mairg de-chonnairc an chinneamhain d’éirigh dhúinn;
a leabhair ag titim i leimhe ‘s i léithe i gcúil
‘s ag macaibh na droinge gan sileadh dá séadaibh rún.

The high poets are gone
and I mourn for the world’s waning;
the sons of those learned masters
emptied of sharp responses.

I mourn for their fading books,
reams of no earnest stupidity,
lost—unjustly abandoned—
begotten by drinkers of wisdom.

After those poets, for whom art and knowledge were wealth,
alas to have lived to see this fate befall us:
their books in corners greying into nothing
and their sons without one syllable of their secret knowledge.

trans. by Thomas Kinsella—from
An Duanaire:  An Irish Anthology
1600-1900:  Poems of the Dispossessed

And after that not-so-cheerful item:  a happy St. Patrick’s day to all!

5 Responses to “For St. Patrick’s day”

  1. Brian K Says:

    Thank you Dad for sharing some secret syllables here. Keep it up!

  2. Ed Says:

    In addition to enjoying the English translation, I love to look at those mysterious Irish words, which appear dauntingly unpronounceable (even though I know they aren’t). What this blog needs is a link to Irish sound bites, or short clips of recorded poetry, so we can hear the original brogue, and maybe even learn some Irish!

    • pjoenotes Says:

      A link to a sound bite– good idea! I could record myself reciting it, and somebody (like Seamus R.) could criticize my pronunciation. I will look into that.

  3. Maeve Says:

    You can just tell Seamus you’re speaking Leitrim Irish–I’m amazed at the many variations!

  4. PJK Says:

    The genuine Leitrim Irish (language) is extinct, Maeve. Just about the only trace left of it is the difficulty some of us Leitrim Irish (people) have with the “th” sound.

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