Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

An Irish epigram, on unworthy priests

April 20, 2010

After the revelations of clerical sex abuse in Ireland (and many other places!) this Irish epigram would seem to apply:

Sagairt óir is cailis chrainn
bhí le linn Phádraig in Éirinn;
sagairt chrainn is cailís óir
i ndeireadh an domhain dearóil.

Thomas Kinsella’s translation (from An Duainaire, a bilingual anthology):

Gold priests, wooden chalices
in Ireland in Patrick’s time.
Golden chalices, wooden priests,
as the wretched world stands now.

That Irish verse dates back to about the 17th century, so  complaints about the clergy are not new.

I’m glad to say that I have known some of the gold priests.  Too bad about the other kind.


“A work such as this”

June 13, 2009

Is ní hé Dia cheap riamh an obair seo…

‘People sink,’ wrote Mr. Bishop; ‘they have no stamina left, they say  “It is the will of God” and die.’

The Great Hunger:  Ireland 1845-1852,  by Cecil Woodham-Smith(p. 180)

A work such as this could never be God’s:
Poor people evicted to stray on the roads–
Or to the dark poorhouse, where man and wife lie
In separate wards, locked apart till they die.

The children who always knew such loving care
Are snatched from their parents– no tenderness there;
Fed a watery soup as with hunger they cry,
With no mother to comfort– alone till they die.

The gentry, the great ones:  pity them if you can–
To God they must pay for this work of their hands,
And for the world’s poor men, whom riches pass by
As they serve their life’s sentence:  hard work till they die.

Since the blackened potatoes we’re scattered from home;
Now we rot in the poorhouse or to foreign lands roam.
Stacked in graves on the hillsides in our hundreds we lie–
Oh God up in heaven, won’t you answer our cry?

From the Irish of Máire Ni Dhroma(Mary Drum); translated by Peter Kenny


A Heinrich Heine Poem

May 25, 2009

I talked about Heine a few posts back:  a great German poet of the 1st half of the 19th century (1797-1856).  I plan to try my hand at a translation of another Heine poem; for now, Edwin Morgan’s translation of this short one:

by Heinrich Heine

Hat man viel, so wird man bald
Noch viel mehr dazu bekommen.
Wer nur wenig hat, dem wird
Auch das wenige genommen.

Wenn du aber gar nichts hast,
Ach, so lasse dich begraben—
Denn ein Recht zum Leben, Lump,
Haben nur, die etwas haben.

Translation, by Edwin Morgan:
“Hoo the Warld Wags”

Some hae mickle, and to thaim
Mickle soon sall grow to muckle.
He that hasna but a maik
Sall tine his puckle’s hinmaist pickle.

Yince ye’ve tint the last bawbee,
Ach man, hang yersel on a widdie!
Nane but thaim as has, can hae;
Life, ye gowk, life disna need ye.

Does the Scottish translation also need a translation?

(mickle: a lot; muckle: a really big lot; maik: a halfpenny; tine: lose;   puckle: a little bit; pickle: a really little bit; yince: once; tint:lost;  bawbee: halfpenny; widdie: a rope; gowk:fool)

On 2 Poets

May 17, 2009

Using my 2 years of college German, I’ve enjoyed reading German lyric poetry over the years (particularly when  a handy English translation is included).  I have a battered old Doubleday paperback, edited by Angel Flores:  An Anthology of German Poetry From Hoelderlin to Rilke.

My favorite of the included poets is Heinrich Heine– his sardonic wit appeals to me, and I like the fact that perhaps the greatest German poet was a Jew!

I may even try my hand at  translating one or two Heine lyrics myself.  But I’ll never rise to the level of Edwin Morgan, whose “braid Scots” translations are great poems in their own right.  Today I looked up Edwin Morgan and found a website dedicated to “Scotland’s greatest poet” .

More on this later…

For Eastertide

April 12, 2009

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now

Is hung with blooms along the bough,

And stands about the woodland ride

Wearing white for Eastertide.

     from A.E. Housman’s A Shropshire Lad

O King of the Friday

April 10, 2009

This Friday is Good Friday, of course.  Here is an Irish poem (as translated by Douglas Hyde) for the most solemn day of the Christian calendar — to be followed soon by the most joyous, Easter Sunday.

O King of the Friday
Whose limbs were stretched on the cross,
O thou who did suffer
The bruises, the wounds, the loss,
We stretch ourselves
Beneath the shield of thy might,
Some fruit from the tree of thy passion
Fall on us this night.