Translate this page into  
Translation by GO! Network

Tiny harp

On a Blind Harper—II

Irish feast The author and date of the following poem are unknown. Its subject is the same harper, Nioclás Dall, to whom Fear Flatha Ó Gnímh addressed the poem A Niocláis, nocht an gcláirsigh (Poem 25). Nicholas Dall, of Rattoo, harper, was pardoned on the 11th April, 1601 (Fiants Eliz. no. 6494). O'Curry, Manners and Customs iii 262, quotes from a Kerry MS-'As to the harp, said count could well bragg, having the chiefest master of that instrument in his time, Mr. Nicholas Pierce of Clonmaurice, not only for his singular capacity of composing lamentations, funerals, additions and elevations, etc., but also by completing said instrument with more wires than ever before his time were used'.

Tiar táinig tús na seanma;
gnáth dúil a ndiaigh oileamhna;
críoch Mhumhan na séadmhúr sídh
bunadh na ccéadghlún cciníl.
In the west came the beginning of music;
each creature is wont to follow its nurture:
Munster's land of rich peaceful dwellings
is the stock of the first generations.
Cá beag d'fhiadhnaise air sin
imreasuin dá mhac Mílidh,
ag roinn fhóid bhláthchoille Breagh
don dámhchoinne óig fhéinneadh.
Witness enough thereof
is the strife of Míl's two sons,
when the young band of champions were sharing
the smooth-wooded soil of Brega.
Tugsad go hÉirinn eidir
fhilidh agus oirfididh,
a slios Tuir bhratghloin Bhreoghain,
tar muir n-atmhair n-ainbhtheanaigh.
They brought, at all events,
to Ireland a poet and a musician
from beside Breogan's Tower of the fair mantles [The tower in Spain from which the Milesians first saw Ireland]
over the swelling stormy sea.
Onaoi dob ainm don fhíor chiúil,
Cior mac Cis ceann ar seiniúil;
ní leanfam dá slonnadh sin,
dá ollamh mearchlann Mílidh.
Onaoi was the minstrel's name,
Cior son of Cis was the head of our ancient lore;
we shall no further name
these two ollavs of Míl's blithe Children.
Ordaighis Éibhear amhra
crannchor fa a n-aos ealadhna
ar mbeith d'Éireamhón ón fhior
ar leith gléimheadhón Gaoidheal.
Famous Éibhear ordained
that lots should be cast for their artists,
when Éireamhón had parted from him
amid the Gaels.
Do thaoibh Éibhir-gárbh fhearr céim?
tarla an t-oirfideach ainnséin:
re gnúis mbuig ngeilmhíolla ngloin
fa neimhdhíogha an cuid crannchoir.
To Éibhear-what prize could be greater?-
fell then the musician:
against his soft face, bright, gentle and fair,
the lot was successful.
Ríoghdhacht na seanma ó so lat
ag leanmhuin luirg na ríomhac:
atá ag seinshliocht Éibhir Fhinn
eighriocht re a n-éirigh inntinn.
The kingship of music is thince henceforth,
following the track of the royal youths;
Éibhear Fionn's ancient race
has an inheritance that uplifts the mind.
Dá mbeith fós nach raibh reimhe,
atá an uairsi dh'áiridhe
fréamh an cheóil a muigh Mhumhan,
sgeóil ar a bhfuil fíadhnughadh.
Had it not been so before,
now at least the root of music
is in Munster's plain,
a statement that can be vouched for.
Atá aniugh ag Nioclás Dall,
ar cheart ar chumas n-adhbhann,
mír curadh cheóil na Banbha,
bunadh eóil na healadhna.
To-day Blind Nicholas,
for correctness and power of melody,
has the Champion's portion of the music of Banbha,
the foundation of the knowledge of art.
Cumadóir na ccleas ndoilbhthe,
gaduidhe na geamhoidhche,
musgladh brón baoithchridhe ban,
glór nach saoilfidhe a síothbhrugh.
Framer of mystic feats,
thief of the winter night,
a stirring of sorrows in the wayward hearts of women,
a voice one would not think to hear in fairyland.
Adhbhar caomhnaidhe cumhadh,
sás meanman do mhórughadh,
siansa ón girre laoi leabhra,
nach binne caoi Céideamhna.
Cause of the cherishing of grief,
expert in exalting courage,
melody that shorten's long days,
sweet as the cuckoo in May.
Colloid ré caoine a sheanma
na beathadhaigh bhrúideamha,
ag éisdeacht mharbhchor a mhér mbras,
do anfadh én re a amas.
The brute beasts sleep
at the beauty of his playing:
harkening to the dying strains from his quick fingers,
the bird would wait to be struck.
Líonmhaire 'ná an fér ag fás
ar leath ó lámhuibh Nioclás,
sreatha a ghéag cceathbhraonach cciúin
do ghealchaolach téad ttaighiúir.
More in number than the growing grass
is that which spreads from the hands of Nicholas,
the swaths of his calm and dewy arms,
of the bright reed-growth of tuneful strings.
Mar dhelbh a ndiaigh a rionnta,
ní fios d'aos aigeanta,
séis marbhghlan a mheóir rathmhair
d'adhnadh an cheóil chuimhrighthi.
Like a carven image,
one knows not that it is not human,
is the dead-clear melody of his happy finger
to kindle the imprisoned music.

Osborn Bergin
Irish Bardic Poetry
Dolmen Press, 1970
No. 54

Return to the harp poem index.

Kells headGo to theIrish traditional music index page.

Kells head Go to the traditional music instruments index page.

BookGo to music encyclopedia directory

Hearth Go to The Standing Stones home page

Lighthouse Go to the Standing Stones Site Map (listing of the entire contents of this website)

Stonehenge border

STANDING STONES is registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office as a federal service mark. Unauthorized use of this mark for performing live or recorded music, or providing music-related information over the Internet, in interstate commerce in the United States, is prohibited. For full details on the activities covered by this mark, consult the US Patent and Trademark Office database.