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Tiny harp

Consolations


Irish feast Four quatrains of the following poem, ¶¶8-11, are edited and translated by O'Curry, Manners and Customs III, 318. He supposes the writer to have flourished about the year 1500. From the style and language I should have put it later, but there are no references to fix the 'time, place and person'. As to the fourth question which, according to the medieval Irish, should be asked of every composition, 'the cause of its making', we may infer that the unknown author wrote to please himself. His verse is quite lacking in the technique of the professional poet, yet it has a charm of its own. He tells how, after the loss of his dear friends, he falls back on the companions who never fail him, his books, his sword and dagger, the chess-board on which he once won many a hard match, above all his 'musical branch', a beautiful harp.



1.
 
Deithfridh am dháil, a leobhráin,
a bhreac-sgríbhinn sgeólfholláin;
ná déin dealachudh riomsa
ó táid cách dom thréigionnsa.
 
Hasten towards me, my booklet,
speckled writing of wholesome tale;
part not from me,
since all others are forsaking me.
 
2.
 
Tar, a dhuilleogach glanbhláith,
is fíordhaingean fuaighealtáith;
coisgidh mo chumha dá n-aithle,
an ghlanghasrudh ghruadhghairthe.
 
Come, thou of the fair smooth pages,
firmly stitched together:
check my grief
after the loss of that fair bright-cheeked company.
 
3.
 
Ad chonchlonn tabhair ag tochd
mo fphennér ollomhglan éadtrochd,
líonta d'airmpheannaibh géara
leabhairreannach righin nuaighléasta.
 
Bring with thee, as thou comest,
my pen-case, ready, clean, brilliant,
filled with sharp dart-like pens,
limber-tipped, firm, newly trimmed.
 
4.
 
Tabhair fós páipéar is peall
fám láimh ón sgagtha sgríbheann
eir rithleirg mín na duille,
mionleitir chiorrdhubh chóirethe.
 
Bring likewise paper and cushion under my hand
whence writing is to percolate
upon the smooth slope of the leaf,
a fine script, jet-black, uniform.
 
5.
 
Mo dhuanaire tabhair ret ais
don Ghaoilheilg fhíoruasail fhorais,
go bhfionnam fréamha gach sgeoil,
géaga goile agas glaineóil.
 
Bring with thee my verse-book
of noble classic Gaelic,
that I may learn the roots of each tale,
branches of valour and fair knowledge.
 
6.
 
Go ngabhainn fíorlaoidhthe feasa
glainiuil na ccraobh ccoimhneasa,
géaga gionalaidh gach fir,
éachda iongantais is aisdir.
 
That I may recite learned lays
of the clear knowledge of kindred stocks,
each man's family tree,
exploits of wonder and travel.
 
7.
 
Tabhair leat mo leabhar glaice
d'airitmetig orduighthe,
go ríomhainn reanna nimhe,
is ca líon láithe ón dílinne.
 
Bring my handbook
of ordered arithmetic,
that I may number the stars of heaven,
and how many days it is since the deluge.
 
8.
 
Ná déin dearmod don chraoibh chiuil
deargchláruidh thirim thaighiuir
uallanach bhogghothach bhinn
is suanán codalta dh'intinn.
 
Forget not the musical branch,
red-timbered, dry, tuneful,
wailing, soft-voiced, sweet,
a slumberous lullaby to the heart.
 
9.
 
Dáilidh damh an liric loinneach,
eanghach éadtrochd ioghlannach
niamhghreanta fadhairthe ar fod,
téidleabhair tochailte tiomchol.
 
Grant me the gladsome lyre,
loud, brilliant, passionate,
polished, seasoned throughout,
fine-stringed, engraved all round.
 
10.
 
An tan adchiú an chláirseach cheardach
donnsgáileach mhór mhínleargach
fa ghroidfheirg rithmhir mo mheoir
do bhrosduigh mh'intinn d'aimhdheoin.
 
When I see the graceful harp,
brown-shadowed, great, smooth-curved,
under the rushing swift frenzy of my fingers,
my heart is stirred.
 
11.
 
Gur sinniodh linn crithre corphort
d'fírrinn mo mheór bhfrithirghrod,
go tirim tiuighdhéantach trom
sileach cruitmhéarach cothrom.
 
So that I have played sparkling melodies
with the tips of my eager rapid fingers,
with notes clean, closely linked, grave,
nimble, hard-fingered, even.
 
12.
 
Tabhair mo lann go n-áille
am dhorn daithgheal deasláimhe
go ccuirinn treasfhaobhar teann
ar a glantaobhaibh timcheall.
 
Place my beautiful blade
in my fair right hand,
that I may put a firm battle-edge
upon its shining sides all round.
 
13.
 
Tabhair mo mhionn sgiamhdha sgine
ghormfhaobhrach ghlan ghéirrinne
go bhfaidhinn dlúiththilte a ttéid,
díol a cumhdaighthe an coiméd.
 
Bring my beautiful jewel of a dagger,
blue-edged, bright, sharp-pointed,
with a sheath tightly corded—
the case itself is worthy to contain it.
 
14.
 
Minic riam budh roait liom
ficheall chorrfhleasgach chothrom,
ag loidhe fan éagáir uithe,
ag pléasgáil fhoirne orduighthe.
 
Often ere this have I taken great delight
in a smooth-lined, even chessboard,
pressing against the odds on it,
scattering an ordered host.
 
15.
 
Ag cur dhísle ón ghrian go roile
'na rithing réim rodbhuinne
fa mhíonnchlár thíthidh thslim
fíoráluinn aoibhinn éadtroim.
 
Casting dice from sun to sun,
in succession like the course of a rushing stream,
on the chequered smooth polished board,
lovely, pleasant, light.
 
16.
 
Iar tteachd um thimcheall dóibh seo
cuirid foluamhain fúmsa,
go siubhlaim re seal ngairid
fad an talmhan tromfhóduidh.
 
When these days have come around me
they make me to soar aloft,
so that in a brief space
I traverse the heavy-sodded world throughout.
 
17.
 
Móide is tugtha toil mar so
don ghlanchuideachduin chaoimhseo
nach déinid munbhar ar fhear
éigion iomurcuidh ná aithfear.
 
The more should one love
this fair and dear company,
for that against no man
do they use murmuring, arrogance or reproach.
 
18.
 
Aitchim a sídh, sléachduim dóibh,
an bhuighean bheannaighthe bhláthchóir;
gabhuim tar chách lem dheibhleán,
nár fhágaibh mé am aonarán.
 
I beseech peace with them, I bow to them,
the blessed smooth and comely band:
above all I make a friend of my orphan,
who has not left me all alone.
 

Osborn Bergin
Irish Bardic Poetry
Dolmen Press, 1970
No. 46



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