After all those gloomy war poems it's time for some light
relief. (Or maybe any excuse will suit me to increase the ratio
of Ghaidhlig to Gaeilge on this list.) Here's a poem by Niall
McLeod, called "The man who lost his fiancee" (Am fear a
chaill a leannan). I think it's mostly easy enough for beginners at
Gaelic. As usual I've provided a translation, and as usual
there's a good risk that my rusty Gaelic has got it wrong.
McLeod's poetry is very popular in Scotland; his collected works
(Clarsach an Doire) appeared in 1883, and had to be reprinted
rapidly to keep up with demand (the first three editions sold
out within a decade - three years per printing for a book of
poetry is amazing). But the book was out of print for fifty
years until Gairm produed a sixth edition in 1975; it's well
worth buying the book (I don't know today's price; Gairm's price
fifteen years ago one pound fifty for hardback, 274 pages, which
strikes me as very cheap). It contains lots of things which have become
popular songs, lots of beautiful poetry.
Gu ma sla\n do'n chaileig bh'anns a' bhail' ud shuas,
thug i dho\mhsa gealladh ged nach robh i buan;
'nuair a dh'fhag mi ' sealladh chuir i car 'na cluais,
's ghabh i mach am bealach leis a' bhalach ruadh.
Fhuair mi tigh is fearann agus beagan guail,
's rud a dheanamh banais 's thug mi fios do'n t-sluagh;
chruinnich iad gu geanail, 's dhealaich iad le gruaim,
's mhallach iad le caithream ainm a'bhalaich ruaidh.
Their a nis gach bean rium, agus sin le uaill,
"C' aite bheil do leannan, amadain gun bhuaidh?
Na'm biodh tusa smiorail, fearail mar bu dual,
chumadh tu do chaileag bho'n a' ghille ruadh!"
Ma bhitheas mise maireann gus an tig Di-luain
siu\bhlaidh mi gach baile 's leanaidh mi an ruaig;
gus am faigh mi deannal dhe mo chaman cruaidh,
fhiachainn air an drannaig aig a' bhalach ruadh.
Bha mi 'n raoir 'nam chaithris, 'a aithreach leam mo dhuais,
'g amharc air gach bealach 's mu gach bad is bruach;
's bhoidich mi fo m' anail ged rachadh mo luadh,
gu'n tugainn ruith-phrannaidh air a' bhalach ruadh.
Shaoil leam, mar bu mhaith leam, 'nuair a ghabh mi cuairt,
gu'm faca mi 'm balach falach aig a' chruaich;
thug mi leum le cabhaig gus a bhi 'na ghruaig,
ach 's e bhail mi bannas gearran Choinnich Ruaidh.
Ma gheibh mis' an garrach air an taobh seo 'n uaigh,
ni mi cheann a sgaradh, ged a b' ann le tuaigh;
mis' a' cur nan car dhiom ann an leabaidh fhuair,
's ise rinn mo mhealladh aig a' bhalach ruadh.
Here's a health to the girl who was in the town over there,
she pledged herself to me but it was't for long;
as soon as I turned my back she tricked me
and went off with the red haired lad.
I got a house and land and stocked it with coal,
all you need for a wedding, and invited the folks;
they came gladly but parted gloomily,
roundly cursing the name of the red haired lad.
Now all the women say to me, with their noses in the air,
"Where's your fiancee, you hopeless twerp?
If you were any use, like a real man ought to be,
you'd get your girl back from the red haired lad!"
If I survive 'til Monday
I'll go to every town and mount a search;
** until I get this quarrel out of my head **
I'll dog the heels of the red haired lad.
(** I hope someone whose
Gaelic is better than mine will check this bit of
translation. Kevin, are you reading this? Has "caman" a meaning
that could refer to the girl, in which case that line means
something completely different? **)
I was watching last night, feeling sorry for myself,
looking up every pass and behind every bush;
I swore under my breath although my darling was gone
that I'd clobber the red haired lad.
I thought, wishful thinking, as I went around
that I saw the lad hiding behind the rocks;
impetuously I jumped at the hair
and broke the jaw of Kenny's old nag.
If I get hold of the wretch this side of the grave
I'll bust her head, maybe with an axe:
I'm tossing and turning in a cold empty bed
and she deceived me with the red haired lad.
Tom / Micheal
PS: A quotation from the preface to the 3rd edition, that still is
B'e mo ghuidhe 's mo dhurachd gu'm biodh Cainnt ar Sinnsear agus
Cliu\ nan Ga\idheal cho seasmhach buan ri beanntan ar du\thcha; agus
gu'm biodh ar du\thaich anns na li\nntean a tha ri teachd mar a bha i
anns na laithean a dh' fhalbh 'na "Tir nam Beann, nan Gleann, 's nan
Or at least almost relevant: as another poet said, "chaochail i nduthaich
na mbeann, naite Gaidhlig tha canain na nGoill" - - there's just the
islands left now.