This lament for the decline of Manx Gaelic was written by William
Kennish a local poet in the 1840's in the Isle of Man in the British
Isles. The piece reads uneasily to me -- its central image of Gaelic
being the ragged and tattered garment worn by the ghost encountered by
the poet as he wanders romantically over the mountains seems quite
sharp to me but it not borne out by the sentimental tone of
other parts of the poem. I suspect Kinnish is stealing from somewhere
else here and I wonder if there is anyone on the net who could be
quite definite about this.
MOURNING OVER THE MOTHER
TONGUE OF MAN
As I was walking o'er Snaefell alone,
When the twilight was drawing on;
lts cloak was o'er the Manx side of the world,
And nature obeying the Lord;
Covering the world with the night's mantle,
And giving rest unto mankind,
From worldly troubles and from hard labor,
For all the creatures of his hand.
Thus to myself was I left on the hill,
Without any comrade at all,
To lament o'er each struggle and strife,
That troubles Mannin of my heart;
When I saw a woman in a grey dress,
To meet me coming 'midst the ling,
Having all her garments tattered and torn,
And running as if she were mad!
My heart it was then moved within me,
When I beheld the creature's state;
For, at the first glance, I clearly perceived,
That she'd fallen from high estate.
When she came near to me, I heard her say:
``Oh! oh! my troubles are heavy,
Thus divided from mankind for aye,
To old Time's depths to mend my way.''
The little red bird going to the bush;
The lambs running to their mothers;
The night was on the sea, with a dark
It came quickly from the north-east;
The sun's chariot had gone o'er the edge,
Waiting below in the south-west;
The moon in the east had ris'n in glory;
The west was in its robe of green.
When we sat on the green grass together,
She said to me, ``Manxman, listen,
And I will from out of these writings read
To thee my woe 'neath the moon's light.''
Then she began, and in this manner read:
``In the days that have passed away,
I never had need of my new garments
To keep me from the cold and wet.
For know, I am the old language's ghost,
The children of Mannin have left me;
How little they know that it would be best
For me to bear rule over them.
For 'tis I who've kept the stranger away
For some hundreds of years of time;
I would have ruled from the shore to Barool,
Over native Manxmen for aye.
Now their pride has brought over the English
Up the big glen of ThoIt-e-Will,
And to the waste spots beside Cardle Vooar,
And the rocks of Creg-Willy-Sill.
As the horsefly in summer the cattle
Maddens, their pride has made them run,
With the sting, from the Niarbyl to Groudle,
From Calf and Chickens to the north;
Leaving the ways of our good forefathers,
Who ne'er in this way forsook me;
For their mind was not to harm the Island,
Nor to put trust in the stranger.
Oh! would that they who are still on the side
Of my little Island would gather,
To drive from my shores quickly the ruin,
That about me has now begun;
And turn their ears from all the disturbance,
That's going on about Mannin Veen,
Among men that are blind to everything,
Except to riches for themselves!
But who are those that cry out thus, but those
Who are seeking power to rule
O'er native Manxmen, with a new sceptre
If people would pay heed to them?
Oh! list to my advice you that remain
Of the natives of poor Mannin;
And do not give heed to old women's ways
Concerning spirits and beer too.
Oh that the dwellers in Man would agree
Their old forgotten laws to keep
And no longer spend all their time in vain,
Listening to men without wisdom!
But for myself, I will soon go my way
To conceal myself in the dust,''
Said the poor creature, with an heavy sigh,
For behold how gray my head is.''
Stephen Miller Oxford University Computing Services
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