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Tiny harp

The Lover's Invitation



The Lover's Invitation I
(Úrchnoc Chéin mhic Cáinte)
Peadar Ó Doirnín
(c. 1700-69)

(A popular form of love song in Irish is the invitation the poet gives to his lover to come apart and enjoy the beauties of nature and solitude with him. The first song by Peadar Ó Doirnín is one of the best examples we have. Some versions also include the earthy rejection of the last verse, which is in contrast to the romantic terms of the invitation.) The hill or fort of Cian Mac Cáinte, hero of the tale 'The Death of the Sons of Tuireann', lies about two miles north-west of Dundalk, Co. Louth.

[I have heard additional information about this poem. Peadar Ó Doirnín was a hedge school master in South Armagh. He composed this poem to one of his pupils, which resulted in his being dismissed from his post. It is unlikely that the last verse is actually the girl's reply. There is a tune to which this poem is sung, but it is credited to a different composer.]

A phlúr na maighdean is úire gné
thug clú le scéimh ón Ádhamhchlainn,
A chúl na bpéarlaí, a rún na héigse,
dhúblíos féile 's fáilte,
a ghnúis mar ghréin i dtús gach lae ghil
mhúcha léan léan le gáire,
's é mo chumhaidh gan mé 's tú, a shiúr, linn féin
sa dún sin Chéin mhic Cáinte.
 
Most beautiful of maidens with the fairest complexion,
who has surpassed all others in beauty,
O girl with the pearly-headed hair, beloved of poets,
who increases generosity and welcome,
your face, like the sun at the beginning of a bright day,
quenches sorrow with a laugh,
alas my girl that we are not alone together
in the fort of Cian Mac Cáinte.
 
Táim brúite i bpéin, gan suan gan néal,
de do chumhaidhse, a ghéag is áille,
's gur tú mo roghain i gcúighibh Éireann,
cúis nach séanaim ás de;
dá siúlfá a réalt gan smúid, liom féin
ba súgach saor ár sláinte—
gheobhair plúr is méad is cnuasach craobh
sa dún sin Chéin mhic Cáinte.
 
I am in pain and unable to sleep
because I am pining for you, most beautiful one,
and you are my choice from all over Ireland,
I do not deny it at all;
O faultless star, if you would only walk away with me,
fair and free would our state be —
you'll have the best and plenty and fruit
in the fort of Cian Mac Cáinte.
 
Cluinfir uaill na ngadhar ar luas i ndéidh
Bhriain luaimnigh bearnaigh mhásaigh
is fuaim guth béilbhinn cuach is smaolach
go suairc ar ghéaga in altaibh;
i bhfuarlinn tséimh chífir slua-bhuíon éisc
ag ruagadh a chéile ar snámh ann,
's an cuan go léir dhuit uait igcéin
ó nua-chnoc Chéin mhic Cáinte.
 
You'll hear the dogs bark as they follow
the strong running hare,
and the sweet-voiced singing of cuckoo and thrush
merrily on branches in the glens;
in a smooth cold lake you'd see a host of fish
as they chase each other in swimming
and the sea in front of you, far away
from the fresh hill of Cian Mac Cáinte.
 
A rún mo chléibh, nach mar súd ab fhearr dhuit
tús do shaoil a chaitheamh liom?—
's ní i gclúid faoi léan ag túirscín bréan
i gcionn túirne 's péire cardaí;
gheobar ciúl na dtéad le lúth na méar
do do dhúscadh 's dréachta grá fós —
níl dún faoin ngréin chomh súgach aerach
le hÚrchnoc Chéin mhic Cáinte.
 
O my sweetheart, would you not like
To spend the beginning of your life with me like that? —
and not pine in a hovel with a stinking boor,
spinning and carding wool.
You'll have harp-music played with swift fingers
to wake you and love songs —
there is no fort as happy and full of fun
as the fresh hill of Cian Mac Cáinte.
 
A shuaircbhean tséimh na gcuachfholt péarlach,
gluais liom féin ar ball beag,
tráth is buailte cléir is tuataí i néal
'na suan faoi éadaí bána;
ó thuaidh go mbéam i bhfad uathu araon
teacht nua-chruth gréine amárach,
gan ghuais le chéile in uaigneas aerach
san uaimh sin Chéin mhic Cáinte.
 
Gentle happy woman of the curling, pearly hair,
come with me soon,
while clergy and people are fast asleep
under white bedclothes;
let's be off to the north away from them all
when the sun's new form rises tomorrow;
we'll be far from danger in happy solitude
in the hollow of Cian Mac Cáinte.
 
(An Cailín)
 
(The girl answers)
 
Beir uaim do phléid cé gur luaigh tú céad ní —
Nós a bhfuil spéis ag a lán ann —
Is an duais is fearr nó uallaí séad
Níor chuala mé thú ag trácht air;
Tuatha saora, buaibh is caoraigh,
Is cruacha péarlaí i bpálais
Mar luach ní ghéabhainn uait is gan gléas
In am suain le ndéantar páiste.
 
Away with your whining, though you mention a hundred things —
a habit many people have —
but the prize that is better than heaps of treasure
I did not hear you talk about;
I wouldn't accept noble lands, cattle, and sheep,
or piles of pearls in palaces
from you if you had no instrument
to make a child at bedtime.
 


The Lover's Invitation II
Seán Ó Neachtain
(c. 1650-1729)

(This poem was said to have been composed for Una Ní Bhroin, who accepted Ó Neachtain and became his wife.)

Rachainn fón choill leat a mhaighdean na n-órfholt,
ag féachain ar éanlaith 's ag éisteacht a gceolghob,
Beidh fidil at caoinche, beidh píop ag an smólach,
londubh ag cur cana le cláirsigh go ceolmhar.
 
I would go to the wood with you, O golden-headed maiden,
looking at the birds and listening to the music of their mouths.
The nightingale will have a fiddle, the thrush will have a flute
and the blackbird will be chanting melodiously accompanied by a harp.
 
Beidh liú ag an dreolán is órgán ag céirseach,
an fhuiseog 's an meantán 's a dtiompán go gleasta,
gealbhan sa tom glas 's a thrumpa ina bhéal-san,
ag bualadh puirt damhsa ré ansacht a chléibh duit.
 
The wren will have a lute and the hen-blackbird an organ
the lark and the titmouse will have their drums ready,
a sparrow in the green bush will have his trumpet [trump? =Jew's harp] in his mouth,
playing dance music because he loves you so much.
 
Beidh cuilm agus fearáin ag crón ré chéile,
an truideog 's an sacán go cóngarach ag léimnigh,
cuach bheag na craoibhe go silleadh dod'fhéachain,
gearrghuirt is traona de shíor frat, a théagair. …
 
Pigeons and doves will be cooing together,
the starling and the fieldfare will be hopping about close by,
the little cuckoo on the branch will be seeking to look at you,
and the corncrake will be always with you, my love. …
 
Beidh an macalla inár n-aice-ne ag gáirí,
beidh na mná sí is braoine ar a gcláirsigh,
beidh an uile ní frat dar mian leat, a chathaigh,
godeo na díle ní scaoilfe mo pháirt leat.
 
The echo will be laughing beside us,
the women from the fairy mounds and forts will play on harps;
all you wish will be there beside you, my temptress,
and till the end of time my love for you will never desert you.
 
Beidh dealramh na gréine ag sméideadh go drithleach
orainne féachaint trí ghéagaibh na coille,
drúilíní ag súgradh, ba chiúl leat an t-uisce,
éisc agus dobhráin ag comhspairn go cliste.
 
The sunlight will pour down on us
through the branches of the wood,
glittering droplets will play, the water will be your music
while the otters and fish cleverly wrestle together.
 
(An Freagra)
 
(The reply)
 
Rachaidh mé féin leat gan éaradh go súgach,
ag féachain 's ag éisteacht na n-éan sin ag súgradh,
céad fearr liom féin sin ná féasta na cúirte;
a ailleáin, is a théagair súd mé leat gan diúltadh.
 
I'll go with you merrily without refusing,
looking and listening to the birds at play.
I prefer that a hundred times to feasting at court;
my pet, and my beloved, I come with you without resistance.
 

Seamus Deane, ed.
The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, Volume 1
Derry, 1991
pp. 289-291



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