Friday, February 18, 2011

Although I have been mainly reading my five poets I've taken a few detours.

One of which is  a 14th century Gaelic poem: Lament for Fearchar Ò Mail Chiaráin. It's in a book I have called The Triumph Tree: Scotland's earliest poetry AD 550 - 1350.
It's a father's lament for his son who it seems was a poet who went off to Ireland for a poetry tour and was killed there. It's a longish poem, 48 quartrain verses. Gripping stuff, I was in tears by the end of it. A beautiful poem with some startling images/similes -

Mail Chiaráin, my fresh fruit,
my lime-washed sun-house, my branch of nuts. '

A powerful poem -

' No one's sermons can sink in
for the sleek white-voiced branch.
'Everyone grieves for their sons',
what use for any to tell me?

It seems my sense is no use,
with me, grief-struck on his track;
like pale froth on a cold ford,
I'm a sad shade, listless, sapped.

Grief for Ò Mail Chiaráin's in my frame,
I'm sent astray by his death.
Though I've not died from it on his grave,
why should not clay cover my flesh?'

6 comments:

Elizabeth Rimmer said...

Powerful stuff!

An Honest Man said...

Who did the translation to English?

Marion McCready said...

Thomas Owen Clancy, I was impressed with the translation - not the usual dry academic translation.

Roxana said...

it made me think of one of my favourite bits of poetry ever, from the Epic of Gilgamesh (sorry for the long quote, but i can't leave anything aside):

I'll cry now, citizens of Uruk, and you
will finally hear what no one else
has ever had the nerve to say in sorrow.
I was family and friend to Enkidu and I shall
fill the woodlands where we stalked with loud, sad sobs today.
I cry now, Enkidu, like some crazed woman. I howl.
I screech for you because you were the ax upon my belt
and the bow in my weak hand; the sword within my sheath,
the shield that covered me in battle; my happiest robe,
the finest clothes I ever wore,
the ones that made me look best in the eyes of the world.

That is what you were; that is what you'll always be
What devil came to take you off from me?
Brother, you chased down the strongest mule,
the swiftest horse on mountains high,
the quickest panthers in the flatlands.
And they in turn will weep for you.
Birds in the air cry aloud.
Fish in the lake gather together near the shore.
What else heeds this sorrow?
The leaves of the trees and the paths you loved
in the forest grow dark.
Night itself murmurs and so too does the day.
All the eyes of the city that once saw your kind face begin to weep.
Why? Because you were my brother and you died.

Enkidu can move no more.
Enkidu can lift his head no more.
"Now there is a sound throughout the land
that can mean only one thing.
I hear the voice of grief and I know that you have been taken
somewhere by death.
Weep. Let the roads we walked together flood themselves
with tears.
Let the beasts we hunted cry out for this:
the lion and the leopard, the tiger and the panther.
Let their strength be put into their tears.

Let the cloud-like mountain where you killed
the guardian of woodland treasures
place grief upon its sky-blue top.
Let the river which soothed our feet overflow its banks
as tears do that swell and rush across my dusty cheeks.
Let the clouds and stars race swiftly with you into death.
Let the rain that makes us dream
tell the story of your life tonight.
Who mourns for you now, Brother?
Everyone who knew you does.

Marion McCready said...

I can see why it would remind you of this, wonderful piece, haven't read The epic of Gilgamesh for years!

swiss said...

i meant to say it's been ages since i read the triumph tree but what a cracking book it is. i must see if i can come by a copy again.