Saturday, October 8, 2016

Do Threascair An Saol



Here is another track from Where Splendour Falls. You can buy the album on digital download here (vinyl to come). The words of this song are an 18th century Irish poem by Donnacha Dall Ó Laoighaire. I don't know much about the man, I could be wrong, but I'm guessing he is from Cork. His words tell the story of the power struggle for control of Ireland-the demise of the Gaelic and the emergence of English as the cultural force that controls the country. I came up with the melody for the song which nods a head to the old air Slán Le MáighSlán Le Máigh is about leaving behind a place replete with beauty-leaving its land, poetry, beautiful women, its art, stories and soldiers. Do Threascair an Saol  is a more cutting, but none the less beautiful version of a similar story...

This is an English translation from the book "An Dunaire, Poems Of The Dispossessed." The Irish words I sing are below it.

The world laid low, and the wind blew-like a dust-
Alexander, Caesar, and all their followers.
Tara is grass; and look how it stands with Troy. 
And even the English - maybe they might die.

Loss of our learning brought darkness, 
weakness and woe on me and mine, 
amid these unrighteous hordes.
Oafs have entered the places of the poets 
and taken the light of the schools from everyone.

You who indulge in drink, in meat on Fridays,
and all the pleasures from table to the blissful bed,
if the promise of Heavenly glory applies to you
then much has the Capuchin Order been misled.

Strange is the cause, and the kind, of my suffering;
My reason adrift from my will, my will from good sense.
My will cannot grasp the defects that are clear to my reason,
and even when it does it reasons the way that it wills.

Last night as I lay in my bed, enfeebled and faint,
I uttered (unthinking a while) complaints to Christ
that he handed the lime-fields of Flann, every one, to the stranger
while the Gael was laid low and ceaselessly robbed and tormented.

They were gentle, alms-giving and friendly in their time,
their bishops, their Monks and their clergy melodious at prayer...
If it's true that their sins fell upon them and turned them to wolves
-show me, O Christ, a snug Saxon who didn't mangle thy law!


Carrigogunnell Castle, Limerick, 1860's
Do threascair an saol is shéid an ghaoth mar smál 
Alastrann, Caesar, 's an méid sin a bhí 'na bpáirt;
tá an Teamhair 'na féar, is féach an Traoi mar tá,
is na Sasanaigh féin do b'fhéidir go bhfaighidís bás!

Uireasa oidis bheir dorchadas tlás is ceas
Ar thuilleadh agus ormsa I bhfogas don táin nár cheart,
Mar do ritheadar bodaigh I mbrogaibh na dáimhe isteach
Is do bhaineadar solas na scoile de chách ar fad.

A lucht chleachtas an phóit go mór is feoil Aoine,
‘s gach iomlat spóirt ó bhord go leaba aoibhinn,
flaitheas na Glóire más dóigh gur gealladh díbhse,
mealladh go mór iad ord na gCaipisíneach.

Is iongnadh an toisc ‘s an cor ‘na bhfuilim i bpéin –
Mo thuiscint óm thoil, ‘s mo thoil ag druidim óm chéill,
Ní tuigtear dom thoil gach locht dom thuiscint is léir,
‘s má tuigtear, ní léi ach toil a tuisceana féin.

Araoir im leaba is mé atuirseach tréith im luí,
do bhíos trí ainbhios sealad ag éad le Críost,
thug cíos gach fearainn do Ghaillaibh in aolghort Fhlainn
agus Gaoil dá leagadh, dá gcreachadh is dá gcéasadh shíor.

Do bhíodar tamall go carthanach déirceach caoin,
Ba bhinn a manaigh, a n-easpaig ‘s a gcléir ag guí;
Más fíor gur peaca thit artha rinn faolchoin díobh,
A Chríost, cé an Sacsanach seascair nár réab do dhlí?

Donncha Dall Ó Laoghaire (fl. 1720)

I'm accompanied by Paul Dooley on harp on this track. Paul's cd "Music from the Robert ap Huw Manuscript Volume I" is one of the most tangible and beautiful of examples that we have of what Irish music must have sounded like when Gaelic law and culture were i réim. As far as I can gather, even though the cd is Welsh music, the Irish, Scots, and Welsh all played the same music in this era (12th to 17th century), with Ireland being the motherland of that style of Harp playing.

The lyrics of the song are attributed to Donnacha Dall Ó Laoghaire in the poetry anthology "An Duanaire." There is some confusion about as to whether this attribution is correct. I've read an article in the Irish Times which gives the author of the poem as Eoghan Rua. I heard a radio programme in which Liam Neeson read the poem and attributed it to Eoghan Rua too. I first read a verse of the poem in this blog called Sedulia's Quotations. It is attributed to Eoghan Rua there too. Buy An Duanaire (arranged by Séan Ó Tuama,  translated by Thomas Kinsella), have a read, it gives Donncha Dall as the author! Who is the penman, God knows, but my money is on Donncha! 

1 comment:

  1. I found the strophe "strange is the kind..." written on a house's in NY State near Ithaca in 1992. I memorized and kept it deep in my mind since ever then.

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