The Worthy Gaelic

Tha Laideann coimhliont,
Torrach, teann nas leòr,
Ach ‘s sgalag thràilleil
I don Ghàidhlig chòir.

San Athen mhòir
Bha ‘Ghreugais còrr ‘na tìm,
Ach b’ ion di h-òrdag
Chur fo h-òirchios grinn.

Latin is perfect / fertile, and firm enough / but it is a slavish servant / compared to worthy Gaelic. / In great Athens / Greek was outstanding in its time / but it had to put its thumb / under its neat golden girdle.

Alasdair Mac Mhaighstir Alasdair, Moladh an Ùghdair don t-Seann Chànain Ghàidhlig.

Seven Years Before the Day of Doom

Seachd bliadhna roimh ’n bhràth,
Thig muir air Eirinn ré aon tràth,
’S thar Ile ghuirm ghlais,
Ach snàmhaidh I Choluim Chléirich!

Seven years before that awful day,
When time shall be no more,
A dreadful deluge shall o’ersweep
Hibernia’s mossy shore.

The green-clad Isla, too, shall sink;
While, with the great and good,
Columba’s happier isle shall rear
Her towers above the flood.

Gaelic proverb; periphrastic translation by Dr. John Smith, Minister of Campbeltown, given in his Life of St. Columba (1798).

Literally:

Seven years before the Day of Doom (conflagration, destruction),
The sea shall come over Erin in one watch (time, season, period),
And over Islay, green, grassy (blue-green),
But float will Iona (Hy) of Columba the cleric.

These are the three prayers of Patrick, as they were delivered to us by the Hibernians, entreating that all should be received on the day of judgment, if we should repent even in the last days of our life.

  1. That he should not be shut up in hell.
  2. That barbarian nations should never have the rule over us.
  3. That no one shall conquer us, that is the Scots, before seven years previous to the day of judgment, because seven years before the judgment we shall be destroyed in the sea, this is the third.

Tírechán’s Collections Concerning St. Patrick, from the Book of Armagh (TCD MS 52), translated in Sir William Betham, Irish Antiquarian Researches, Vol. 1, Dublin: William Curry, Jun. and Co., 1827, p. 386.

Collect for Purity

Deus cui omne cor patet et omnis voluntas loquitur: et quem nullum latet secretum: purifica per infusionem sancti spiritus cogitationes cordis nostri: ut te perfecte diligere et digne laudare mereamur, per dominum nostrum iesum christum filium tuum qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate eiusdem spiritus sancti deus, per omnia secula seculorum. Amen.

Leofric Missal.

A Dhé Uile-chumhachdaich, d’ am bheil gach cridhe fosgailte, gach miann aithnichte, agus o nach ’eil ni uaigneach air bith folaichte; Glan smuaintean ar cridheachan le deachdadh do Spioraid naoimh; a chum gu’n toir sinn gràdh iomlan dhuit, agus gu’n àrd-mhol sinn gu h-iomchuidh d’ Ainm naomh, tre Chriosd ar Tighearn. Amen.

1895 Gaelic translation of the Prayer-book, from David Griffith, Bibliography of the Book of Common Prayer, 37:5.

God, unto Whom alle hertes ben open, and unto Whom alle wille spekith, and unto Whom no privé thing is hid: I beseche Thee so for to clense the entent of myn hert with the unspekable gift of Thi grace that I may parfiteliche love Thee, and worthilich preise Thee. Amen.

The Cloude of Unknowyng.

“An Airce” from Adv.MS.72.2.13

An Airce.

Adhra mhìalach nan cat,
Air dhealbh nathrach ‘s a grunnd fuar,
‘Nuair thig Tomas le chuid each,
Bidh là nan creach mu d’ bhruaich.

Thig seann fhàisdinnean, gu teach,
Bheir a chuidheall car mu’n cuairt,
Am fear tha ìosal bidh gu h-àrd,
Fear eile gu làr gu luath.

Thig claidheamh, tein’ agus càs,
Tuil-bheum sgriosach, bhàiteach bhuan,
Air gach seorsa sluaigh is caorach,
Eadar Adhra ‘s Uisge Chluaidh.

Bidh t’ inbhir ‘s do ghlinn an staid chruaidh,
Lasair ruadh a’ gualadh stiall,
Frasan teine tolladh sgamhan,
Pìob is canain feannadh chiad.

Na prionnsach’ cho cruaidh ri creig,
‘G éirigh air an corra-biod,
Ri steiceadh lag toirt orr’ glag,
Aig meud am buig.

Tha dioghaltas le guth àrd,
Mar bha fuil Abeil ‘s an speur,
‘G iolach ‘s ag ùirnigh gu h-àrd
Gort is plàigh theachd air gach cré.

Air gach cré a dhearg an làmh
Anns na rinneadh oirnn de bhruid,
De dh’ uaislibh onarach prìseil
Nan tri rìoghachd bho ghniomh curst’.

Thig plaighean na h-Eiphit gu léir
Bho speuraibh ‘s an talamh g’ur murt,
Cuid eile dhiobh leum bharr chreagaibh,
Mar a thachair do’n treud mhuc.

Ged chaidh mi gu m’ shuain gu h-òrdail,
Mar bu chòir do’n h-uile Criosdaidh,
Chunnacas bruadar de dh’ion bòcain,
Chuir air bhalla-chrith m’fheòil is m’fhiaclan.

An déis dhomh tuiteam ann am chadal,
Chunnacas aisling chuir orm cùram,
Guth ‘g am mhosgladh suas gu sgairteil,
Dol air theachdaireachd ‘nuair dhùisginn;

Dhol chur nan Guibhneach ‘na faicill,
Gu’n robh cruaidh bhreitheanas oillteil
Ri teachd orr’ as leth am peacaidh,
An cuid creach, ‘s an cleachdadh treusoin.

‘S gur beag nach b’ aithreach le Dia
Gu’n do ghin e riamh am pòr,
Dream a thréig an Dia ‘s an rìoghachd,
‘S a rinn ìodhol d’an cuid òir.

Continue reading ““An Airce” from Adv.MS.72.2.13″

Conflation: Gàidhealtachd & Jacobitism

The simple question “who were the Gaidheil (Gaels)”? Might seem like a surprising point of departure. When the Comunn Oiseanach (Ossianic Society) started meeting at the University of Glasgow some eighty years later, from 1831, one of their primary functions was as a debating society. They discussed, in Gaelic, a wide range of topics but one which proved especially popular and to which they returned again and again was the Jacobite rising of 1745-46. Was it right, they asked, again and again, that the ‘Gael’ should have risen in support of Prince Charles Edward Stuart?

The popularity of the topic was shared by Iain MacChoinnich (1806-48), a native of Gairloch, who worked at the printer’s office at the University of Glasgow and was admitted as an honorary member of An Comunn Oiseanach in 1834. Iain gifted An Comunn a copy of An Nuadh Oranaiche Gaelach (or ‘Ais-èiridh na Sean Chánoin Albannaich’), the volume published by Alasdair mac Mhaighistir Alasdair (1751). This Iain MacChoinnich (John Mackenzie) was the editor of the widely known collection of Gaelic poetry, Sàr Obair nam Bàrd Gaidhealach (1841), and also a history of the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 entitled Eachdraidh a’ Phrionnsa (1844). The author referred to his honorary membership of An Comunn Oiseanach on the frontspiece of the latter book. This work, Eachdraidh a’ Phrionnsa, refers, as do members of An Comunn Oiseanach in their minute books, to the ‘Gaeil’ as being synonymous with support for the Prince.

The insistence shown by MacChoinnich in labelling Jacobite supporters as Gaels throughout his book seems all the more surprising given his awareness that the leader of the Whig opposition was the chief of a Highland clan. Iain Ruadh nan Cath (John, 2nd Duke of Argyll), the Campbell clan chief, followed by a considerable number of Gaelic speakers, commanded the Hanoverian forces arrayed against the ‘Gaels’ (Jacobites) in 1715. This identification of Jacobitism with Gaels must reflect to some extent, views held not only by An Comunn Oiseanach but also of the way in which contemporary Highland and Scottish society in the nineteenth century perceived events of the previous century.

Later generations can, perhaps, be forgiven for conflating the Gaidhealtachd with Jacobitism given that their predecessors in the 1740s were similarly imprecise. People in the 1740s, particularly people from the Lowlands habitually referred to Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s army as the ‘Highlanders’. Gaelic speakers who supported the Hanoverian regime, on the other hand were often given more specific identities. The Whig supporters tended to be not identified as Gaels or Highlanders, but instead as ‘Argyllshire men’, as ‘Munros’, or ‘Grants.’ Part of the reason for this is that Jacobites, irrespective of whether they were Lowland or Highland, and even the Prince himself, identified themselves as ‘Highlanders’ and adopted tartan dress. The Jacobites were highlanders – in a visual if not always in a linguistic sense.

— excerpted from “Jacobites & Whigs,” The Gaelic Story web site, University of Glasgow.

Red and Strong Is the Blood

The Lamont Harp, Clàrsach Lumanach, presented c. 1460-1464 to Charles Robertson of Lude, National Museum of Scotland.
The Lamont Harp, Clàrsach Lumanach, presented c. 1460-1464 to Charles Robertson of Lude, National Museum of Scotland.

THE HARP OF THE GAEL.

GAELIC MOD PRIZE POEM.

BY REV. DUGALD MACECHERN, B. D.
(Translated by Author.)

HARP of my own dear country,
Trembling against my bosom,
Sweeter to me are thy strains
Than all of the wide world’s music,
Shapely thy curving neck
Like the wild swan afloat on the ocean,
Gleaming thy sun-bright strings,
Like the golden hair of my dear one.
What ah! what can express
Like the harp’s wild tender trembling,
Love that lies in the heart
Like a precious jewel hidden?
Sweet to me is the viol
When move in the dance the maidens,
Dear to me are the pipes
When my sword is red in the battle,
But ’tis the harp should be tuned
With slender and swift-moving finger,
When in her song my dear one,
Sweet-throated, her love confesseth.
Tell me thy secret, my harp,
Who taught thee to tremble in music?
Was it the ocean crooning
To th’ yellow sands and the sea-wrack?
Say, were thy tutors the lark
And the tuneful thrush of the wild-grove,
Blast of the giant bens
And whisper of wind-kissed forest,
Chant of the waterfall where
The stream leaps down from the mountains,
These, and in glens of our love
The songs of the sweet-throated maidens,
Say, were thy tutors these?
Who taught thee to tremble in music—
Music of kings in the times
When the Sun in his youth was shining,
Music of more than heroes
In the days of Fingal and Ossian.

Coll of the waves! Eilean Chola,
Musical were thy children,
Thine was the last of the line
Of the old-time harpers of Albyn,
Sad was thy heart, oh Murdoch!
When last thou tunedst the harp-strings,
Sad was thy heart, and the ship
Like a seagull out on the ocean,
Passing tby spray-swept island,
Bearing the Prince of thy bosom,
Bearing Prince Charlie an exile
Out on the sorrowful ocean,
Saying good-bye to Albyn
And to the crown of his fathers—
The golden crown of his fathers
Lost on the field of battle,
And to the land of the heroes
Who unto death were faithful.
Passed thy prince from thy view
Till the sail seemed merged in the ocean,
Passed—and together that hour
Thy harp and thy heart were broken.

Never again did thy song
Rise in the halls of the chieftains,
Never in Coll of the waves
In the eyrie of Tighearn Chola.
Even as the rose will shut
When her lover the Sun is departed,
So didst thou close thy heart,
The music, the glory departed.
Music with thee was laid
In thy grave in Mull of the mountains.
How could the strings be tuned
When lost were the rights of our fathers.
Banned was the tartan plaid
And they cursed the tongue of the mountains;
Who, who could tune thy strings
And the land of the Gael dishonoured?

Harp of the kings, let us sing
In the ears of the wise of the nation,
Standing on steps of the throne
Of the Scot-descended Edward,
Close to the Destiny Stone,
The stone of the Scots and of Aidan—
Sing how a nation alone
May stand forever unshaken.
Red and strong is the blood
Where the wind is scented with heather,
Races of heroes are bred
On the purple breasts of mountains,
Often the heroes of hills
Have hurled back doom from a nation—
Have we forgotten Omdurman
And Hector in crisis of battle?
Sing how the blood of the cities,
Swiftly degenerate, faileth,
Sing of proud kingdoms that fell
Their children forsaking the mountains.

Harp of the Scots, thou art kin
To the harp that is slumbering in Tara,
Shall we not therefore sing
Together our songs, O Erin?
Branches we are of the stem
Whose roots reach the ages forgotten,
Proudly the harp of the Gael
In the banner of Erin is floating,
Proudly in veins of the king
The blood of the Gael is flowing—
Blood of the Scots of Dalriad,
Blood of O’Neil and of Canmore.
Here in the hands of our love
Is balm for the wounds of thy bosom,
Thy deep, red wounds—and thy grief
Shall vanish like visions with morning.
Cease from your terrible tears,
O dark-haired daughters of sorrow,
Golden and beautiful breaks
The morn on the hilltops of Erin!

Harp of the world-scattered Gaels,
Sing how the Gaels are in number
Even as the stars; how in strength
They are sinew and muscle of empires.
Brothers they are, of our blood,
Though spread to the four winds of heaven,
Brothers, if exiles, still,
Though their white-sailed ships return not.
What if the straths are forlorn,
The Blood of the race is not passing,
What if the language should fail,
The Race of the Gael is not dying!
See how the Gaels are in number
As sands on the marge of the wild wave,
Conquering with hands of toil
The cities and lands of the stranger;
Under the sun of the Indies
And in the lands over ocean,
Wielding the axe of the settler
Far in the depths of the forest,
Digging the yellow gold,
Low in the depths of the canyon,
Struggling on far fields of battle
Struggling—and falling with glory!

Tell me, my harp beloved,
Shall the hope that I cherish fail me—
Shall I behold the Gaels
To the glens of their love returning,
Men at work on the crofts
As I saw in the times unforgotten,
The mother in musical Gaelic
To the babe at her bosom crooning.
Friendly at feast of the Old-Year,
Chieftain and clansmen together,
Cheeks of the youth aglow
At the Shinty on New-Year’s morning—
Every old custom so dear
To our beautiful glens returning,
Bagpipes on fields of battle
Chanting their war-notes defiant,
And, in the halls of peace
The harp with its wild sweet trembling,
Why should I thus drop tears
On the ruins of old homes broken—
Spanning the bens, behold!
The rainbow, the rainbow is shining!

Listen, my harp, my beloved!
When cometh the time of my changing,
When my hand white as the snow,
To dust in the grave shall crumble,
Do not let any man’s hand
Strike from thee chords of sorrow —
Shall I not rise again
To the wind my boat’s sail spreading,
For the beautiful Island of Youth
In the gold of the Sea of the Sunset.
There I shall practice thy music,
There in the Hall of the Noble—
Beloved! when I am dead,
For me let no wail of sorrow
Rise from thy sun-bright strings,
But a song—a song victorious.

The Sources of Daily and Exalted Pleasures

Ossian and Malvina, by Johann Peter Krafft, 1810.
Ossian and Malvina, by Johann Peter Krafft, 1810.

THOS. JEFFERSON TO CHAS. McPHERSON.

Albermarle [sic], in Virginia, Feb. 25th, 1773.

DEAR SIR,–Encouraged by the small acquaintance which I had the pleasure of having contracted with you during your residence in this country, I take the liberty of making the present application to you. I understood you were related to the gentleman of your name (Mr. James McPherson), to whom the world is so much indebted for the elegant collection, arrangement, and translation of Ossian’s poems. These pieces have been and will, I think during my life, continue to be to me the sources of daily and exalted pleasures. The tender and the sublime emotions of the mind were never before so wrought up by the human hand. I am not ashamed to own that I think this rude bard of the North the greatest poet that has ever existed. Merely for the pleasure of reading his works, I am become desirous of learning the language in which be sung, and of possessing his songs in their original form. Mr. McPherson, I think, informs us he is possessed of the originals. Indeed, a gentleman has lately told me he had seen them in print; but I am afraid he has mistaken a specimen from Temora, annexed to some of the editions of the translation, for the whole works. If they are printed, it will abridge my request and your trouble, to the sending me a printed copy; but if there be more such, my petition is, that you would be so good as to use your interest with Mr. McPherson to obtain leave to take a manuscript copy of them, and procure it to be done. I would choose it in a fair, round hand, on fine paper, with a good margin, bound in parchments as elegantly as possible, lettered on the back, and marbled or gilt on the edges of the leaves. I would not regard expense in doing this. I would further beg the favor of you to give me a catalogue of the books written in that language, and to send me such of them as may be necessary for learning it. These will, of course, include a grammar and dictionary. The cost of these, as well as the copy of Ossian, will be (for me) on demand, answered by Mr. Alexander McCaul, sometime of Virginia, merchant, but now of Glasgow, or by your friend Mr. Ninian Minzees, of Richmond, in Virginia, to whose care the books may be sent. You can, perhaps, tell me whether we may ever hope to see any more of those Celtic pieces published. Manuscript copies of any which are in print, it would at any time give me the greatest happiness to receive. The glow of one warm thought is to me worth more than money. I hear with pleasure from your friend that your path through life is likely to be smoothed by success. I wish the business and the pleasures of your situation would admit leisure now and then to scribble a line to one who wishes you every felicity, and would willingly merit the appellation of, dear sir,
Your friend and humble servant.