Cuírt an Mheán Óiche (The Midnight Court)

Cuírt an Mheán Óiche (The Midnight Court) by Brian Merriman is considered to be one of the funniest poems ever to come out of Ireland.

Ireland’s 100 favourite poems

Click here for the English translation

It involves a poet going about his day and encountering a series of supernatural and mythical characters. There is an English translation written by Noel Fahy at the bottom of the page.Brian-Merriman-Image-copyright-Ireland-Calling

Cuírt an Mheán Óiche (The Midnight Court) by Brian Merriman. Image copyright Ireland Calling

Cuírt an Mheán Óiche

Cuid a hAon: An Brollach

Siúlann an file amach leis féin maidin shamhraidh agus castar spéirbhean uafásach air. Sracann sí ina diaidh é tríd an lathach go dtí Cnoc Mhánmhaí áit a bhfuil cúirt á stiúradh ag Aoibheal, ríon álainn na sí.

Ba ghnáth mé ar siúl le ciumhais na habhann
Ar bháinseach úr is an drúcht go trom,
In aice na gcoillte i gcoim an tsléibhe
Gan mhairg gan mhoill ar shoilseadh an lae.
Do ghealadh mo chroí nuair chínn Loch Gréine,
An talamh, an tír, is íor na spéire
Ba thaitneamhach aoibhinn suíomh na sléibhte
Ag bagairt a gcinn thar dhroim a chéile.
Ghealfadh an croí bheadh críon le cianta—
Caite gan bhrí nó líonta le pianta—
An séithleach searbh gan sealbh gan saibhreas
D’fhéachfadh tamall thar bharra na gcoillte
Ar lachain ina scuain ar chuan gan cheo,
An eala ar a bhfuaid is í ag gluaiseacht leo,
Na héisc le meidhir ag éirí anairde
Péirse i radharc go taibhseach tarrbhreac,
Dath an locha agus gorm na dtonn
Ag teacht go tolgach torannach trom,
Bhíodh éanlaith i gcrann go meidhreach mómhar,
Léimneach eilte i gcoillte im chóngar,
Géimneach adharc is radharc ar shlóite,
Tréanrith gadhar is Reynard rompu.

Ar maidin inné bhí an spéir gan cheo,
Bhí Cancer, ón ngréin, ina caortha teo
Is í gafa chun saothair tar éis na hoíche
Is obair an lae sin roimpi sínte.
Bhí duilliúr craobh ar ghéaga im thimpeall,
Feorainn is féar ina slaoda taobh liom,
Glasra fáis is bláth is luibheannna
Scaipfeadh le fán dá chráiteacht smaointe.
Do bhí mé cortha is an codladh dom thraochadh,
Do shín mé tharam ar cothrom sa bhféar ghlas
In aice na gcrann i dteannta trínse,
Taca lem cheann is mo hanlaí sínte.
Ar cheangal mo shúl go dlúth le chéile,
Greamaithe dúnta i ndúghlas néalta,
Is m’aghaidh agam folaithe ar chuileanna go sásta
I dtaidhbhreamh d’fhulaing mé an cuilithe cráite
Do chorraigh do lom do pholl go hae mé
Im chodladh go trom gan mheabhair gan éirim.

Ba ghairid mo shuan nuair chuala, shíl mé,
An talamh máguaird ar luascadh im thimpeall
Anfa aduaidh is fuadach fíochmhar
Is caladh an chuain ag tuargain tinte;
Siolla de mo shúil dar shamhlaíos uaim
Chonnaic mé chugam le ciumhas an chuain
An mhásach bholgach tholgach thaibhseach
Chnámhach cholgach ghairgeach ghaibhdeach;
A hairde ceart, má mheas me díreach,
Sé nó seacht do shlata is fuílleach,
Péirse beacht dá brat ag sraoilleadh
Léi sa tslab le drab is draoibeal.
Ba mhór ba mhéadhair ba fiáin le féachaint
Suas ina héadan créachtach creimeach,
Ba anfa ceantair, scanradh saolta,
A draid is a drandal mantach méirscreach.
A rí gach má! ba láidir líofa
A bíoma láimhe is lánstaf inti
Comhartha práis ina bharr ar spíce
Is cumhachta báille in airde air scríofa.

Adúirt go dorrga d’fhocla dána:—
Múscail! Corraigh! a chodlataigh ghránna;
Is dubhach do shlí bheith sínte i do shliasta
Is cúirt ina suí is na mílte ag triall ann;
Ní cúirt gan acht gan reacht gan riail
Ná cúirt na gcreach mar chleacht tú riamh
An chúirt seo ghluais ó shluaite séimhe—
Cúirt na dtrua na mbua is na mbéithe.
Is mór le maíomh ar shíolra Éibhir
Uaisle sí mar shuíodar d’aonghuth
Dhá lá is oíche ar bhinn an tsléibhe
I bpálás bhuionmhar Bhruíon Mhá Gréine.
Is daingean do ghoill sé ar shoilse an rí
Is ar mhaithe a theaghlaigh thaibhsigh sí,
Is ar uimhir na buíne bhí ina ndáil
Mar d’imigh gach díth ar chríocha Fáil—
Gan sealbh gan saoirse ag síolrach seanda,
Ceannas a ndlí ná cíos ná ceannfoirt,
Scriosadh an tír is níl ina ndiaidh
In ionad na luibheanna ach flíoch is fiaile;
An uaisle b’fhearr chun fáin mar leaghadar
Is uachtar láimhe ag fáslaigh shaibhre,
Ag fealladh le fonn is foghail gan féachaint
D’fheannadh na lobhar is an lom dá léirscrios.
Is dochrach dubhach mar dhíogha gach daoirse
Doilbhe dúr i ndúbhcheilt dlíthe
An fann gan feidhm ná faghaidh ó éinne
Ach clampar doimhin is luí chun léirscrios,
Falsacht fear dlí is fachtnaí ardnirt,
Cam is calaois faillí is fabhar,
Scamall an dlí agus fíordhath fannchirt,
Dalladh le bríb, le fee is le falsacht.

Farradh gach fíor, is fuíoll níor fágadh,
Dearbhadh díble ar Bhíobla an lá san
Cúis dar ndóigh ná geobhaidh tú saor tríd,—
Cnú na hóige dá feo le faolras
Is easnamh daoine suite ar Éire—
Do mheath led chuimhne an síolrach daonna;
Is folamh is is tráite fágadh tíortha,
An cogadh is an bás gan spás dá ndíogadh,
Uabhar na ríthe is ar imigh thar sáile
Nuair ná deineann sibh tuilleadh ina n-áit díobh.
Is náir d’bhur n-iomad gan siorrach gan síolrach
Is mná ina muirear ar muir is ar tíortha,
Connsaí chorpartha is borracaí óga,
Is bonsaí bhrothallach fola agus feola,
Lóistigh liosta agus leigithí shásta
Is mórgaigh shioscaithe d’imigh i bhásta;
Is trua gan toircheas stollairí den tsort seo,
Is trua gan tórmach brollaigh is bóta iad,
Is minic iad ullamh an focal dá bhfaighidís
Ag titim dá mogaill is molaimse a bhfoighne.

Is é cinneadh le saoithe i gcríoch na comhairle
In ionad na daoirse d’insint dóibh sin:—
Duine den bhuíon seo, líon a gcumhachta,
Ar thitim don dísle, suíomh i bhFóla.

Tairgeann Aoibheal croí gan chlaoin-bheart,
Cara na Muimhneach, sí-bhean Léithchraig,
Scaradh le saoithe sí na slua seo
Scaitheamh do scaoileadh daoirse i dTuamhumhain.
Gheall an mhíonla chaoinis chóir seo
Falsacht dlí do chloí go cumhachtach,
Seasamh i dteannta fann is faonlag
Is caithfidh an teann bheith ceansa tláith libh,
Caithfidh an neart gan cheart seo stríocadh
Is caithfidh an ceart ina cheart bheith suite;
Geallaimse anois nach clis ná cumhachta,
Cairdeas Miss ná Pimp ina comhalta
Shiúlfas tríd an dlí seo de ghnáth
Is a gcúirt ina suí ag an síolrach neamhdha;
Tá an chúirt seo seasmhach feasta sa bhFiacail,
Siúilse, is freagair í, caithfidh tú triall ann
Siúil gan tafann go tapa ar do phriacal,
Siúil! nó stracfad sa lathaigh im dhiaidh thú!
Do bhuail sí crúca im chúl san chába
Is ghluais chun siúil go lúbach láidir,
Sciob léi síos mé trí na gleannta,
Cnoc Mhánmhaí is go binn an teampaill.

Cuid a Dó: An Ainnir

Labhraíonn bean óg le maithe na cúirte i dtaobh a cuid trioblóide: nach bhfuil fir óga na tíre ag pósadh agus, mar sin, go bhfuil sí gan chéile.

Is deimhin go bhfaca mé ar lasadh le tóirsí
An teaghlach taitneamhach maiseamhach mórtach
Soilseach seasmhach lannúil lomrach
Taibhseach taitheacach daingean dea-dhóirseach,
Chonnaic mé an tsíbhean mhíonla bhéasach
Chumais ina suí ar bhínse an tsaoirchirt
Chonnaic mé garda láidir luaimneach
Iomadúil arrthach tarraingthe suas léi,
Chonnaic mé láithreach lánteach líonta
Ó mhullach go lár de mhná is de dhaoine,
Chonaic mé spéirbhean mhaorga mhallruisc
Mhilisbhog bhéaltais mhéarlag mhealltach
Thaithneamhach shásta tháclach fhionn
Ina seasamh in airde ar chlár na mionn.
Bhí a gruaig léi scaoilte síos go slaodach
Is buaireamh suite fíor ina féachaint,
Fuinneamh ina radharc is faghairt ina súile
Is fiuchadh le draighean oilc aighnis fútha;
A caint dá cosc le loscadh cléibhe;
Gan gíog ina tost acht tocht dá traochadh,
Do b’fhurasta a rá gur bás ba rogha léi
Is tuile gan tlás ag tál go trom léi,—
Ina seasamh ar lár an chláir ina saighead
Is í ag greadadh na lámh is ag fáscadh a ladhar.
An uair do ghoil sí folcthaí fíochmhar
Is d’fhuascail osnaí gothaí cainte
D’imigh an smúit is d’iompaigh snua uirthi
Thriomaigh sí a gnúis is dúirt mar inseoidh mé:—

“Míle fáilte is gairdeas cléibh romhat,
A Aoibheal, a fháidhbhean ársa on Léithchraig,
A soilse an lae is a ré gan choimse,
A shaibhreas shaolta i ngéibhinn daoirse
A cheannasach bhuach ó shluaite an aoibhnis,
Ba easnamh crua thú i dTuamhumhain is i dTír Luirc;
Sé túis mo cháis is fáth mo chaointe
Cúis do chráigh mé is d’fhág me claoite
Bhain dem threoir mé is sheol gan chiall mé,
Is chaith mar cheo mé dóite i bpianta,—
Na sluaite imíonn gan chríoch gan chaomhnú
Ar fud an tsaoil seo d’fhíorscoth béithe
Ina gcailleacha dubha gan cumhdach céile
Caite gan clú gan cionnta claoin-bheart.
Is aithnid dom féin sa mhéad seo shiúlas
Bean agus céad nár mhian leo a dhiúltadh
Is mise in a measc mo chreach mar táimse
D’imigh im spaid gan fear gan pháiste.
Mo dhochar mo dhó mo bhrón mar bhím
Gan sochar gan só gan seod gan síth,
Go doilbhir duaiseach duamhar díothach
Gan codladh gan suan gan suairceas oíche,
Ach maslaithe i mbuairt gan suaimhneas sínte
Ar leaba leamh-fhuar dár suathadh ag smaointe.
A cháidh na Carraige breathain go bíogach
Mná na Banba in anacair suite,
Ar nós má leanann siad na fir dá bhfuadar
Óch, mo lagar! ach caithfimidne a bhfuadach.
Sé am gur mhian leo céile phósadh
An t-am gur dhéirc le héinne gabháil leo!
An t-am nár bhfiú bheith fúthu sínte—
Na seandaigh thamhanda shúite chloíte.
Dá dtiteadh amach le teas na hóige
Duine fén seacht ar theacht féasóige
Ceangal le bean, ní míntais thoghfaidh—
Thaitneamhach shuite de shíol ná d’fhoghlaim,
Cló-dheas chaoin nó míonla mhánla
A mb’eól di suí ná teacht do láthair,
Ach doineantach odhar nó donn doilíosach
Do chruinnigh le doghrainn cabhair nach cuí di!

Sé chrá mo chroí is do scaoil gan chiall mé
Is d’fhág mo smaointe is m’intinn traochta
Tráite tinn mar táim, go tréithlag,
Cráite cloíte ag caí is ag géarghol,—
Nuair a fheicim preabaire calma croíúil
Fuadrach fearúil barrúil bríomhar
Stuama feasach seasmhach saoithiúil
Gruaidhdheas greannmhar geanúil gnaoidhúil,
Nó buachaill bastallach beachanta bróigdheas
Cruaidhcheart ceanasach ceapaithe córach
Buaite ceannaithe ceangailte pósta
Ag fuaid ag cailleach ag amaid nó ag óinmhid,
Nó ag suairtle salach de chaile gan tionscal,
Stuacach stalcach aithiseach stangach
Suaiteach sotalach foclach fáidhiúil
Cuardach codlatach gairgeach gráiniúil.
Mo chreach is mo lot! Tá molt míbhéasach,
Caile na gcos is folt gan réiteach,
Dá ceangal anocht is é loisc go léir mé,
Is cá bhfuil mo locht nach dtoghfaí mé roimpi?
Créad an t-ábhar ná tabharfaí grá dom
Is mé chomh leabhair, chomh modhúil chomh breá seo?
Is deas mo bhéal, mo dhéad is mo gháire,
Is geal mo ghné, is tá m’éadan tláth tais,
Is glas mo shúil, tá m’urla scáineach
Bachallach búclach cúplach fáinneach,
Mo leaca is mo ghúis gan smúit gan máchail
Tarraingthe cumtha lonrach scáfar
Mo phíob, mo bhráid, mo lámha, mo mhéara,
Ag síorbhreith barr na háille ó chéile.
Féach mo chom! Nach leabhair mo chnámha,
Níl mé lom ná crom ná stágach,
Seo toll is cosa is colann nach náir liom
Is an togha go socair fé chover ná tráchtaim.
Ní suairtle caile ná sreangaire mná mé
Ach stuaire cailce tá taitneamhach breá deas,
Ní sraoill ná slaid ná luid gan fáscadh
Ná smíste duirc gan sult gan sásamh,
Lóisteach lofa ná toice gan éifeacht,
Ach ógbhean scotha chomh tofa is is féidir.
Dá mbeinnse silte mar tuilleadh de mo chomharsana,
Leadhbach liosta gan tuiscint gan eolas,
Gan radharc, gan ghliceas in imirt mo chóra,
Mo threighid! cár mhisde mé rith in éadóchas?
Ní fhacthas fós mé i gcóngar daoine,
Ag faire nó ag tórramh óg ná críona,
Ar mhachaire an bháire an ráis nó na rince,
I bhfarradh na dtáinte ar bánta líonta,
Ach gafa go sámh gan cháim ar domhan
I gculaith shásta ó bharr go bonn.
Beidh a cheart im chúl de phúdar fillte,
Starch is stiúir i gcúl mo chaidhpe,
Húda geal gan ceal ribíní
Gúna breac is a cheart ruffaí leis;
Is annamh go brách gan fásáil aerach
Thaitneamhach bhreá le mo cheárdán craorag,
Is an iomaí luibheanna craobh is éanlaith
Ar m’aprún síogach ríoga cambric;
Sála cumtha cúnga córach
Arda sleamhaine ar screw faoi mo bhróga,
Búclaí is fáinní is láimhne síoda,
Fonsaí bráisléidí is lásaí daora.
Seachain, ná síl gur sceinnteach scáfar,
Amaid gan ghaois nó naíondacht náireach
Eaglach uaigneach uallach fhiáin mé,
Gealtach gan ghuais gan stuaim gan téagar;
I bhfolach ní rachainnse ó radharc na gcéadta,
Is ceannasach taibhseach m’aghaidh agus m’éadan,
Is dearfa bhím dom shíorthaispeánadh
Ar mhachaire mhín gach fíoriomána,
Ag rince, ag báire, rás is radaireacht,
Tinte cnámh is ráfla is ragairne,
Ag aonach margadh is Aifreann Domhnaigh,
Ag éileamh breathnaithe, ag amharc gach togha fir.
Chaitheas mo chiall le fiach gan éifeacht,
Dhalladar riamh mé, d’iaighdear m’ae ionam.
Tar éis mo chumainn, mo thurraing, mo ghrá dóibh,
Tar éis ar fhulaing mé d’iomad cránais,
Tar éis ar chailleas le caitheamh na scálaí,
Béithe balbha is cailleacha cártaí.
Níl cleas dá mb’fhéidir léamh ná trácht air
Le teacht na ré nó tar éis bheith lán di,
Um Inid nó um Shamhain nó ar shiúl na bliana
Ná tuigim gur leamhas bheith ag súil le ciall as.
Níorbh áil liom codladh go socair aon uair díobh
Gan lán mo stoca de thorthaí faoi mo chluasa,
Is deimhin nárbh obair liom troscadh le cráifeacht,
Is greim nó blogam ní shlogainn trí trátha,
In aghaidh an tsrutha do thumainn mo léine,
Ag súil trí mo chodladh le cogar ó mo chéile,
Is minic do chuaigh mé ag scuabadh an staca,
Ingne is gruaig faoin luaith-ghríos d’fhágainn,
Chuirinn an tsúiste faoi chúl an ghabhail,
Chuirinn an rámhainn go ciúin faoin adhairt chugam,
Chuirinn an choigeal i gcillín na háithe,
Chuirinn mo cheirtlín i dtine aoil Mhic Rághnaill,
Chuirinn an ros ar chorp na sráide
Chuirinn san tsop chugam tor cabáiste.
Níl cleas acu siúd dá ndúras láithreach
Ná hagraíonn cúnamh an deamhain is a bhráthar,
Sé fáth mo scéil go léir is a bhrí dhuit
Mar táim gan chéile tar éis mo dhíchill,
Fáth mo sheanchais fhada, mo phianchreach,
Táim in achrann dhaingean na mblianta,
Ag tarraing go tréan ar laethanta liatha
Is eagal liom éag gan éinne dom iarraidh.
A Phéarla ó Pharrthas screadaim is glaoim ort,
Éiric m’anama ort, aitim thú is éim ort,
Seachain ná scaoil mé im shraoill gan aird
Nó im chailleach gan chríoch gan bhrí gan bhláth,
Gan chara gan chlann gan chom gan chairde
Ar theallacha draighin gan feidhm gan fáilte.
Dar a fuil uimpi tinte is toirneach!
Dalladh mé suite maoite im óinmhid,
Sealbh gach só ag rogha gach díogha,
Is ag ainnibh na Fóla os comhair mo shúl.
Tá somach ag Saidhbh go saibhir sámhach,
Muirinn i meidhir is a haghaidh ar a nuachar,
Mór is Mairsile i macnas múchta,
Is mórchuid magaidh orthu ag fachnaoid fúmsa;
Is giodamach sámh í Sláinge, is Síle
Sisile is Áine is ál ina dtimpeall,
Tuilleadh mar tá siad de mhná na tíre
Is mise mar táim gan tál gan tsíolrach.

Is fada gan feidhm is foighne domsa é,
Lagar dom leá is mo leigheas im chumhachta
Maille le luibhne díblí dreoite
Is ortha draíochta chloífeas fós dom
Buachaill deas nó gas galánta
Bhuaifeas ceart a shearc is a ghrá dhom.
Do chonnaic mé go leor den tsórt dá dhéanamh
Is chuirfinn i gcóir na cóngar chéanna;
Is daingean an cúnamh ag dúbailt daoine
Greamanna d’úlla is púdar luíbhne,
Magairlín meidhreach, meill na mbuailte,
Taithigín taibhseach, toill na tuairte,
Mealladh na minseach, claíomh na mbonsach,
An cumainnín buí is an draíocht chun drúise.
Duilliúr dóite ar nós gur rún é,
Is tuilleadh den tsórt nach cóir a mhúineadh.
Do b’iontas mór i dTuamhumhain le chéile
An bhruinneall seo thuas ag buachan céile;
Is d’inis sí domsa, ar ndóigh, trí rún,
Um Inid is í pósta ó bhord na Samhna
Nár ibh is nár ól ach an feoithneach fionn
Is cuillibh na móna dóite ar lionn.
Is fada mé ag foighneamh, faighimse fuascailt,
Seachain ar mhoill mé, saighead chun luais é;
Muna bhfuil leigheas dom threighid i do chuairtse
Cuirfidh mé faghairt i bhfeidhm má’s crua dom.

Cuid a Trí: An Seanfhear

Preabann seanfhear anuas le freagra a thabhairt ar an ógbhean. Deir sé gur ar shaol mígheanmnaí na mná óga féin an milleán go bhfuil siad i gcruachás. Cuireann sé síos ar a phósadh féin agus faoi mar a bhí an bhrídeach torrach ó fhear eile i ngan fhios dó. (Dá ainneoin sin, molann sé leanaí tabhartha go hard níos déanaí mar chuid den impí aige ar Aoibheal deireadh a chur leis an bpósadh.)

Preabann anuas go fuadrach fíochmar
Seanduine suarach is fuadach nimhe faoi,
A bhaill ar luascadh is luas anáile air,
Draighean is duais ar fud a chnámha.
Ba dhearóil an radharc go deimhin don chúirt é
Ar bord ina thaibhse im éisteacht dúirt sé:—
Dochair is díobháil is síorchrá cléibhe ort
A thoice le místaid, a shíol gábha is déirce,
Is dóigh nach iontas laigeacht na gréine
Is fós gach tubaist dar imigh ar Éire,
Mar mheath gach ceart gan reacht gan dlí againn,
Ár mba bhí bleacht gan lacht gan laonna acu,
Is dá dtagadh níos mó de mhórscrios tíortha
Is gach faisean dá nuacht ar Mhóir is ar Shíle.
A thoice gan chríoch nach cuimhin le táinte
Olcas na síolrach daoine ó dtángais,
Gan focal le maíomh ag do shinsear gránna
Ach lopaigh gan bhrí, lucht míre is mála.
Is aithnid dúinne an snamhaire is athair duit,
Gan chara gan chlú gan chúl gan airgead,
Ina leibide liath gan chiall gan mhúineadh,
Gan mheadar gan mhias gan bhia gan anlann,
Gan faic ar a dhroim is a chabhail gan chóta,
Ach gad ar a choim is a bhonn gan bhróga.
Creidigí, a dhaoine, dá ndíoltaí ar aonach
Eisean is a bhuíon tar éis íoc gach éileamh,
Dar colainn na naoimh ba dícheall mór dó
Pota maith dí lena fhuíollach d’fhuascailt.
Nach mór an t-ábhacht is an gleo i measc daoine
Truaire de do shórt gan bhó gan chaoirigh,
Búclaí i do bhróga is clóicín síoda ort,
Is ciarsúir póca ag gabháil na gaoithe ort!
Do dhallais an saol go léir le do thaibhse,
Is is aithnid dom féin tú i dtaobh le coife
Is deacair dom labhairt, do lom is léir dhom,
Is fada do dhroim gan chabhair ón léine;
Is togha drochduine do thuigfeadh ina gá thú
Is feabhas do rufa le do mhuinchille cáimric.
Tá canbhás saor chun sraod go bhásta
Is cá bhfios don tsaol nach stays é do do fháscadh?
Feiceann an tír ort frínse is fáinne
Is ceileann do laímhne gríos is gága.
Ach aithris ar bord, nó inseoidh mé féin é,—
An fada nár ól tú deoir le do bhéile?
A chonnartaigh bhoicht na gcos gan ionladh,
Dóchas id chorp le Bucks gan anlann
Is furasta dar liom dod chúl bheith taibhseach,
Do chonnac lem shúile an chúil ina luíonn tú;
Garbh nó mín ní síntear fút ann,
Barrach nó líon dár sníomhadh le tuirne,
Ach mata ina smoirt gan chuilt gan chlúdach,
Dealbh gan luid gan phluid gan tsúsa,
I gcomhar botháin gan áit chun suí ann
Ach súiche sileáin is púscadh aníos ann,
Fiaile ag teacht go fras gan chuimse
Is rian na gcearc air trasna scríobtha,
Lag ina dhroim is na gabhla ag lúbadh
Is clagarnach dhonn go trom ag tuirlingt.
A chumainn na bhfáidhithe! nach ard do labhair sí!
Gustalach gálbha gárthach gabhann sí
I ndathanna i gcóir is i gclócaí síoda,
Faire go deo orthu! fóill, cár fríth é?
Aithris cá bhfuair tú an radharc seo mhaíonn tú,
Is aithris cár thuill tú an leadhb gan bhrí seo;
Is deacair a shuíomh gur fríth go cóir iad—
Is gairid ó bhí tú gan síol an orlaigh.
Aithris cá bhfuair tú luach na húda,
Is aithris cá bhfuair tú luach do ghúna,
Ach leagaimid uainn cár ghluais an cóta,
Is aithris cá bhfuair tú luach na mbróga.
A Aoibheal cheanasach charthannach chumhachtach,
Guím thú, gairim thú, freagair is fóir mé,
Is fíor gur feasach mé forairí Fóla
Suite greamaithe ag sladaithe den tsórt seo.
Dar láimh mo chara! is aithnid dom comharsa
Láimh le baile agam, gairid do chóngar,
Buachaill soineanta sruimile saonta
Ar buaileadh duine acu chuige mar nuachar.
Is searbh lem chroí nuair a fheicim im radharc í—
A gradam, a críoch, a poimp is a taibhse;
Sealbhach bó aici is eorna ag fás di,
Airgead póca is ór idir lámha aici.
Do chonnaic mé inné í ar thaobh na sráide,
Is cumasach tréan an léire mná í,
Malpaire másach mágach magúil,
Marbh le cámas lán de ladús,
Murach gur claon liom éad do mhúscailt,
Scannal do scéith nó scéalta scrúdú,
Do b’fhuras dom insint cruinn mar chuala
An chuma na mbíodh sí sraoillte suaite,
Sractha ar lár is gáir ina timpeall,
Sraite ar an sráid nó i stábla sínte.
Mairfidh a tásc is tráchtfar choíche
Ar mharthain ar cháil is ar gháir a gníomhartha
In Uí Bhreacáin an aráin is an fhíona,
I dTír Mhachláin na mbánta míne,
Ag ísle is ársa Mháinse is Ínse,
Chill Bhreacáin, an Chláir is Chuinche,
Ag connsaigh ainmhíche Threadraí an phónra
Is fonsaí falchaí Chreatlaighe an chorda.
Faire, ba chlaon í, tar éis a ndúirt mé
Ghlacfainn gur saor í faoi na cionta
Ach beirim don phláigh í lá mar chím í
Leagaithe láimh le Gárus sínte,
Caite ar an ród gan orlach fuithi
Ag gramasc na móna ar bhóithre Dhubhdhoire.
M’iontas ann os ceann mo chéille
Is crithim go fann le scanradh an scéil seo,—
Ise bheith seang nuair theann gach éinne í
Is druidim le clann nuair shanntaigh féin í.
Is mór ina grása é ag rá na mbriathar,
Nóiméad de spás níor ghá le hiarraidh
Ó léadh ar bord os comhair na coinnle
An tEgo Vos seo d’ordaigh Íosa
Gur shéid sí lacht go bleacht ina cíocha
Ach naoi mí beacht is seachtain go cinnte!

Breathain gur bhaol don té tá scaoilte
Ceangal go héag faoi thaobh den chuing seo,
I sealbh gach saoth, is éad dá shuathadh—
In aisce, mo léan! mo léann ní bhfuaireas,
Is feasach don taobh seo den tsaol mar bhí mé
Sealad dem réim is dem laethanta roimhe seo,
Leitheadach láidir lán de shaibhreas,
Feisteas le fáil is fáilte im theaghlach,
Cara i gcúirt is cúnamh dlí agam,
Ceannas is clú agus comhar sa saoithe,
Tathach im chaint is suim is éifeacht,
Talamh is maoin ag suíomh mo chéille!
M’aigne sítheach is m’intinn sásta—
Chailleas le bean mo bhrí is mo shláinte!
Ba thaitneamhach leabhair an crobhaire mná í,
Bhí seasamh is com is cabhail is cnámha aici,
Casadh ina cúl go búclach trilseach,
Lasadh ina gnúis go lonrach soilseach,
Cuma na hóige uirthi is só ina gáire,
Is cuireadh ina cló chun póige is fáilte!
Ach chreathas le fonn gan chonn gan chairde
Ó bhaithis go bonn go tabhartha i ngrá dhi.
Is dearbh gan dabht ar domhan gur díoltas
Danartha donn dom thabhairt ar m’aimhleas
D’fhearthainn go trom ar bhonn mo ghníomhartha
Ó Fhlaitheas le fonn do lom do líon mé.
Do snaidhmeadh go suite snaidhm na cléire,
Is ceangladh sinn i gcuing le chéile,
Ghlanas gan chinnteacht suim gach éileamh
Bhaineas le baois gan ghaois an lae sin.
Cothrom go leor, níor chóir mé a cháineadh—
Stopas an gleo bhí ag cóip na sráide,
Bacaigh go léir, bhí an cléireach sásta,
An sagart róbhuíoch is b’fhéidir fáth leis!
Lasamar tóirsí is comharsana go cruinn ann,
Leagadh ar boird mórchuid bia chugainn
Clagarnach cheoil is ól gan chuimse,
Is chaitheadar cóisir mhórtach mhaoiteach.
Mo dhíth gan easpa nár tachtadh le bia mé
An oíche baisteadh nó as sin gur iarras
Síneadh ar leaba le hainnis do liath mé
Is do scaoil le gealaigh gan chara gan chiall mé.
Is é tásc do gheobhainn ag óg is ag aosta
Gur bhreallán spóirt ag ól is ag glaoch í
I mbotháin ósta is boird á bpléascadh,
Ar lár ina lóiste ag pósta is aonta.
Do b’fhada dá meilt a teist is a tuairisc
Do b’fhada gur chreid mé a bheag nó a mhór de,
Do b’eaglach le gach beirt dá gcuala é
Go rachainn im pheilt im gheilt gan tuairisc.
Fós ní ghéillfinn, caoch mar bhí mé,
Do ghlór gan éifeacht éinne mhaoidh é;
Ach magadh nó greim gan feidhm gan chéill
Gur aithris a broinn dom deimhin gach scéil!
Níor chúrsaí leamhais ná durdam bréige é,
Ná dúirt bean liom go ndúradh léi é
Ach labhair an bheart i gceart is in éifeacht—
Do bhronn sí mac i bhfad roimh ré dom!
Mo scanradh scéil gan féith dem chroí air—
Clann dá dtéamh dom tar éis na hoíche!
Callóid anfach ainigí scólta,—
Bunóc ceangailte is bean an tí breoite,
Posóid leagaithe ar smeachóidí teo acu
Cuinneog bhainne dá greadadh le fórsa
Is mullach ar lánmhias bánbhia is siúicre
Ag Muirinn Ní Cháimliaith báinliaigh an chrúca
Bhi coiste cruinnithe ag tuilleadh dem chomharsain
Cois na tine agus siosarnach dhamhsa.
Scaoileann siad cogar i bhfogas dom éisteacht:—
Míle moladh le Solas na Soilse!
Bíodh nach baileach a d’aibigh an chré seo
Feicimse an t-athair ina sheasamh ina chéadfa.
A bhfeiceann tú, a Shadhbh arú, luigheamh a ghéaga!
A dheilbh gan draighean a bhaill is a mhéara!
Cumas na lámh ba dána dóirne!
Cuma na gcnámh is fás na feola.
Do cheapadar cruinn gur shíolraigh an dúchas
Maise mo ghné agus íor mo ghnúise,
Filleadh mo shróine is glónra m’éadain,
Deise mo chló, mo shnua agus m’fhéachana,
Leagadh mo shúl is go fiú mo gháire
Is as-sin do shiúil ó chúl go sáil é.
Amharc nó radharc ní bhfaghainn den chréice,—
Is baileach gan leigheas do mhillfeadh gaoth é!—
Ag cuideachta an teaghlaigh i bhfeighil mo chaochta,
Siolla dá laghad di leáfaidh an créatú+B222ir!
Do labhras garg is do thagras Íosa,
Is stollta garbh do bhagras gríosach,
D’fhógras fearg le hainbhios cainte,
Is is dóigh gur chreathadar cailleacha an tí romham.
De leisce an achrainn leagadar chugam é,—
Beir go haireach air, seachain ná brú é,
Is fuiris a shuaitheadh, luaisc go réidh é,
Turraing do fuair sí ruaig roimh ré é;
Seachain nó faisc é, fág ina luí é,
Is gairid an bás do, is gearr do raghaidh sé;
Dá maireadh go lá idir lámha ina chló
Is an sagart ar fáil níorbh fhearr a bheith beo.
Do bhaineas an tsnaidhm dá chuibhreach cumhdaigh
Is bhreathain mé cruinn é sínte ar ghlúin liom,
A Muaireach d’airigh mé tathagach tamhanda é,
Fuair mé feargach fearradach lúitheach
Láidir leathan mo leanbh ina ghuaillí,
Sála daingeana is an-chuid gruaige air!
Cluasa cruinnithe is ingne fásta,
Chruadhdar a uillinneacha a chroibh is a chnámha,
D’aibigh a shúile is fiú a pholláirí,
Is d’airigh mé a ghlúine lúfar láidir.
Coileán cumasach cuisleach cóiriúil
Folláin fuinneamhach fulaingeach feolmhar.
Screadaim go hard le gáir na tíre
Is leagaim dod láthair cás na ndaoine,
Breathain go caoin, is bí truamhéileach,
Beanna a gcinn is suim a gcéille;
Athraigh an dlí seo chuinge na cléire
Is ainic an bhuíon nár fuarthas sa ngéibheann.
Má lagaigh an síolrach díonmahr daonna
I dtalamh dath-aoibheann fhíorghlais Éireann,
Is furasta an tír d’aithlíonadh le laochra
D’uireasa eangaí gan bhrí gan éifeacht,—
Cá bhfuil an gá le gáir na bainse,
Cárta biotáille is pá lucht seinnte,
Somacháin ar bord go fóiseach taibhseach,
Glugar is gleo acu is ól dá shaighdeadh,
Ó d’aibigh an t-ábhar do bhronn Mac Dé
Gan sagart ar domhain dá dtabhairt dá chéile;
Is leathanmhar láidir lánmhear léadmhar
Fairsing le fáil an t-álmhach saor seo.
Is minic a fheicimse bríomhar borrtha
Cumasach líonta i gcroí is i gcóir iad;
Creim ní fheicim nó daille nó caoiche
I léim ar leithre dár hoileadh ó bhean ar bith;
Is mó is is mire, is is teinne is is tréine
A gcló is a gclisteacht ná dlisteanaigh éinne.
Is furasta a luaimse d’fhuascailt go suite
Is duine acu an uair seo ar fud an tí agam!
A bhfeiceann tú thall go ceansa ciúin é!
Deisigh anall i dteannta an bhoird é.
Breathain go cruinn é, bíodh gurab óg é
Is dearfa suite an píosa feola é,
Is preabaire i dtoirt i gcorp is i gcnámh é
Cá bhfuil a locht i gcos nó i lámh de?
Ní seargach fann ná seandach feosach,
Leibide cam nó gandal geoiseach,
Meall gan chuma nó sumach gan síneadh é
Ach lansa cumasach buinneamhach bríomhar.
Ní deacair a mheas nach spreas gan bhrí
Bheadh ceangailte ar nasc ar tasc ag bean,
Gan chnámh gan chumas gan chuma gan chom,
Gan ghrá gan chumann gan fuinneamh gan fonn,
Do scaipfeadh i mbronn d’aon mhaighre mná
Le catachas draighin an graíre bhreá
Mar chuireann sé i bhfeidhm gan mhoill gan bhréig
Le cumas a bhaill is le luigheamh a ghéag
Gur crobhaire é cruthaíodh go cothrom gan cháim
Le fonn na fola is le fothram na sláinte.
Leis-sin ná hiarrse a ríon réilteach
Milleadh meiriad le riail gan éifeacht!
Scaoil ó chodladh gan chochall gan chuibhreach
Síol an bhodaigh is an mhogall-fhuil mhaoiteach,
Scaoil fá chéile de réir nádúra
An síolbhach séad is an braon lábúrtha,
Fógair go féiltiúil trí na tíortha
D’óg is d’aosta saorthoil síolraigh.
Cuirfidh an dlí seo gaois sa nGaeil,
Is tiocfaidh an brí mar bhí ina laochra,
Ceapfaidh sé com is droim is doirne
Ag fir an domhain mar Gholl mac Móirne,
Gealfaidh an spéir, beidh éisc i líonta,
Is talamh an tsléibhe go léir faoi luibhne,
Fir is mná go brách dá mhaíomh,
Ag seinnm do cháil le gairdeas aoibhnis.

Cuid a Ceathair: An Ainnir Arís

Tá an ainnir arís ar an mbínse ag magadh an tseanfhir faoin mbealach inar theip air a bhean óg a shásamh. Deir sí go mba chóir iachall a chur ar fhir óga pósadh, is gan eisceacht a dhéanamh do shagairt na tíre.

Tar éis bheith tamall don ainnir ag éisteacht
Do léim ina seasamh go tapa gan foighne,
Do labhair sí leis agus loise ina súile
Is rabhartaí feirge feilce fúithi:—
Dar Coróin na Carraige murach le géilleadh
Dod chló dod ainnis is d’easnamh do chéille
Is d’am na hurraime don chuideachta shéimh seo
An ceann lem ingin do sciobfainn ded chaolscroig,
Do leagfainn anuas de thuairt faoin mbord thú
Is is fada le lua gach cuairt dá bhfaighinn ort
Go stróicfinn sreanga do bheatha le fonn ceart
Is go seolfainn t’anam go Acheron tonnach.
Ní fiú liom freagra freastail do thabhairt ort,
A shnamhaire fleascaigh nach aithis do labhartha!
Ach inseoidh mé feasta do mhaithe na cúirte
An nós inar cailleadh an ainnir nárbh fhiú thú:—
Bhí sí lag, gan bha gan phuint,
Bhí sí i bhfad gan teas gan clúdadh,
Cortha dhá saol, ar strae dhá seoladh
Ó phost go piléar gan ghaol gan chóngas,
Gan scíth gan spás de lá nó d’oíche,
Ag stríocadh an aráin ó mhná nár chuí léi.
Do gheall an fear seo dreas sócúlach di,
Do gheall an spreas di teas is clúdadh,
Cothrom glan is ba le crú di,
Is codladh fada ar leaba chlúimh di,
Teallaigh teó agus móin a dóthain
Fallaí fód gan leoithne gaoithe,
Fothain is díon ón síon is ón spéir di,
Olann is líon le sníomh chun éadaigh.
Do b’fheasach don tsaol is don phéist seo láithreach
Nach taitneamh ná téamh ná aonphuth ghrá dó
Do cheangail an péarla maorga mná seo
Ach easnamh go léir,—ba déirc léi an tsástacht!
Ba dubhach an fuadar suairceas oíche
Smúit is ualach duais is líonadh,
Lúithne luaidhe agus guaillí caol
Is glúine crua chomh fuar le hoidhre
Cosa feoite dóite ón ngríosach
Is colainn bhreoite dhreoite chríona.
An bhfuil stuaire beo ná feoidhfeadh liath
Ag cual dá shórt bheith pósta riamh?
Nár chuardaigh fós faoi dhó le bliain
Cé buachaill óg í, feoil nó iasc?
Is an feóiteach fuar seo suas léi sínte
Dreoite duairc gan bua gan bíogadh.
Och! car mhór di bualadh bríomhar
Ar nós ba dhual de uair san oíche.
Ní dóigh go dtuigtear gurab ise ba chiontach
Ná fós go gcliseadh ar laige ina tonndacht
An maighre mascalach carthanach ciúntais—
Is deimhin go bhfaca sí a mhalairt de mhúineadh.
Ní labharfadh focal dá mba obair an oíche
Is a thabharfadh cothrom do stollaire bhíomhar.
Go brách ar siúl níor dhiúltaigh riamh é,
Ar chnámh a cúil is a súile iata.
Ní thabharfadh preab le stailc mhíchuíosach,
Fogha mar chat ná sraic ná scríob air,
Ach í go léir ina slaod cóshínte,
Taobh ar thaobh is a géag ina thimpeall,
Ó scéal go scéal ag bréagadh smaointe,
Béal ar bhéal is ag méaraíocht síos air.
Is minic do chuir sí cos taobh anonn de,
Is chuimil a bruis ó chrios go glún de;
Do sciobadh an phluid is an chuilt dá ghúnga
Ag spriongar is ag sult le moirt gan subhachas.
Níor chabhair di coigilt ná cuimilt ná fáscadh,
Fogha da hingin, dá huillinn, dá sála.
Is náir dom aithris mar chaitheadh sí an oíche
Ag fáscadh an chnaiste, ag searradh is ag síneadh,
Ag feacadh na ngéag is an t-éadach fúithi,
A baill go léir is a déada ar lúithchrith,
Go loinnir an lae gan néall go dhúchan uirthi,
Ag imirt ó thaobh go taobh is ag únfairt.
Nach furasta don lobhar seo labhairt ar mhná
Is gan fuinneamh ina choim ná cabhair ina chnámha,
Má d’imigh an mhodhúil bhí trom ina ghábha
Is gur deineadh an fhoghail seo gabhaimse a páirt.
A bhfuil sionnach ar sliabh nó iasc i dtrá,
Nó iolar le fiach nó fia le fán
Chom fada gan chiall le bliain nó lá
Do chaitheamh gan bia is a bhfiach le fáil?
An aithnid díbh féin san tsaol seo cá bhfuil
An t-ainmhí claon nó an feithid fáin
Do phiocfadh an chré an fraoch nó an pháil
Is feorainn ina shlaoda is féar le fáil?
Aithris gan mhoill, a chladhaire chráite,
Freagair mé, faghaimse feidhm id ráite:—
Cá bhfuil do dhíth ag suí chun béile?
Ar caitheadh le mí aici a dtíos ina féile!
An laigide an chúil nó an lúide an láithreach
Fiche milliún má shiúil le ráithe ann?
Mairg i do cheann a sheandaigh thamhanda,
An eagal leat ganntanas am do dhúile
An dóigh a ghliogaire buile gur bhaol duit
Ól na Sionainne tirim nó a taoscadh?
Trá na farraige is tarraingt an tsáile?
Is clár na mara do scaipeadh le scála?
Breathain in am ar leamhas do smaointe
Is ceangail do cheann le banda timpeall!
Seachain i dtráth, ná fág do chiall
Le heagla mná bheith fáilteach fial;
Dá gcaitheadh sí an lá le cách do riar
Bheadh tuilleadh is do sáith-se ar fáil ina ndiaidh.
Mo chumha is mo chrá ba bhreá san éad
Ar lúbaire láidir lánmhear léadmhar
Shantach sháiteach shásta sheasmhach
Ramsach ráflach rábach rabairneach,
Lascaire luaimneach, cuardaitheoir cuimseach,
Balcaire buan nó buailteoir bríomhar,
Ach seanduine seanda cranda creimneach,
Fámaire fann is feam gan féile.

Is mithid dom chroí bheith líonta de léithe,
Is m’iontas trí gach smaointe baotha
Cad a bheireann scaoilte ó chuibhreach céile
In eaglais sinsir suim na cléire.
Mo chrá gan leigheas, mo threighid dom fháscadh,
Is láidir m’fhoighne is laghad mo ráige,
Is méid a mbímid ar díth gan éinne,
Is mian ár gcroí faoi shnaidhm na héide.
Nach bocht an radharc do mhaighdean ghábhair
Toirt is taibhse a mbaill is a mbreátha,
Bloscadh a n-aghaidh agus soilse a ngáire,
Corp is coim is toill ar támhchrith,
Úire, áille, bláth agus óige,
Ramhadas cnámh is meáchan feola,
Martas trom is droim gan suathadh,
Neart gan dabht is fonn gan fuarú.
Bíonn sealbh gach sú acu ar bhord na saoithe,
Earra agus ór chun óil is aoibhinis,
Clúmh chun luí acu is saill chun bia acu,
Plúr is milseacht meidhir is fíonta.
Is gnáthach cumasach iomadúil óg iad
Is tá fhios againne gur fuil agus feoil iad.
Cumha ní ghlacfainn le cafairí coillte,
Snamhairí galair ná searraigh gan soilse,
Ach malra bodacha, stollairí tréana,
I dtámhghail chodlata is obair gan déanamh!
Creidim gan bhréag gur mhian le roinn díobh
Filleadh le féile, daor ní bheinnse.
Cothrom, ní cóir an t-ord le chéile
Chrochadh le córda, ghabháil nó dhaoradh,
Bás na droinge, is deimhin, ní ghráfainn
Lán na loinge chun duine ní bháfainn,
Cuid acu bíodh gur rícigh riamh
Is cuid eile bhíos gan ríomh gan riail,
Cinntigh chrua gan trua gan tréithe,
Fíochmhar fuar is fuath do bhéithe.
Tuilleadh acu atá níos fearr ná a chéile,
Tuilte le grá is le grásta féile.
Is minic a buaitear ba is gréithe
Cuigeann is cruach de chuairt na cléire.
Is minic lem chuimhne maíodh a dtréithe
Is iomad dá ngníomhartha fíorghlic féithe,
Is minic do chuala ar fud na tíre
Siosarnach luath dá luadh go líonmhar,
Is chonnaic mé taibhseach roinn dá ramsach
Is uimhir dá gclainn ar shloinnte falsa.
Baineann sé fáscadh as lár mo chléibhse
A gcaithtear dá sláinte ar mhná treasaosta
Is turraing san tír chun díth na mbéithe,
Ar cuireadh gan bhrí tsíolrach naofa.
Is dealbh an diachair dianghoirt d’Éire
Ar chailleamar riamh le riail gan éifeacht!
Fágaim fútsa a chnó na céille
Fáth na cúise is cumha na cléire.
Is meallta meillte luí dom dhóighhse.
Is dall gan radharc mé, soilsigh m’eolas,
Aithris, ós cuimhin leat, caínt na bhfáithe
Is aspal an Rí ba bhíogach ráite.
Cá bhfuil na cumhachta d’órdaigh an Dúileamh,—
Is calcadh na feola i gcoróin na cumha seo;
Pól dar liom ní dúirt le héinne
An pósadh dhiúltú ach drús do shéanadh,
Scaradh led ghaol dá mhéid do ghnaoi
Is ceangal led shaol is claoí led mhnaoi.
Is obair gan bhrí do bhean mar táimse
Focal den dlí seo suíomh dod láthair,
Is cuimhin leat féin a phéarla an taibhse
Suíomh gach scéil is léir dhuit soilseach
Binnghuth buan is bua na mbriathra
Is caínt an Uain ná luafar bréagach,
Dia nárbh áil leis máthair aonta,
Is riail gach fáidh i bhfábhar béithe.
Guím go hard tú, a fháidhbhean tsíthe,
A shíolrach neamhda a barr na ríthe,
A shoilse glóire a choróin na sluaite,
Éist lem ghlórsa, fóir is fuaraigh dúinn;
Meá i do intinn díth na mbéithe
Is práinn na mílte brídeach aonta,
Is toicí mar tá siad ar bhráid a chéile
Ag borradh is ag fás mar ál na ngéanna;
An tál is lú tá ag siúl na sráide,
Gárlaigh dhubha is giúnach gránna,
An aga dá laghad má fhaigheann siad a ndóthain
Glasraí, meadhg, is briodar borrfaidís;
D’urchar neimhe le haois gan éifeacht
Tiocfaidh na cíocha, scinnfidís, sceithfidís.
Scalladh mo chléibh! is baoth mo smaointe!
Ag tagairt ar chéile i gcaora tinte!
Is deacair dom súil le subhachas d’fháil
Is gan fear in aghaidh triúir sa Mhumhain dá mná.
Ó tharla an ceantar gann seo ghábhair,
Fánlag fann, is an t-am seo práinneach,
Fóla folamh is fothram ag fiaile,
Is óige an phobail ag cromadh is ag liathadh,
Aonta fada go dealbh gan foighne
D’éinne ar talamh is fear éigin faighimse.
Ceangail i dtráth go tláith faoin úim iad,
Is as sin go brách fágtar fúinne iad.

Cuid a Cúig: An Breithiúnas is an Réiteach

Tugann Aoibheal a breithiúnas ar na fadhbanna a bhí pléite sa chúirt. Tairngríonn sí go mbeidh cead ag na sagairt pósadh go luath agus ceadaíonn sí géarleanúint ar fhir nach bhfuil sásta pósadh. Sé an file an chéad duine a thoghtar le sciúirseáil a dhéanamh air.

D’éirigh an mhánla ar bharr a bínse,
Is do shoilsigh an lá san áit ina timpeall,
B’álainn óg a cló is a caoindreach,
B’ard a glór ba bheo is ba bhíogach.
D’fháisc a dóirne is d’ordaigh deimhneach
Báille ar bord ag fógairt Silence.
Adúirt a béal bhí ag séideadh soilse,—
An chúirt go léir go faon ag éisteacht:—
Faghaimse díreach brí chun buaite
Is feidhm id chaíntse a bhrídeach bhuartha.
Feicím, is is dóigh gur dóite an radharc liom,
Síolrach Órfhlaith Mhóire is Mheidhbhe,
An seifteoir caol is an créatúr cladhartha,
An ceisteoir claon is an déirceoir daigheartha,
Sú na táire is tál na coimse
Ag súil le sárfhuil sámh na saoithe.
Achtáimid mar dlí do bhéithe
An seacht faoi thrí gan chuibhreach céile
Do tharraing ar cheann go teann gan trua
Is a cheangal don chrann seo i dteannta an tuama.
Bainigí lom de a chabhail is a chóta,
Is feannaigí a dhroim is a choim le córda.
An chuid acu tharla báite i mblianta
Is cheileas go táir an tairne tiarpa,
Chuireas amú gan subhachas d’éinne
Buile na hútha is lúth a ngéaga,
Do mhilleas a gcáil is fáil ar bhean acu
Ag feitheamh gan fáth ar bharr na craoibhe,
Fágaim fúibhse tionscal páise
A mhná na dúile dúbhadh le háilíos;
Ceapaigí fír-nimh tinte is tairní,
Caithigí smaointe is intleacht mhná leis,
Cuirigí bhur gcomhairle i gcomhar le chéile,
Is tugaimse cumhachta an fórsa dhéanamh.
Beirim gan spás díbh páis na gciantach,—
Is beag liom bás gan barrghoin pian dóibh.
Ní chuirimse i bhfáth de bharr mo chainte
An foirfeach fálta cás-lag claoite,
An gabhal gan gotha ná an gola gan geall shuilt,
An toll gan toradh ná an tormach falsa,
Ach ligtear an óige i gcóir chun síolraigh
Is déanfaidh an sórt seo clóca is díon dóibh.
Is minic a fheicimse rinsigh bhaotha
Ag titim le tíos, is bímse buíoch díobh,
Gafa le mná de lá agus d’oíche
Ag cosaint a gcáil is ar scáth a ngníomhartha;
Ag seasamh ina bhfeidhil is bhfeidhm go fálta,
A n-ainm ar chlann is bheinnse sásta.
Do chuala siolla is do cuireadh i bhásta é—
Is fuath liom baineannach iomadach ráiteach—
Labhair go réidh is glaoigh go híseal,
Bos ar do bhéal, is baol bheith caínteach!
Seachain go fóill na cumhachtaigh íogair
Is caithfidh siad pósadh fós pé chífeas.
Tiocfaidh an lá le lánchéad comhairle
Is cuirfidh an Pápa lámh na gcumhacht air,
Suífidh an chuideachta ar thubaiste na tíre,
Is scaoilfear chugaibh faoi urchall cuibhrigh
Fiántas fola agus fothram na feola
Is mian bhur dtoile na stollairí teo seo.
Aon duine eile dar hoileadh ó bhean ar bith—
Léigh a ndeirim is feicim do bhíogadh;
Ar shlí mo chumais ná fulaing i gcaoi ar bith
Sraoill gan urraim nó Muirinn i mbríste,
Ach lean sa tóir na feoitigh liatha
Is glanaigí Fóla ón sórt seo fiaile!

Caithfidh mé gluaiseacht uaibh chun siúil,
Is fada mo chuairtse ar fud na Mumhan;
An turas tá rómham ní fhónann moill do,
Is iomad den ghnó anseo fós gan éisteacht.
Casfaidh mé arís is is fíor nach fáilteach
D’fhir nach díon mé theacht don áit seo;
An chuid acu atá go táir ina smaointe,
Foireann nach foláir leó a gcáil bheith sínte,
Mhaígh mé le fothram a gcothrom ar bhéithe,
Feicfidh an pobal a gcogar is a sméidte.
Is taitneamhach leo is is dóigh gur laochas
Scannal na hóige pósta is aonta,
Mian a dtoile ní sporann a gcionta,
Bréantas fola ná borradh na drúise,
Taitneamh don ghníomh nó fíoch na féithe
Ach magadh na mílte, maíomh a n-éachta.
Ní saint dá só bheir beo na céadfa
Ach caint is gleo agus mórtas laochais,
Mustar is ábhacht is ráig gan riail,
Is a gcumas go tláth gan tál gan triall,
Go tuisleach tárrlag támh ina n-iall,
Is cuthach le gá ar a mhná ina ndiaidh.
Glacfaidh mé go réidh an méid seo láithreach,
Caithfidh mé géilleadh do mhéid mo phráinneach,
Cuirfidh mé an bhuíon so i gcuing is in úim
Nuair thiocfaidh mé arís sa mhí seo chugainn.

Do breathain mé cruinn an rí-bhean réilteach,
Is do lagaigh mo chroí le linn bheith réidh dhi,
D’airigh mé dásacht ghráinmhear éigin
Is pairilis bháis im chnámha is im chéadfaí;
Chonnaic mé an tír is an tíos ar luascadh,
Is fuinneamh a caínte ag rince im chluasa.
Tagann an bíoma bíogach báille,
Is leath mo líthe ar shíneadh a láimhe;
Tharraing ar chluais go stuacach storrúil
Sracaithe suas léi ar uachtar boird mé.
Preabann an bháb seo chráigh an t-aonta,
Greadann a lámha is is ard do léim sí.
Is aibí adúirt—A chrústa chríona
Is fada mé ag súil led chúlsa chíoradh,
Is minic do sluíomh thú, a chroí gan daonnacht,
Is mithid duit stríocadh do dhlí na mbéithe.
Cosaint cá bhfaighfidh tú in aghaidh na cúise?
Focal níor thuill tú a leadhb gan lúthchleas.
Cá bhfuil do shaothar saor le suíochan?
Cá bhfuil na béithe buíoch de do ghníomhartha?
Breathainse a bhaill seo a mhaighdean mhaorga,—
Ainimh ní bhfaighimse mhill ar bhéithe é;
Breathain go cruinn a ghnaoi is a ghéaga
Ó bhaitheas a chinn go boinnn a chaolchos.
Bíodh gurab ainimheach anmhíchumtha é
Feicimse ceangailte a bharra gan diúltú
A ghile ní ghráfainn, b’fhearr liom buí é,
Is cuma na gcnámh—ní cháinfinn choíche
Duine mbeadh dronn ina dhroim is fánadh—
Is minic sin togha fir cromshlinneánach;
Ba mhinic sin gambach lansa gníomhach
Is ioscaidí cam ag strompa bhríomhar.
Is fáithe folacha uireasach éigin
D’fhág an doirfeach foirfe in aonta,
Is méid a cheana idir mhaithe na tíre,—
A réim le sealad i gcairdeas daoine,
Seinm ar cheolta spórt is aoibhneas
Imirt is ól ar bhord an saoi,
I gcóir na foirne fuineadh as féile,
An snamhaire ar b’fhuarasta dom urraimse géilleadh.
Is taibhseach taitneamhach tairbheach tréitheach
Meidhreach meanmnach a ainm is is aerach.
Ainmhí de do shórt níor ordaigh an Tiarna,—
Geanmnaí fós i gcóngar liaithe!
Creathaim go bonn le fonn do dhaortha,
Is gairid an chabhair do labhartha baotha,
Is coir módh is díreach suite id éadan—
Deich faoi thrí gan cuibhreach céile.
Éist liomsa a chlú na bhfoighneach,
Faighimse cúnamh i gcúis na maighdne;
An crá is an dúladh mhúch gan bhrí mé,
A mhná na muirne, is rún liom íoc air.
Cúnaigh deirim libh, beir air, tóg é,
A Úna gairim thú is faigh dom córda;
Cá bhfuil tú a Áine, ná bí ar iarraidh!
Ceangailse, a Mháire, a lámha ar dtaobh thiar de!
A Mhuirinn, a Mheadhbh, a Shadhbh is a Shíle,
Cuirigí i bhfeidhm le daigheartha díograis
Barr gach scólta d’ordaigh an tsíbhean,
Báigí sa bhfeol gach córda snaidhmeach,
Tomhais go fial na pianta is cruatan
Le tóin is le tiarpa Bhriain, gan trua ar bith;
Tóg na lámha is ardaigh an sciúirse,
Is sampla sámh é a mhná na muirne!
Gearraigí domhain, níor thuill sé fábhar!
Bainigí an leadhb ó rinn go sáil de!
Cloistear a chling i gcríocha Éibhir
Is critheadh a gcroí sna críontaigh aonta.
Is ciallmhar ceart an t-acht é, sílim,
Bliain an achta seo is ceart a scríobh dúinn:—
Réitigh, ceil, nó goid de sceimhle
Céad is deich faoi leith as míle,
Dúbail ceart an freastal fuidhlaigh,
Is thúirling Mac an tseachtain roimhe-sin.
Glacann sí a peann is mo cheannsa suaite
Ar eagla m’fheannta is scanradh an bhuailte;
An feadh do bhí sí ag scríobh an dáta
Is maithe an tí aici suite ar gárdaí,
Do scaras lem néal, do réidheas mo shúile,
Is do phreabas de léim ón bpéin dom dhúiseacht!</>

Cuírt an Mheán Óiche (The Midnight Court) by Brian Merriman. Image copyright Ireland Calling

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Cuírt an Mheán Óiche (The Midnight Court) translation by Noel Fahy. Image copyright Ireland Calling

The Midnight Court

Part One: The Prologue

The poet sets out alone on a summer morning and encounters a fearsome vision woman. She drags him through the mud to Monmoy Hill where a court is sitting presided over by Aoibheal, a beautiful fairy queen.

Twas my custom to stroll with the river in view
Through the fresh meadows covered with dew,
By the edge of the woods on the wild mountain-side
At the dawn of the day I’d cheerfully stride.
My heart would brighten Loch Graney to spy,
And the country around it, to the edge of the sky.
The serried mountains were a delight to the beholder
Thrusting their heads over each other’s shoulder.
‘Twould lighten the heart wizened with years—
Triflingly spent or drenched with tears—
Of the bitter outcast without wealth or goods
To catch a glimpse o’er the top of the woods
Of the ducks paddling by in the pellucid bay,
Escorting the swan on her stately way,
Of the fish in joyous arching flight
And of the perch, a speckled spritely sight,
Of the blue surging swell on the tinted lake
Crashing ashore with a thunderous quake,
Of the birds in the trees merrily singing,
While the deer through the woods are nimbly springing,
To see the huntsmen with bugles blaring,
As after Reynard the hounds are tearing.

Yesterday morning, no clouds in the sky,
Presaged another hot day in July;
Up came the sun after a rest for the night,
To her day’s work, making all nature bright.
With treeleaves rustling overhead
And grass and ferns before me spread,
The expanse of flowers would cheer the soul
And lighten thoughts however dole.
Totally fagged and dying to sleep,
I lay down where the grass was deep
Beside a rill, with trees about
A support for my head and my feet stretched out.
On shutting my eyes to go to sleep,
Locking them tight in slumber deep,
My face protected from the flies,
A dream caused me to agonize
To shake, to chafe my psyche deep
In my senseless, helpless sleep.

Short was my sleep when I heard, thought I,
A violent quaking of the ground nearby
A storm from the north violently brewing
And fire from the harbour luridly spewing;
In my mind’s eye, a quick survey
Revealed towards me by the bay
A violent, bulging, big-assed crone
Her huge bulk hinting at testosterone;
Her stature, if I reckoned right,
Was six or seven yards in height
She dragged her cloak for yards behind her
Through the mud and mire and squalor.
‘Twas mighty, majestic, wild and horrid
To gaze upon her blemished forehead;
The rictus of her gummy grin
Would make you jump out of your skin.
God almighty! In her huge claw
Was the biggest staff you ever saw
A brass plaque at its spike defined
The bailiff’s powers to her assigned.

In a gruff voice these words she spoke:
Up! Shake a leg! ya sleepy yoke;
Shame on you, to be stretched out here
With court convened and crowds drawing near.
It’s not a court without rule or code.
Nor a marauding court in your usual mode
This court is built on a civilized base—
The court of the weak with a female face.
It’s indeed a great boast for Ireland’s seed
That to sit in court the fairy lords agreed
For two days and a night holding forth
On top of the mount, in Moy Graney fort.
Intense is the grief of the spectral lord,
Of his spritely household’s noble horde
And all of the others assembled there
At the scale of Ireland’s disrepair—
The ancient race without wealth or liberty
No tributes, leaders nor legal autonomy
The rape of the land with naught in its train,
In place of the crops, a weed-rank terrain;
The nobles languish in a foreign land
While the jumped-up rich get the upper hand,
In betrayal ardent, in plunder greedy
Flaying the sick, despoiling the needy.
It is blackly baneful and sticks in the craw
That, in darkest despair over the absence of law,
There’s nothing from no one for the purposeless weak
But a depredacious future that is hopelessly bleak,
The knavery of lawyers, tyranny on high
Injustice, fraud and neglect apply
The law is clouded, the scales awry,
With all the pull that bribes can buy.

Along with the rest and all was debated
An indictment was entered and that day dated,
A charge that you cannot easily refute:
The wizening celibacy among your youth,
The consequent lack of people in Ireland
And the decline in population on this island;
The land left empty and in decline
Wrecked by war, by death and rapine
The kings with gumption who have gone overseas
Have not been replaced by new inductees.
Your race without young ones is sad to see
With women burdening the land and the sea,
Once buxom maids and lasses fresh
With boiling blood and sultry flesh
Are now lethargic, relicts debased
Once trim girls are gone in the waist;
‘Tis a pity that these are without fruit of the womb
Without swelling breasts and bellies in bloom.
They just look for the word, please don’t wait
Until they are past their sell-by date.

The solons decided after deliberation long
Not to try the case before the fairy throng:
But to appoint a plenipotent magistrate
Who could, with the people, mediate.

There was an offer from Aoibheal, with a heart so clean
Munstermen’s friend and Craglea’s queen
To the assembled council to bid farewell
And in the land of Thomond to bide a spell.
This gentle upright lady swore
To rip out bad laws by their core
To stand steadfast beside the poor and weak
So the mighty will have to cherish the meek.
The powerful desist from inflicting wrongs
And justice enthroned where it belongs:
I promise now that no power nor lure,
Nor the blandishments of pimp or whore
Will undermine the dispensation
Of this tribunal for its duration;
The village of Feakle is where the court is sitting
Go and attend it—you’ve got to get cracking
Go quietly or at your peril dire
I’ll drag you there through the muck and mire.
With her crook she grabbed the hood of my cape
And off she dragged me with no escape
Down through the valleys I was propelled
To Moinmoy Hill church where the court was held.

End of the Prologue

Part Two: The Young Woman

A young woman there tells the court of her troubles: that she is without a mate because of the refusal of the young men of the country to marry.

For sure, I saw there ablaze with light
What seemed like a stately mansion bright
Sparkling, spacious, tapestried,
Spectral, sturdy, brilliant indeed I spied
Aoibheal, the fairy wench
Seated on the judge’s bench
I saw a strong and nimble guard
Numerously gathered round their ward;
I saw a household that was jammed
With men and women inside it crammed.
Then came forward a majestic cailín
As on the stand she took her place.
Her hair was loose and flowing free
But her face was the picture of misery
Her eyes were fierce and filled with hate
And she worked herself to such a state
That she moaned and heaved and sobbed and sighed
But couldn’t speak though hard she tried.
You could see from the flood of tears she shed
That she’d much prefer if she were dead
Than being on the floor facing the stands
Kneading her fists and wringing her hands.
After her protracted jags of crying
She cleared her throat, with much sighing
The gloom lifted from her tear-stained cheek,
She dried her eyes and started to speak:—
A thousand welcomes, we guarantee
O Aoibheal, venerable queen of Craiglea,
Light of the day, Ray of the sun
Worldly wealth for the hard-put-upon
Conquering commander of the hosts of the blessed
In Thomond and Tír Lorc you were sorely missed;
The crux of my case, the cause of my woe
The ache that has plagued me and laid me low
What knocked me sideways and struck me dumb
Caused a searing pain that left me numb,—
The finest of maidens wandering around
Without hope of a husband, a shilling or pound,
Despondent young things without help of a mate
Innocently barred from the matrimonial state.
I know these maidens whereof I speak
One hundred and one for whom prospects are bleak
I list myself among these wrecks:
I got my gender but I get no sex
At my time of life, ’tis depressing and cold
Doing without luxuries, jewels and gold,
Gloomy and cheerless is my plight
Unable to sleep through the pleasureless night,
But tossed with worry lying there
On a chilly bed, alone not a pair.
O Lady of Craiglea, you must assess
The extent of Irish women’s distress,
How, if the men continue with their ways,
Alas, women will have to make the plays
By the time the men are disposed to wed
They’re no longer worth our while to bed
And it’ll be no fun to lie below
Those old men who are so weak and slow.
Even if, with a young man’s fire,
One in seven of the beardless were to desire
To mate with a lass of his own age
He wouldn’t choose the noble or sage
With an hour-glass figure and a knockout face
One who can carry herself with grace
But an icy, cheerless, catty bitch
Who used all her guile to make herself rich.
It’s the scourge of my heart and a pain in my head
And fills my thoughts with a sense of dread
209 It’s what has made me sad and sighing
210 totally wasted with all this crying,—
When I see a lad who’s brave and cool
Who is virile, vigorous and strong as a mule
Who is steadfast, skillful, bright as a pin
Fresh-faced, funny, with a ready grin
Or a boy who is frisky, frolicky, fun
With a well-built body, second to none
Beaten, bought, bound unawares
By a hussy who’s extremely light upstairs
Or a slovenly slattern, a workless wench
Who’d make you gag with her noisome stench
A prating, prattling, babbling bag
An indolent, irritable, horrible hag.
My God, I hear that an ill-mannered mare
With unshod feet and uncombed hair
Is to be hitched tonight which I find really grating;
What’s wrong with me that I’m left here waiting?
What is the reason that no one loves me
And I so lissome, so svelt and so lovely?
My lips so red are made to be kissed
My face so bright it cannot be missed
My eyes are green, my locks are flowing
Curly and plaited and healthily glowing
My forehead and cheeks are without zits or boils
A porcelain complexion that nothing spoils.
My neck, my breast, my hand, my finger
Each would make a young lad linger.
Look at my waist, my fine bone frame
I’m not crooked or hunched or lame
A butt, a foot, a figure to impress
I’ll not go into what’s beneath my dress.
I’m not a hussy, nor yet a drip
But a delicate beauty with lots of zip,
Not a slovenly, slatternly pig
Nor a joyless boorish prig.
Not a lazy laggard with no clout
But a choice young woman well turned out
If I were as worthless as some of my neighbours
A tiresome tramp who never labours
In the ways of the world without foresight or flair
What would it matter if I fell into despair?
But it has never been on people’s tongue
That, at wake or funeral for old or young,
In the hall for the dances or at the race track
On the hurling pitch among the pack
I wasn’t dressed from head to toe
In a tasty costume fit for a show.
My hair is powdered to a T
My starched cap riding jauntily
My bright-hued hood with ribbons galore
A polka dress with a ruffled pinafore
And I’m seldom without it, except in bed,
My cardinal cloak of deepest red.
My striped cambric apron is fit for a queen
Embroidered with a plant and animal scene
Stiletto heels attached with screws
Give a lift to my fashionable shoes
Gloves of silk and buckles and rings
These are a few of my favourite things.
But beware, don’t think I’m loose a screw
A witless fool or quaking ingenue
Who’s timorous, lonesome, whimpering, weak
A simpering, cowering, beaten-down freak.
I will not go and hide from the crowd,
For my face is imperious, noble and proud
And I can assure you I’m always displayed
On the level pitch where games are played
At dances, races and masquerades,
Round bonfires, at raffles and parades
At Sunday Mass and in market squares
Sashaying before males, inviting their stares.
But I’m at my wits end in the mating mart
I’ve nothing to show for it but a broken heart.
After all that effort, after all my flirtation
After all I’ve suffered in aggravation
After all the times my fortune was read
By toothless prognosticators looking ahead
There’s not a stroke that can still amaze,
From the waxing moon to its waning phase
From Shrove Tuesday to All Saints Night,
By making sense of my dispiriting plight.
I could never sleep peacefully in my bed
Without a sockful of fruit under my head;
‘Twas surely no bother to devoutly fast,
Three canonical hours between each repast;
Against the current I’d wash my clothes
In the hopes that a bachelor would propose.
Often I would go and sweep out the byre
And my nails and hair I would throw in the fire;
The flail I’d hide in the gable’s shade
By the head of my bed I’d place the spade
I would put my distaff in the lime kiln
I’d secrete my yarn-ball in Reynolds’ mill
I’d scatter seed on the crown of the street
I’d stick a cabbage beneath the sheet.
From my recital it’s clear I don’t miss a trick
To see if I could get help from Old Nick
But the end of my story, the result of my tale
In spite of my efforts I’ve still got no male.
And what’s really painful and makes me gasp
Is how firmly I’m in the calendar’s grasp;
With grey old age rushing towards me undaunted
I’m terrified I’ll die alone and unwanted.
Pearl of Paradise, please hear my prayers
Have mercy, I beg you, and lighten my cares
Be sure not to leave me a ne’er-to-be wife
With a mateless, meaningless, loveless life
Without friends or family, a roof o’er my head
Depending on strangers for my daily bread.
By the thunder and the lightning in the sky
It proves me a fool, my life gone awry
That, in front of my face, Ireland’s biggest bitches
Are wallowing in wealth and reveling in riches
Saive snared a sucker with silver to spare
Muireann makes merry in her lover’s lair
Mór and Mairsile wench wantonly
And all of them make a mockery of me
Slaney and Shiela sparkle and glitter
Cecily and Anne each have their litter
There are others like them throughout the land
While milkless and childless before you I stand.

I’ve been powerless but patient for far too long
I can overcome my weakness and right this wrong:
Potions from dried-up herbs I’ll wring
Over which magic incantations I’ll sing.
That should snare a strapping young chap
Whom, in a web of love, I will trap.
‘Tis many I have seen who play this game
Watch out! I’m about to do the same
It’s a great help for coupling, so they allege
To mix crushed apples and powdered veg
The purple orchid is an aphrodisiac
With mandrake’s root I will attack
And other plants that I cannot name
I’ll use with great relish in this ballgame
There’s the top secret about leaves that are burned
And other like intrigues that cannot be learned.
You know it took all Thomond by surprise
When a certain old nobody caught her prize
She told me how—in confidence, indeed—
That from Shrove to Samhain (when to wed he agreed)
She had drunk no wine nor ate no bread
But lived on a diet of burnt spiders instead.
So, I’ve long been waiting; I’m changing my fate
Don’t try to stop me, when I’m out of the gate.
If, from your visit, a resolution doesn’t appear
Then it’s on to Plan B and I’m outta here.

End of Part Two

Part Three: The Old Man

Up jumps an old man to answer the young woman. He blames the dissolute life of young women for the predicament in which they find themselves. He recounts the circumstances of his own marriage at the time of which and unknown to him, his bride was pregnant by another. (In spite of this cuckoldry, he later praises bastards highly as part of his plea to Aoibheal to end the institution of marriage.)

Then fiercely jumped up a grey old dodger
There was fire in the eyes of that greasy codger
His limbs were shaking, his breathing wild
It was clear that he was thoroughly riled.
He glared at the court with a look inflamed
And, in my hearing, he then declaimed:—
I wish you naught but damage and hurt
You miserable hussy, descended from dirt
I suppose it’s no wonder the sun is weak
And that Ireland’s lot is unbelievably bleak
Our rights are gone, the law’s a laugh
Our cows, once fertile, without milk or calf.
It’s no great surprise about the country’s woes
With Mór and Síle sporting the latest clothes.
You’re an absolute transcendental bitch
Everyone knows you were born in a ditch
Your ugly ancestors can’t boast of their blood
They’re aimless louts, sprung from the mud.
Everyone knows your father’s a creep
Without friends or fame, common and cheap
A grey old yo-yo with no erudition
Without cup or bowl, racked with malnutrition,
Not a stitch his back, no coat on his body
A súgán for a belt, his footwear shoddy.
Believe me, people, if he was sold at the fair
Of all of his debts he couldn’t take care
By the saints who are holy, ‘twould make the news
If he then could afford a bottle of booze.
It’s a cause of merriment, both loud and deep
That a reject like you, with no cows or sheep
Sports buckles on your shoes, a fancy silk frock
And a protecting scarf the wind to block.
You dazzle the whole world with your face
But I know for a fact you’re for a bloody disgrace.
Your mendacity’s so clear, it’s hard to address
Your back is a stranger to a decent dress
But that deficiency, no one believes
It’s hidden with ruffs and cambric sleeves.
Canvas as a waist binder is low in price
And maybe it’s stays that’s the flattening device.
The world spies your rings and fringes of gauze
While your gloves cover up the dirt on your paws.
But tell the court, or I myself will reveal,—
How long since you’ve had a drink with your meal
You miserable slob with the dirty feet
Unseasoned Bucks aren’t much of a treat
It’s plain to me why you should hang your head
I saw with my own eyes where you make your bed
With no sheet beneath you, either fine or rough
Spun on a wheel from even the coarsest stuff
But a dirty mat without a quilt or a spread
Without a blanket or comforter to cover the bed.
Your cabin is without a place for a seat
Dripping soot from above; oozing mud from beneath
Rank weeds flourishing in profusion galore
And chicken tracks scratched across the floor
The roofline sagging; the gables leaning
The brown rain pouring down through the ceiling.
O company of seers, how loud she does shout
A blustery braggart who goes about
In colourful clothes and silken cloaks
It is certain the money didn’t come from her folks.
From where the look of which you crow
And how did you earn the necessary dough;
It’s hard to believe it’s from an honest stroke
It’s not long since you were totally broke
Where did you get the price of the hoods
Tell us how you came by the expensive duds.
I won’t make the cost of your coat my affair
But how could you afford the fancy footwear?
O Aoibheal, peerless, kindly queen
I beg you, call on you, please intervene
I know that all in Ireland who reach man’s estate
Is firmly hooked by such a reprobate
One of my friends who lives up the road
Not very far from my own abode
Among the nicest boys you ever spied
Was snared into taking one as his bride
It pains my heart to see her around
Her hauteur, her pomp, her stuck-up frown
Cattle in her possession, her barley growing
Money in her pocket and gold overflowing.
I saw her yesterday on the side of the street
She was a large woman, in no way petite;
She shook her huge hips in a taunting way
With as much impertinence as she could display
Were it not that I am the soul of discretion
Unwilling to comment on any transgression
I could easily tell what I’ve heard told
How she carried on as a harlot bold
Stretched on the floor, causing a hullabaloo
In the street or the stable, her clothing askew.
Her story will live, she’ll be the subject of lore
She will be spoken of for evermore
In Ibrickane of the bread and wine
In Tirmaclane of the meadows so fine
By Manishmore’s and Ennis’ lowly and quality
In Killbracken, in Quin, and in Clareabbey
In Tradree of the beans where there are wild young fellows
And in Cratlea where outlaws hang from the gallows
Now, look, that’s all in the past, I know
And I might be willing to let it all go
But the other day I saw her on her ass
Outside of Garus lying on the grass
Spread on the ground without a stitch, so bare,
With a bogman from Doora in the County Clare.
It’s a wonder to me, past all comprehension
Just to think of it fills me with hypertension,—
After fornicating with all, I just don’know
How she didn’t conceive till she wished it so.
It’s saying a lot for the power of the word
That not a minute of unnecessary delay was incurred
From the reading before the candles bright
Of the Ego Vos of the marriage rite
Her breasts were bursting with milk, I swear
After nine months with just a week to spare!
It’s the greatest peril to the single and sane
To be tied till death to the ball and chain,
In the grip of misfortune, jealousy rife,
As I learned for myself at a terrible price.
Everyone round here knows how I used be,
When I was single and gloriously free,
An important man, much wealth I did own
My door was wide open, my table did groan
A friend at court and the law on my side
Dominion and fame, with seers as my guide
My words with wit and wisdom teemed
All the land and wealth of which I dreamed
My mind at ease, my brain without strife—
I lost it all when I married my wife!
She was a pleasant and graceful strip of a lass
Her posture and presence betokened class
The toss of her head showed off ringlets and curls
And the sheen on her cheeks fairly glowed like pearls,
She had the vitality of youth and a smile of bliss
And all her demeanour invited a kiss.
I shook with desire, my mind did reel
I fell besottedly in love, head over heel.
It’s certain, no doubt, it was retribution
For all my bad actions, my dissolution
Which fell with a vengeance for my transgression
From heaven above with cruel repression.
The clergy tied us tightly with the knot
In a damnable yoke we were firmly caught,
I cleared all the debts without demur or delay
From the extravagant folly of that fateful day
Give me due credit, I was able to treat
All of the rabble who came in from the street
Beggars all, the clerics were sated
The priest was delighted at how he was feted.
With torches lit, the neighbours around
The table with all sort of foodstuffs was crowned
The music was mighty, much drink was imbibed
It was a bash on a scale that can’t be described.
But the day I was baptised I wish I had died
Or some day since then before I had tried
To bed with a trollop who turned me gray
Deprived me of friends, caused my mind to decay.
But then I was warned by the young and the old
That she was a drunkard and a constant scold
With the rabble in sheebeens she was wont to mingle
It took a while before her name was destroyed
The stories about her I long could avoid
Everyone kept mum who knew the situation
Afraid I would vanish, naked, in extreme agitation.
I would not listen, too blind to see
To the few who ineffectively told me;
I believed they were only slagging the groom
Until the whole story was told by her womb.
It was not a prank or idle prattle
Or a woman engaging in tittle-tattle
But the deed itself spoke loud and clearly
She gave me a son who was way too early!
God almighty, I nearly died of fright
To find a family at the end of that night!
There was a mighty commotion around the house
With a swaddled child and a retching spouse,
A draught of medicine on the coals being warmed
A can full of cream was being forcefully churned
A dish heaped high with sugar and goody
For the greedy midwife, Muireann Ní Cháimlia
A group of my other neighbours were gathered
Beside the fire where they quietly whispered.
One of them said, loud enough to hear:—
“Praise be to the stars that shine so clear,
Even though the nipper didn’t wait for the clock
He looks like he’s a chip cut off the old block.
Don’t you see now, Saiv, how the kid is the image
Of the old man’s form, his limbs and his visage!
The cut of his hands and those bold fists
And look at those legs and arms and wrists.”
They pondered long on the child’s supposed lineage
How he looked like me, inherited my image
The shape of my nose and how my brow glowed
The elegant form which on him I bestowed
The lay of my eyes and even my grin
How he was my very picture from head to shin.
Of course, not hide nor hair did I see of the pup,—
They said the draughts would screw him up!—
The crowd in the house kept him out of my sight
With their claim that the air would harm the mite.
By this time I was mad and breathing fire
I told them the consequences would be dire
I thundered, I stormed, I blustered, I swore
Till the women of the house could stand it no more.
They brought me the boy to settle me down,—
“Take him gently, don’t shake him around
He’s easily hurt; he’s close to dying
Don’t pick him up, leave him lying
Since she had a fall that brought on his birth
He’s close to death, not too long for this earth
We hope he’ll survive till the morning at least
When we’ll have a chance to call the priest.”
I loosened the confining bands and set him free
I looked at him carefully there on my knee
My God, I saw he was full of vim and vigour
And he looked like he had a healthy figure
The baby’s shoulders were stout, I declare,
He was firm in the feet, had a fine head of hair!
Well-formed ears and nails that were long
His hands, his wrists and his elbows were strong
His eyes and his nostrils were both healthily wide
I could see from his knees he’d have a powerful stride.
In short and in closing, it’s all I can say
That he was as fine a child as you’d see any day.
O Aoibheal, I beg you on behalf of my race
I place before you the people’s case
Judge us kindly, show us mercy
We’ve little sense but much jealousy
Change this law of the clergy’s yoke
And allow his freedom to the unmarried bloke.
If the population is on the wane
In Ireland’s green and fertile terrain,
Her race of warriors could be reborn yet
Absent the inanity of the marriage net,—
Why do we need those nuptial traditions
Paying for liqour and for musicians
Idlers eating all of your food
Guzzling your malt till thoroughly stewed.
When the Mother of God first conceived
No priestly blessing was received.
Many who are strong and altogether fine
Sprang from an illegitimate line
For love is a lustier sire than creed
And produces a healthier, heartier breed
The deaf or dumb or lame or blind
Among love children you generally won’t find;
They are stronger and faster, more right in the head
Than many begotten in a married bed.
I brought with me the proof of my stand
I have here with me one of that band!
Do you see him there, so quiet and polite?
Bring him here so we can see him right.
Look at him carefully, though he’s a youth
You will see indeed that I tell the truth
He’s a comely boy in form so grand
Can you see a flaw in his foot or hand?
He wasn’t sired by a sap with consumption
A worthless tramp, a gander without gumption
A formless lump who’s riddled with cancer
But a lively, powerful, active lancer.
It would be such a farce to tie for life
This sire of his to only one wife
Shapeless, spineless, waistless, sexless
Friendless, mindless, loveless, listless
To use his seed for only one womb
When he could be in many a bedroom.
This young lad proves without a lie
With his goodly arms and shapely thigh
That he’s a sapling who was the upshot
Of a fevered coupling when the blood was hot.
So please don’t subject millions, O Queen of the Sky
To a stupid rule with which they must comply
Awake to a life without a bond or chain
The country’s people, both mighty and plain
Allow them to be naturally combined
Couples from the peasantry and the refined.
Throughout the land may a new rule unfold
Of sexual freedom for young and for old.
This new law will make the Irish proud,
The new race will once again be endowed
With all the prowess of the heroes of old,
The likes of Goll mac Móirne the bold.
The sky will brighten, the fish will bite
The mountainy land will bloom with no blight
Men and women will sing your praise
And in joyful celebration their voices raise.

End of Part Three

Part Four: The Young Woman Again

The young woman again takes the stand mocking the old man’s inability to satisfy his young wife. She advocates forcing young men to marry with the clergy not being exempt from that edict.

After the girl had heard his harangue
With great impatience, to her feet she sprang,
With fire in her eyes on him she gazed
And spoke in a voice that was trembling and crazed:-
By Craglea’s Crown, if I wasn’t thinking
How your health is failing, your faculties sinking
And of the respect that’s due to this court
With my nails, I’d scratch your face and throat
I’d knock you with a mighty crash to the ground
And it would long be talked of how often you went down
Until I had cut your mortal cord
So that across Acheron you were being oared.
It’s beneath my dignity to answer you straight
You sniveling slimeball, your speech’s inchoate
But I want to inform the worthies of the court
Of the horrible life of one above your sort:-
She was vulnerable, without cattle or dough
Always freezing without heat or a throw
Tired of life, astray without direction
From pillar to post, with no relative’s affection,
Without rest or comfort by day or by night
Having to beg from strangers her daily bite.
This man promised her silver and gold
He promised her heat and shelter from cold,
A fair share of wealth and milk cows purebred
Comfortable nights on a down-covered bed
Warm hearths with turf so she wouldn’t freeze
Thick sod walls to keep out the breeze,
Well-secured roofs and doors and windows
Wool and linen to weave for clothes
‘Twas known to the world and to this worm there
That not pleasure or warmth or a love affair
Drew this pearl of a woman to that block of ice
But that a life of want left her without any choice.
With him there would be no nights of pleasure
With this fat load, dropsical beyond measure;
With his leaden sinews and narrow shoulder
It was hard to see how the night could get colder.
Along with knarly knees and decaying feet
His dry sickly body was no young woman’s treat.
Is there a beauty alive who wouldn’t grow old
If she were married to a crock so cold
Who, even twice a year, didn’t have a wish
To see if she was a boy, whether flesh or fish?
She had this cold bag of bones lying by her side
Shriveled and woebegone, impotent, stupefied.
Oh! Wouldn’t she have loved just once a night
A little affection as was her conjugal right.
I don’t believe people’ll think she was to blame
That she was an icy and frigid dame
This gentle girl with an amorous heart
It wasn’t in her nature to shirk her part.
With a lively lover she wouldn’t have quit
Once she was lighted, you know she’d stay lit.
With the proper partner she’d never take flight
Entranced on her back with her eyes shut tight
She wouldn’t jump with inappropriate fright
Attack like a cat or scratch or bite,
But lie with him in embrace combined
Side by side with legs entwined,
Exchanging sweet nothings, little white lies
Lips to lips, fingers stroking his thighs.
She’d often throw a leg over him in haste,
Caress him with her brush from knee to waist
But with this one here, she’d tear quilt from his body
Seeking to play with that cheerless dogsbody
Fondling or embracing didn’t stir that beast
Tickling his feet didn’t help in the least
I hate to tell you how she’d spend the night
Tossing and turning in her hopeless plight
Clasping the linens, to the bed-rail clinging
Her body shaking and her sweet lips trembling
Till the dawn of the day without a wink of sleep
Rocking to and fro in despair deep.
This leper speaks of women in casual tones
Without life in his loins or strength in his bones
If it was a gent with a heavy heart
Who had mounted this attack, I might take his part.
But is there a fox on the hill or a fish in the mere
A hunting eagle or a wandering deer
That’s so much without sense for a day or a year
That it’d go hungry when sustenance is near?
Have any of you heard tell, in the west or the east,
Of any class or breed or kind of a beast
That would search for food where nothing grows
And ignore the feast beneath its nose?
Answer me, you blackguard, without delay
I’d like to hear what you have to say:-
When you sup at an inn, is the food less nutritious
If others had found the same menu delicious?
Is the house weaker, the site less secure
If twenty million had inspected it before
Does it really bother you, you stiff old prude
Are you afraid of scarcity when you’re in the mood
Do you think it possible, were you to try
To drain the Shannon by drinking it dry?
To ebb a neap tide with a jug?
Or empty the ocean with a mug?
Next time, pause before saying what’s best unsaid
Wrap a cold compress around your head
Take a deep breath, don’t lose the rag
At the thought of women who like to shag
If she spent the whole day entertaining all
There’d be still enough for you to have a ball.
Bejasus, such jealousy could be understood
In a strapping, stout-hearted, sterling stud
Panting, pushing, pulsing, preening
Roistering, romping, rollicking, riproaring
A roving rogue, a sensitive searcher
A steadfast stalwart, a topnotch thresher
Not in an ossified oldster, a grumpy grunt
An incompetent idler, a reclusive runt.

Now, there’s another matter on my mind
That should give pause to womankind:
Why are they free of the married state
All of those priests of our ancient faith.
Granted that I might rightly cry and bawl
My patience is great, my rage is small
That, given how much we need a mate,
Those heart-throbs are taken off the plate.
It’s a pathetic sight for a needy maid
To see how well these priest are made
Their rosy cheeks, their smiles so bright
Their slender waists, their buttocks tight
Their beauteous forms, their youth so fresh
Their straight bones, their well-fed flesh
Their solid torso and steady back
Their undoubted strength, their love of the craic
They’re a welcome guest at the table of the seer
They’ve got silver and gold for whiskey and beer
Down for their beds and salt for their food
The best of wine to put them in the mood
Mostly they’re not long past their boyhood
And we girls know that they’re flesh and blood
If I thought they were angels or sexless saints
Or sickly creeps, I’d have no complaints
But they’re lusty youngsters with appetites unsated
In a torpid sleep while maids are unmated!
Most of these fellows, I truthfully believe,
Are lonely Adams asking God for an Eve
To be fair, it wouldn’t do
To hang the lot because of the few
Sinking the ship wouldn’t be the right plan,
Drowning the whole crew to get one man
Some have always been a right shower
Who are in the priesthood for the power
Tough old buzzards without any heart
Who think every woman is just a tart.
But others are from a different race
Full of love and full of grace.
Often the well-being of a farm is increased
Without just one visit from such a priest.
I can recall well their virtues being lauded
The number of their good works applauded,
I often heard throughout the land
A buzz of appreciation for this band,
I’ve seen incontrovertible evidence that many a son
Could call a priest a father in more ways than one.
Still, it bothers me greatly at the time
They spend on women past their prime,
While many a woman at best stage in life
Is left husbandless when she could be a wife.
In Ireland it has been demonstrably cruel
The damage that’s done by this aimless rule.
The trouble, I assert, O Fount of Wisdom
Is that clerical celibacy is the bane of Christendom
And is nothing if not an abomination.
I know I’m blind, I need an explanation
Tell us, if you know, the prophets’ sayings
What were the Lord’s apostles’ teachings
Where is it written that the Creator said
That the desires of the flesh shouldn’t be fed
Paul, in my opinion, never held that a vocation
Required abnegation of marriage, just fornication
To leave your relations and your parents’ house
And live for life with your wedded spouse.
Of course, it’s meaningless for a woman like me
To explain the law to your majesty,
O Spectral Pearl, you remember well
All of the stories that make up the Gospel
The meaning of the everlasting word
The parables of the Lamb you have heard
I give God’s married mother as the beau ideal
And the prophets’:rules promote women’s weal.
O Ghostly Seer, to you I plead
You who’re descended of heavenly seed
O Glorious Light, O Crown of the Throng
Hear my voice and help us along
Keep women’s plight firmly in your mind
The predicament of single womankind.
The number of maids, if this system doesn’t cease,
Will increase and grow like a flock of geese.
The smallest mite that you see in the street
Dirty urchins that are decrepit and not neat
You’d see how they’d improve, if they had for a day
Their fill of vegetables, curds and whey;
Like a bolt from the blue, all of a sudden
Their breasts would grow, they’d blossom and strengthen
It wounds my heart and raises my ire
And burns my mind with a mass of fire
To see so little prospect for much fun
With Munstermen outnumbered three to one.
Since the area is so poor and impotent
So utterly weak in this time so urgent
An empty Ireland where wastrels bray
And the youth of the country growing grey
A long spinsterhood seems a likelihood.
If I could find a man, either bad or good
I’ll cart him straight away to the altar
And tie him for life in a conjugal halter.

End of Part Four

Part Five: The Judgment and Resolution

Aoibheal issues her judgment on the issues brought before the court. She foretells that priests soon will be allowed to marry and she gives permission for the persecution of recalcitrant bachelors. The poet finds to his horror that he is the first to face the music.

The day was dawning out in the street,
As Aoibheal rose up from her seat
She had a youthful glow on her form and face
Her voice was strong and full of grace
She clasped her hands and with vehemence
Instructed the bailiff to order Silence
The whole of the court gradually grew quiet
And she spoke these words in a voice so bright-
I find lot’s of merit in the case you bring
It was a hell of a speech, you poor young thing.
I see, and it’s a sight that’s certainly grave,
That the descendants of Orla, Maura and Meave
Are now sly connivers and spineless creatures
Creepy characters and poor alms-seekers
The lowliest of the low and the fairly well off
Desperately coveting the bloodlines of the toff.
These are the laws that will govern from this date:
One: He who reaches twenty-one without a mate
Shall be dragged off by the hair of his head
And tied to a tree there among the dead
His coat to be taken and he be made to strip
And the daylights beaten out of him with a whip.
Two: Those of the men who are old and sick
Who shamelessly failed to use their prick
And wasted the best years of their youth
Without giving pleasure however minute
With women willing, they could have had a spree
But hung round like Mad Sweeney in the tree
The design of their torture to you I entrust,
You women of dashed and disappointed lust;
Use female ingenuity to plan the details
Of a hell of fire and a rack of nails
Put your heads together and stay the course
I’ll give you the power to put it in force
You are free to punish the old men at will
In their case, I don’t care if you torture or kill.
In my commission to you, I don’t mind
How you treat the oldsters, blighted and blind
With their bony bodies and grimacing grins
Their lifeless loins and scabrous skins.
Three: If the young go about the job of copulation
Then my law will protect them from condemnation.
I’m grateful when I see working men, sometimes poor
Labouring so hard you’d think they’d faint for sure
Affectionate with their wives by day and by night
Protecting their good name with all their might
Standing by their side because it is right
To see these guys with kids would be such a delight
Four: I heard a rumour that I’ve kept under wraps-
I can’t stand women who can’t close their traps-
Don’t be too loud in spreading it around
Button the lip, safer to stay underground!
Don’t push it too hard with the bishops yet
That they’ll soon be married is a pretty safe bet.
The day will come if you’re quiet diplomats
When the Pope will issue the necessary diktats
A commission will examine the country’s state
And there’ll be released to you, free to mate,
Priests with fire in their blood and pulsing flesh
And the pick of these heart-throbs will fall into your mesh.
Five: Anyone else who is of woman born
Read him the riot act if he doesn’t reform
Don’t have anything to do with sons of bitches
Slovens without honour or Muireanns in britches
And Six: Keep on the track of the old greybeards
And be sure to clear Ireland of all such weeds.
That’s it, I must get going, I’ve appointments to keep,
Many a mile to go before I sleep
The journey before me won’t brook delay
Unfinished business here will wait a new day
I’ll be back, which to some is not good news
Those to whom I give the blues;
Who burnish their reputations when they spread
Stories about girls they’ve had in bed
Who noisily boast having their way with maids
So the public will judge them dashing blades
It gives these poltroons such a rush to the head
To scandalize the young, both single and wed
Their motives are not out of concupiscence
The desires of the flesh or crazed tumescence
The pleasure of the act or fire in the veins
But the notoriety that their conduct attains.
It’s not pursuing enjoyment that excites their senses
But the general hullabaloo caused by their offences.
Of course, it’s all ostentation, exhibitionism and show
With no more justification than that a chicken should crow
Stumbling, bumbling, impotent, cold
They couldn’t arouse a woman for silver or gold.
I’d deal with these miscreants right now, right here
But I’m out of time, have to pack my gear
I’ll throw the lot of them in the hoosegow
When I come back here a month from now.
I had observed Aoibheal closely through the night
When she finished, I began to feel very uptight
I experienced a profound fit of agitation
My body paralyzed, my mind in consternation
I thought that the ground and the building were shaking
And with the import of her words, I was also quaking.
The giant bailiff woman strides across the hall
When she stuck out that paw, I thought I’d fall.
She angrily grabbed me by the lug
And to the front of the room, I was drug.
There was the babe who was bummed at her fate
She clapped her hands, and jumping up straight
She fiercely said: You old bag of slime
I’ve had my eye on you for a very long time
It’s often I urged you, you heartless carrion
That it was time for you to think of marrying.
Who will speak for you against the indictment?
You don’t merit one word, you indolent serpent
Where is the proof of your amorous labours?
Where are the women who appreciate your favours?
Let’s examine him carefully, O Royal Lady,
We won’t find on him a disabling malady
Give him a once-over, thorough and complete
From the top of his head to the soles of his feet.
Grant you he’s no maiden’s prayer
But all the essential bits are there.
He’s too pale for me; I’d prefer him brown,
About the cut of his physique-well, I don’t frown
On people who have a hump on their back-
It’s often the one with a bod out of whack
Who is most proficient at wielding the lance
And bandy legs don’t tell what’s in the pants.
Is there a secret nefarious plan
That keeps unmarried this aging man
Given how he’s liked by the lords of the barony
And how he lives with other classes in harmony,
His single state lets him sport and play
Lets him eat and drink and romp all day
In the quality’s company to dawdle and tarry
This shirker who could easily marry
Merryman seems a name for a merry man
But, in your case, I must say it just doesn’t scan
A creature like you is not in God’s design
A gray-haired virgin is not at all divine
I’m dying to get you in my grip
Your quick lip won’t let you give me the slip
Your crime is stamped in the lines on your forehead-
That you are age thirty and still not wed.
Listen to me, O fellow sufferers
This guy is one among those who torture us
The sorrow that has burdened me down,
Girls, I want to take it out on this clown.
Help me, I ask you, grab the dope;
Úna, hurry, fetch me a rope
Anne, where are you, don’t get lost
Mary, tie his hands to the post
Muireann, Meave, Shiela and Saiv
Feel free, go ahead, and skin him alive
As the fairy lady authorized last night,
Knot the rope good and tight
Be generous with the pain that you deal out
O the ass of Brian, the heartless lout;
Raise your hands high and lay on the whip
Use elbow grease to give it some zip
He deserves no less, cut him deep with each blow
Flay him evenly from head to toe
Let the crack of the whip be heard throughout Ireland
Put the fear of God in the unmarried band.
This new legislation is such a blast
We have to record the year it was passed:-
Figure: one thousand less one hundred and ten
Leaves eight hundred and ninety which when
Doubled gives the year Seventeen Eighty
From which we’ll date Year One of our history.
As she grabbed a pen my head did hang
In terror of more torture from that gang;
While she was writing down the date
Which the court members round her could corroborate
I woke from my sleep, my pit of despair
And realized with relief-it was just a nightmare.

Cuírt an Mheán Óiche (The Midnight Court) translation by Noel Fahy. Image copyright Ireland Calling

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