Speak Irish: Ar Leac Mhaoilre

Speak Irish: Ar Leac Mhaoilre
By Bob Carney

A little bit of silliness in this poem by Anonymous, the most prolific of all the poets. Irish classical poetry was very similar in metre and diction from the 14th thru the 17th centuries, but is thought to be somewhere from that period. I hope you enjoy it, and for those that know me, I wasn’t around when it was written!

AR LEAC MHAOILRE                                                       ar lahk wall-o-ree                                            

Mug, Cupán agus Píopa                                               mug kuh-pan ah-gus pyo-pa

Tá anseo scríofa ar a leaba,                                        taw ahn-sho skree-fuh ar ah a-buh

Is olc a bpáirt re Maoilre,                                           iss olk a bart reh mall-o-ree

Nach ligeadh dóibh scíth ná codladh!                      nahk ay-goo duv shkee nah kuh-la

“Ní miste liom féin,” ar an Mug,                              nee mih-shta lum fayne ar ahn mug

“ma bhíonn sé gan múscailt choíche,                     muh vee-un shay gan moos-kilt hee-ka

Is minic a d’fhág sé mo bholg                                  iss min-ik ah dahg shay mo wol-ug

Folamh lá fada agus oíche.”                                    fahl-uv la fah-da ah-gus ee-ha

“Mise mar an gcéanna,” ar an Píopa,                    meesha mar ahn gyen-ah ar ahn pyo-pa

“cé gur minic a níodh mo phógadh,                      kay gur min-ik a neeg mo foe-ga

Do loisceadh sé mo bhéal gach am,                      doe lishl-ay shay mo veel gach ahm  

Is do chaillinn mo cheann ana phóca.”                 Iss doe kahl-inn mo kyahn ana foe-ka

“Éistigí!” ar an Cupán,                                             aysht-ih-gee ar ahn kuh-pan

“a dhís breallán gan tuigse,                                    a yees brell-ahn gahn tig-sha

Éireo’ sé arís go folláin,                                           ayro shay ah-reesh guh fah-loin

Níl air ach creathán beag meisce.”                      Neel ayr ach kuh-hone be-yug mish-ka


A Mug, a Cup and a Pipe

Are here inscribed on his bed,

Little they care for Miley

Who deprived them of sleep and rest.


“I wouldn’t mind,” says the Mug,

“if he never got up any more.

‘tis often he left my belly

Empty, long day and night o’er.”


“The same goes for me,” says the pipe,

“tho’ he often plied me with kissing,

He scalded my mouth every time,

Inside his pocket my head went missing.”


“Will ye whist!” says the Cup,

“you two dull-wits haven’t a clue,

He’ll rise hale and hearty enough,

He’s just a bit shook by the booze.”

When translating anything, it’s best to start with the vocabulary you know, then refer to a dictionary. When attempting something older, I’ve found Dinneen’s Irish-English Dictionary to be helpful. With poetry or any form of literature however, somethings do not lend themselves for an easy translation.

Years ago, I was attempting to translate a magazine article about the coming of spring when I came accross a line that had to do with children playing outside; right in the middle of it I kept coming up with something about a chicken.

I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what the footsteps of a rooster had to do with children playing and springtime. I finally caved and called my teacher and explained my problem. He laughed and said, “Oh that’s just a way of saying an imperceptible amount of time. In other words the children would be playing a lot.”  My point is that sometimes you just have to go with what you think!

Speak Irish Cleveland Classes update
A new set of ten classes for all levels starts Tuesday September 14! Every Tuesday 6:15 to 8ish, at P.J. McIntyre’s Irish Pub. Registration is required: see flyer within for more details and how to register.


*Bob Carney is a student of Irish history and language and teaches the Speak Irish Cleveland class held every Tuesday @PJ McIntyre’s. He is also active in the Irish Wolfhound and Irish dogs organizations in and around Cleveland. Wife Mary, hounds Morrighán and Rían and terrier Doolin keep the house jumping. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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