Speak Irish: Michael Davitt
by Bob Carney
I GCUIMHNE AR LIS CEÁRNAIGHE, BLASCAODACH 1974
Tráth bhíodh cártaí ar bord,
(traw veed kor-tee ar board)
Coróin is mugaí tae fé choinneal
(krow-in iss mug-ee tay fay kwih-nel)
Cois tine ar caorthainn;
(kosh tih-na ar kare-hinn)
Asal amuigh san oiche,
(ahsall ah-mwee san ee-ha)
Madraí tamall gan bhia
(mah-dree tuh-mull gan vee-uh)
Is seanbhean dom mharú le Gaolainn.
(iss shan-van dom vah-roo leh gall-inn)
Tráth bhiodh an chaint tar éis Aifrinn
(traw veed an keyent tar aysh afrinn)
Is nárbh í a dhamnaigh faisean
(iss narv ee ah gahm-nig fash-in)
Stróinséirí in aon fhéachaint shearbhasash amháin
(stro-she-ree in a-in ee-ah hint hoe-ah shish ah-voyne)
Is nár chuir sí Laethanta Breátha
(iss nar kur shee layn-ta brow-ha)
Ó Ollscoil Chorcaí ina n-áit:
“An tuairgin”,” an coca féir”, “an fuaiscean”.
( ahn tar-ih-geen, ahn ko-ka feer, ahn foosh-kahn)
Tráth prátaí is maicréal
(traw prah-tee iss mak-reel)
Le linn na nuachta i lár an lae
(leh lynn na nook-ta ih lar ahn lay)
Ba mhinic a fiafraí
(buh vin-ic ah feer-ee)
Mar nárbh fhlúirseach a cuid Béarla
(mar narv lure-shah a cuhd ber-la)
Is déarfainn dhera go rabhadar ag marú a chéile
(iss deer-hin jer-ah guh row-a-dar egg mah-roo ah kay-lee)
I dtuaisceart na hÉireann.
(ih doosh-kyart na hare-on)
Tráth bhíodh sí ina dealbh
(traw veed shee ina dell-iv)
Ag fuinneog bharr an staighre,
(egg fwin-ogg wahr ahn sti-rah)
Ar strae siar amach thar ché
(ar sray sheer ah-mahk har kay)
Abhaile chun an oileáin i dtaibhreamh
(ah-wahl-ya khun ahn ih-lawn dye-riv)
Is dá dtiocfainn suas de phreib taobh thiar di:
(iss dah jehf-inn soo-us deh frib tay-uv heer dee)
“Ó mhuise fán fad’ ort, a chladhaire.”
(oh voosh-ah fawn fad ort ah kly-duh)
IN MEMORY OF ELIZABETH KEARNEY, BLASKETWOMAN
Once there were cards on the table,
Rosary and mugs of tea in candlelight
Beside a roaring fire;
Outside a donkey in the night,
Dogs to be fed and an old woman
Destroying me with Irish.
Once there was chatting after Mass
And she would trim the sails
Of strangers with one caustic look
Putting the Fine Days frm Cork
University back in their place:
“The pestle”, “the hen crab”, “the haycock”.
Once at potato and mackerel time
During the one thirty news
She’d ask what was going on
In the world because her English
Was poor and I’d say yera
They’re killing each other in the North of Ireland.
Once she was a statue
At the landing window
Heading out from the quay,
Dreaming her way home to the island
And if I came up suddenly behind her:
“Oh, you chancer, may you long be homless.”
Michael Davitt was one of a group of poets who began publishing in Irish in the late 1960s, many of whom were students at University College, Cork. While there, he founded the poetry journal, “Innti” which became a platform for Irish language poetry until the end of the Twentieth Century. He later worked as a television presenter and producer with RTÉ.
From his earliest works, to those written just prior to his death in 2005, he captured many of the mannerisms of the West Kerry dialect. He had an affection for older native speakers and singers and shared that in many of his poems. Although he cited many influences in Irish and English literature, including Bob Dylan, who he said set the standard for poetry, his voice is his own.
I first came across “In Memory of Elizabeth Kearney, Blasketwoman” in it’s English translation in a collection of modern Irish poetry, I was pleased to learn that Michael Davitt wrote in Irish, and for this topic in particular, it seems much more appropriate. I hope you enjoy both versions as much as I have.
Slán go Fóill!