Cas Amhrn -- Gaelic Songs



Our most direct link to the heart of our Gaelic-speaking ancestors, both Scots and Irish, is in the songs passed down through the ages. The poetry of the Gaels, travelling in bardic memory, old manuscripts, and now in modern recordings, still carry their haunting power and we are fortunate that throughout the years of oppression and destruction so many of these works have survived. The true voice of the Gael can be heard in their poetry.

Because of the resurgent popularity of Celtic music, the poems as well as the Gaelic language have enjoyed a new interest with modern audiences. What follows is a list of some of my favorites works, in Gaelic and in English whenever possible, with additional notes wherever possible of current recordings.

Starting though with some very old examples of the bardic style...

The Incitement to Battle
Harlaw, 1411

by Lachlann Mor MacMhuirich

A Chlanna Cuinn, cuimhnichibh
Cruas an am na h-iorghaile:
Gu h-irneach, gu h-arranta,
Gu h-athlamg, gu h-allanta,
Gu bedha, gu barramhail,
Gu broghmhor, gu buan-fheargach,
Gu calma, gu curanta,
Gu crdha, gu cath-bhuadhach,
Gu dr is gu dsannach,
Gu dian is gu deagh-fhulang,
Gu h-asgaidh, gu h-eaghnamhach,
Gu h-idith, gu h-eireachdail,
Gu fortail, gu furachail,
Gu frithir, gu forniata,
Gu gruamach, gu grineamhail,
Gu gleusta, gu gaisgeamhail,
Gu h-ullamh, gu h-inntinneach,
Gu h-iomdha, gu h-iomghonach,
Gu Iaomsgar, gu ln-ath lamh,
Gu lidir, gu luath-bhuileach,
Gu mearghanta, gu mr-chneadhach,
Gu meanmnach, gu mileanta,
Gu neimhneach, gu naimhdeamhail,
Gu niatach, gu neimh-eaglach,
Gu h-obann, gu hu-olla-ghnomhach,
Gu h-oirdheirc, gu h-oirheartach,
Gu prap is gu promh-ullamh,
Gu prosta, gu prionnsamhail,
Gu ruaimneach, gu ro-dhna,
Gu ro-bhorb, gu roghamhail,
Gu sanntach, gu sanamhail,
Gu socair, gu sr-bhuailteach,
Gu teannta, gu togarrach,
Gu talcmhor, gu traigh-asgaidh,
Gu h-urlamh, gu h-r-mhaiseach,
Do chosnadh na cath-lthrach,
Re bronnaibh bhar biodhbhadha,
A Chlanna Cuinn Cad-chathaich,
A nois uair bhar n-aitheanta,
A chuileanan confadhach,
A bheithrichean Bunanta,
A lemhannan l-ghasta,
A on chonaibh iorghaileach,
Chaoiribh chrdha, churanta,
De Chlanna Cuinn Cad-chathaich,
A Chlanna Cuinn, cuimhnichibh
Cruas an am na h-iorghaile.
O Children of Conn, remember
Hardihood in time of battle:
Be watchful, daring,
Be dextrous, winning renown,
Be vigorous, pre-eminent,
Be strong, brave,
Be valiant, triumphant,
Be resolute, fierce,
Be forceful and stand your ground,
Be nimble, valourous,
Be well-equipped, handsomely accoutred,
Be dominant, watchful,
Be fervid, pugnacious,
Be dour, inspiring fear,
Be ready for action, warrior-like,
Be prompt, war-like,
Be exceedingly fierce, recklessly daring,
Be prepared, willing,
Be numerous, giving battle,
Be fiery, fully-ready,
Be strong, dealing swift blows,
Be spirited, inflicting great wounds,
Be stout-hearted, martial,
Be venomous, implacable,
Be warrior-like, fearless,
Be swift, performing great deads,
Be glorious, nobly powerful,
Be rapid (in movement), very quick,
Be valiant, princely,
Be acting, exceedingly bold,
Be ready, fresh and comely,
Be exceedingly fierce, king-like,
Be eager, be successful,
Be unflurried, striking excellent blows,
Be compact (in your ranks), elated,
Be vigorous, nimble-footed,
In winning the battle against your enemies.
O Children of Conn of the Hundred Battles.
Now is the time for you to win recognition,
O raging whelps,
O sturdy heroes,
O most sprightly lions,
O battle-loving warriors,
O brave, heroic firebrands,
The Children of Conn of the Hundred Battles,
O Children of Conn, remember
Hardihood in time of battle.


N h-bhneas Gan Clainn Domhnaill

Giolla Colum mac an Ollaimh,
in the book of the Dean of Lismore, 16th Century

N h-bhneas gan Clainn Domhnaill,
n comhnairt bheith 'ne n-aghmais;
and chlann dob fhearr san gcruinne:
gur dhobh gach duine catach.

Uaithne na Alban uaine,
clann as cruaidhe ghabh bhaisteadh;
'g roibh treas gacha tre,
seabhaig Ile as ghaisgeach.
It is no joy without Clan Donald,
it is no strength to be without them;
the best race in the round world:
to them belongs every goodly man.

Brilliant pillars of green Alba,
a race the hardiest that received baptism;
a race who won fight in every land,
hawks of Islay for valour.


Of the traditional songs that follow, some can be found on modern recordings and those have been so noted. Translations may not follow the Gaelic exactly and in some places no ready translation was at hand.

Cumha Mhic Criomain
MacCrimmon's Lament

18th century, for one who did not return from Culloden

Dh' iadh ce nan stc mu eudann Chuilinn,
Us sheinn 'bhean-shth a torman mulaid,
Gorm shilean ciin 'san Dn a sileadh,
O'n thriall thu uainn 's nach till thu tuille.

Cha till, cha till, cha till Mac Criomain,
An cogadh no sth cha till e tuille;
Le airgiod no n cha till Mac Criomain,
Cha till e gu brth gu l na cruinne.

Tha osag nam beann gu fann ag imeachd,
Gach sruthan 's gach allt gu mall le bruthach;
Tha ealtainn nan speur feadh gheugan dubhach,
A' caoidh gu 'n d'fhalbh 's nach till thu tuille.
On Cuilinn's peak, the mist is sailing,
The banshee croons a note of wailing;
Blue eyes in Duin wi' sorrow are streaming,
For him that shall never return -- MacCrimmon.

No more, no more, no more forever
In war or peace shall return MacCrimmon;
No more, no more, no more forever
Shall gold or love bring back MacCrimmon.

The breeze on the brae is mournfully blowing
The brook in the hollow is plaintively flowing
Where boughs their darkest shades are throwing
Birds mourn for him that is never returning.


O Nach Till Thu Ruinn a Ris
Will Ye No Come Back Again?

18th century, for another one who did not
return from Culloden

Tearlach g gu'n d'fhalbh e uainn,
Taruint thall thar uchd a' chuain,
'S lonbhor cridhe brist' a bhios,
Mur a till e ruinn a rs.

O, nach till thu ruinn a rs,
O, nach till thu ruinn a rs,
Gaol na's blthe chaoidh cha bhi,
Na gaol nan Gaidheal dhutsa, rgh.

Bonnie Charlie's gang awa',
Safely o'er the friendly Main,
Many a heart will break in twa,
Should he ne'er come back again.

Will ye no come back again?
Will ye no come back again?
Better loved ye canna be.
Will ye no come back again?



Coisich a Rin
Come, My Darling

a 400 year old Gaelic waulking song,
the first to make Britain's Top 40 Pop Chart

Coisich, a rin, h il oro
cum do ghealladh rium, o hi ibh o;
beir soriadh bhuam, h il oro
dha na Hearadh, boch orainn o.

Beir soriadh bhuam, h il oro
dha na Hearadh, o hi ibh o;
gu Seon Caimbeul, h il oro
donn my leannan, boch orainn o.

Gu Seon Caimbeul, h il oro
donn my leannan, o hi ibh o;
sealgair geidh, h il oro
rin is eala, boch orainn o.

Sealgair geidh, h il oro
rin is eala, o hi ibh o;
bhric a n leum, h il oro
'n fhidh ri langan, boch orainn o.

'S fliuch an oidhche, h il oro
nochd 's gur fuar i, o hi ibh o;
ma thug Clann Nll, h il oro
druim a' chuain orr', boch orainn o.

Ma thug Clann Nll, h il oro
druim a' chuain orr', o hi ibh o;
luchd nan sel rd, h il oro
's nan long luatha, boch orainn o.

Luchd nan sel rd, h il oro
's nan long luatha, o hi ibh o;
's nam brataichean, h il oro
gorm is uaine, boch orainn o.

'S nam brataichean, h il oro
gorm is uaine, o hi ibh o;
cha b'fhear cearraig, h il oro
bheireadh bhuat i, boch orainn o.
Come on, my love --
keep your promise to me --
take greetings from me --
over to Harris --

Take greetings from me
over to Harris
to John Campbell
my brown-haired sweetheart

To John Campbell
my brown-haired sweetheart
hunter of goose
seal and swan

Hunter of goose
seal and swan
leaping trout
of bellowing deer

Wet is the night
tonight, and cold
If the MacNeills
have put to sea

If the MacNeills
have put to sea
men of high sails
and swift ships

Men of high sails
and swift ships
and of banners
blue and green

And of banners
blue and green
no left-hander
could take her rudder from you.

From Delirium by Capercaille, Green Linnet Records, Inc.



Am Buachaile Bn
The Fair Shepherd

Och, ochan a Rgh gura tinn an galair an grdh!
Chan eil neach air am b nach saoil gura seach dainn gach l,
Gun bhrist e mo chridh 's gun sgaoil e cuislean mo shlint
Bhith 'g amharc ad dhidh, a gheug a' bhrollaich ghil bhin, ghil bhin.

A bhuachaille bhin, ma's il leat labhairt air fhs,
Gura leatsa gun dil, mo lmh, ma thg thu rinn dlth:
Gur truagh mar at, nach d'fhrlaidh mis' agus thu
An eilein gun trigh, gun rmh, dun choite, gun stir, gun stir.

Na faicaidh dibh geug, 's i 'g eirigh maduinn chin che,
Le fearsa dha reir, ni ceudan mhealladh 'nan digh:
Gur binne do bheul na teudan fhidheall ri cel,
'S nach truagh let mi 'd dheidh leam ghein air cnocan ri brn, ri brn.
Alas, what a deadly sickness is love
There is no one who suffers it but feels every day is a week
It has broken my heart and sapped the strings of my health
To keep gazing after you, young man of the fair white breast.

Fair-haired lad, if you but care to speak first
My heart shall be yours without delay if you come for me
Pity it is that you and I did not find ourselves
On an island with no ebb, with no oar, no boat, no rudder.

If you could see such a shoot springing up on a calm misty morning
With looks to go with it fit to win the hearts of thousands
Your voice is sweeter than the strings of violins playing
Can you not take pity on me, left alone without you, lamenting on the knoll?

From Crosswinds by Capercaille, Green Linnet Records, Inc.



Teidhir Abhaile Ri
Come Home, Darling

An Irish song about a marriage
not necessarily to the bride's liking

Tir abhaile ri
Tir abhaile ri
Tir abhaile ri Mhary
Tir abhaile ri 's fan sa bhaile
Mar t do mhargadh danta.
Is cuma c dhein n n dheain
Is cuma c dhein Mhary
Is cuma c dhein n n dheain mar
T do mhargadh danta.

Ps an piobaire
Ps an piobaire Mhary
Ps an piobaire dts na hoiche
Is beidh s agat ar maidin

Nl mo mhargadh
T do mhargadh
Nl mo mhargadh danta
T do mhargadh
Nl mo mhargadh
T do mhargadh danta
Come home, darling,
Come home, darling,
Come home, darling Mary,
Come home and stay at home
Your (marriage) deal is made.

It doesn't matter if it is or not,
It doesn't matter, Mary,
It doesn't matter if it is or not,
Your deal is made.

Marry the piper,
Marry the piper,
Marry the piper,
and he'll be yours in the morning.

My deal is not made,
Your deal is made.
My deal is not made.
Your deal is made,
My deal is not made,
Your deal is made.

From Clannad 2 by Clannad, Gael-Linn Records



Dhanainn Sgradh
The Black Haired Maiden

A Scottish Waulking Song

Dheanainn sgradh ris an nigh'n dubh
'n deidh dhomh irigh as a 'mhadainn
Dheanainn sgradh ris an nigh'n dubh

Dheanainn sgradh ris a' ghruagaich
nuair a bhiodh a' sluagh nan cadal

Dheanainn sgradh an am dsgadh
'n am na siil a bhith 'gham pasgadh

Di-Luain an digh Di-Domhnaich
dh'fhalbh sinn le Senaid a Arcaibh

Bha muir gorm a'ruith fo cuinnlein
's i cur still a grunnd an aigeil

Riof 'gha ceangal's riof 'gha fuasgladh
muir ma guallain fuaim is fead oirr

Null ma Chaolas na Rimh
b'fheudar dhuinn am bm a leaiseadh

Null ma Chaolas na Fraing
maide 'na limh 's goath 'gha greasad

Cha robh ropa feum a spleiadhsadh
air mo mhaighdeann ri tigh'n dhachaidh

Dh'fheumadh prsan thigh'n a bth dhith
ged a bhiodh a crn an cairteal

Ged a bhiodh a crn an irleach
dh'fheumadh prsan dheth thigh'n dhachaidh
I played with the black haired maiden,
in the morning when I woke,
I played with the black haired maiden.

I played with the young virgin,
when the others were still asleep.

I played when we awoke,
When the sails were unfurled.

On Monday, after the day of our Lord,
We left the Orkneys on the Seanaid.

The green billows rolled over her prow,
How she fought the cavern of the waves.

Dancing between reefs, eluding sand bars,
She plowed through the sea, battering her sides.

We had to chain ourselves to the door,
Before the straits of Rome.

We outsailed the French Pass,
Led by the winds, tiller firmly in hand.

But we kept not one rope,
On board for the road of return.

From Clannad 2 by Clannad, Gael-Linn Records;
translation by Katy Benjamin, from Journee la Maison by Alan Stivell, Rounder Records.



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