Cabhair ni Ghoirfead, a new translation.

death, irish, language

A new translation is presented here of ‘Cabhair ni Ghoirfead’ (Poem XXI) by the great Irish poet of the late 17th and early 18th century Aodhagán Ó Rathaille. Patrick Dinneen, lexicographer and translator of Ó Rathaille, considered it the pinnacle of his work. The verse dates from late in the poet’s life (c.1670–1726) and is included in the excellent Dánta Aodhagáin Uí Rathaille published by the Irish Texts Society, an early off-shoot of the ILS, of which Dinneen was a leading member. O’Connor’s earlier translation for us of Ó Rathaille’s Ar Choileach do Goideadh Ó Shagart Mhaith is available here.


Cabhair ni Ghoirfead / I Will Not Cry for Help

An File ar Leabaidh a Bhais ag Scriobhadh gus a Charaid iar ndul i n-Eadothchas do i gcuisibh airithe / The poet on his death-bed writing to his friend, having from certain causes fallen into despondency.

Cabhair ni ghoirfead go gcuirtear me i gcruinn-chomhrainn
Dar an leabhar da ngoirinn nior ghoiride an nidh dhamh-sa
Ar gcodhnach uile, glacchumasach shil Eoghain
Is tollta a chuisle agus d’imthigh a bhri ar feochadh.
I will not cry for help till the coffin lid is sealed over
And by God, if I begged for it, help would not be any closer
Our protector and excellent shield of the seed of Eoghan
His strength ebbed, his vigour weakened and broken.
Do thonnchrith m’inchinn, d’imthigh mo phriomdhothchas
Poll im ionathar, biorrannaibh trim dhrolainn
Ar bhfonn, ar bhfoithin, ar monga ‘s ar mionchomhgair
I ngeall le pinginn ag fuirinn o chrich Dhobher.
My mind is a-quiver, the end of all I had hoped for
Insides shivering, pain keeps me doubled over
Our bowers, our shelter, the pleasant trees that enclose us
Pawned for a penny to men who blew in from Dover.
Do bhodhar an tSionainn, an Life, is an Laoi cheolmhar
Abhainn an bhiorra dhuibh, Brice agus Brighid, Boinne
Com Loch Dirg ‘na ruide, agus Tuinn Toime
O lom an cuireata cluiche ar an righ coroineach.
Howling, the Shannon, Liffey, the Lee once melodious
Blackwater, Boyne, Brick and Bride rivers loud in protest
The maw of Lough Derg running red, and the waves of Toime
Since the coward swindled the game from its royal owner.
Mo ghlam is minic is silim-se sirdheora
Is trom mo thubaist, ‘s is duine me ar miochomhthrom
Fonn ni thigeann im ghoire is me ag caoi ar bhoithribh
Acht foghar na muice nach gointear le saigheadoireacht.
Grief is a shout that fills me, weeping and groaning
Deepest misfortune, iniquity bitterly woeful
Without even a tune to lighten the cheerless roadside
Just the pig that cannot be killed and its fearsome roaring.
Goll na Rinne, na Cille, agus criche Eoghanacht
Do lom a ghoile le huireasbhaidh ar dith cora
an seabhach ‘g a bhfuilid sin uile is a gciosoireacht
Fabhar ni thugann don duine, ce gaol do-san.
The Lord of Ring, of Kill and the reaches of Eoghanacht
His power stripped with a pitiless lack of due process
And the hawk who seized rents and lands from their rightful holder
Would favour no one, not even those of his own kind.
Fa’n dtromlot d’imthigh ar chineadh na riogh mordha
Treabhann om uiseannaibh uisce go scimghlorach
Is lonnmhar chuirid mo shruithibh-se foinseoga
‘S an abhainn do shileas o Thruipill go caoin-Eochaill.
Since the downfall of those who loved the kings most noble
Drowned are my sodden features with bitter tears showing
The power of my weeping seems to me as copious
As the proud river from Truipill to Youghal flowing.
Stadfad-sa feasta, is gar dom eag gan moill
O treascradh dreagain Leamhan, Lein, is Laoi
Rachad-sa a haithle searc na laoch don chill
Na flatha fa raibh mo shean roimh eag do Chriost.
I will stop this now, death is not far away
Since the loss of the dragons of Laune, of Lee and Lein
I will follow these gallant heroes beneath the clay
The warriors my ancestors served ever since Christ’s day.

Brian O’Connor has been a member of the Irish Literary Society since the time of Professor Raymond Chapman’s Chairmanship. He was born in Cork, graduated from UCC and worked as a journalist and researcher.