Ó Rathaille, a new translation.

Gavin Clarke history, Poetry, translation

A new translation is presented here of Ar Choileach do Goideadh Ó Shagart Mhaith by the great Irish poet of the late 17th and early 18th century whose acerbic verse often bears witness to the closing down of the civilisation that nurtured him.

By BRIAN O’CONNOR

Rage and loss are more typical subjects of Aodhagán Ó Rathaille (c. 1670-1726) than this little satire, where he mimics a pompous judge. Conveying his intricate rhythms and rhyme schemes are a challenge for a translator, even more so in his great laments of dispossession. The verse dates from around 1700 and is included in the excellent Dánta Aodhagáin Uí Rathaille published by the Irish Texts Society.

Ar Choileach do Goideadh Ó Shagart Mhaith / The Priest’s Stolen Cock

Whereas Aonghus, fáithchliste,
Sagart cráibhtheach, críostaightheach,
Do theacht indiu im láithir-se,
Le gearán cáis is fírinne:
Whereas Aongus, a clever sort
A priest both Christian and God fearing
Has come today before my court
With a complaint that merits hearing
Gur cheannuigh coileach airdshleachta,
Dá chearcaibh sráide is tíoghbhaile,
Ba bhreághtha scread is bláthmhaise,
Is baic le scáil gach líondatha;
.. His new bought cock, with well groomed feathers
Of beauteous and melodious crow
And neck of multicoloured glow
To serve his hens,  and maybe others..
Thug sé caogad mínscilling
Ar an éan do b’aoibhinn cúilbhrice,
Gur sciob síobhradh draoidheachta é
Ó aonach chinn na dúithche seo.
A price of fifty shillings clear
He gave for this most handsome fowl
Which at our county’s foremost fair
Some spiteful spirit duly stole
Ba ghábhadh dá shamhuil dáirithe
Coileach screaduighthe is dúistighthe
Do bheith dá fhaireadh ar shámhchodhladh
I n-am gach easpuirt úrnaighthe.
Yet such a man would need to keep
A cock whose crow would rudely rouse
Its owner from his slumber deep
And call him to his prayers and vows
M’órdughadh dhíbh, an t-ádhbhar soin,
A bháillidhe stáit mo chúirte-se,
Déinidh cuardughadh airdshlighte,
Is sin le díoghrais dúthrachta;
This matter I now take in hand
You, bailiffs of my court, must go
To spread yourselves throughout the land
And search with zeal both high and low
Ná fágbhaidh lios ná síothchnocán,
Ina gcluinfidh sibh glór ná gliogarnáil,
Gan dul i ndiaidh an tsíodhchonáin,
Do rin an gníomh le plundaráil.
Leave out no fairy fort or mound
Which might emit a clucking sound
Pursue the culprit to his lair
Whose plunder set off this affair
Wheresoever cuainseachán
Ina bhfuighidh sibh an tórpachán,
Tugaid chugham-sa é ar ruainseachán,
Go gcrochad é mar dhreoileacán,
Whichever burrow, deep inside
The skulking little crab be spied
Bring him to me securely tied
That I may hang his foolish hide
For your so doing, d’oibliogáid,
Ag so uaim díbh bhúr n-ughdarás,
Mar scríobhas mo lámh le cleiteachán,
An lá so d’aois an Uachtaráin.
This heinous crime to cauterise
I hereby duly authorise
With feather quill I write the word
Today in this year of our Lord.

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.