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Gaelic Songs and Translations

All translations and commentaries © Donald Macdonald unless otherwise credited.

 

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AN ATAIREACHD ÀRD

An ataireachd bhuan,
Cluinn fuaim na h-ataireachd àrd,
Tha torunn a’ chuain,
Mar chualas leam-s’ e ’n am phàisd,
Gun mhuthadh gun truas,
A sluaisreadh gainneimh na tràgh’d
An ataireachd bhuan,
Cluinn fuaim na h-ataireachd àrd,

Gach làd le a stuadh,
Cho luaisgeach , farumach, bàn,
’N a chabhaig gu cruaidh,
’S e gruamach, dosrach, gun sgàth,
Ach striochdadh a luath ’s
Aig bruaich na h-uidhe bh’aig càch,
Mar chaochail an sluagh,
Bha uair ’s a bhaile-sa tàmh.

’S na coilltean a siar
Cha’n iarrainn fuireach gu brath,
Bha m’inntinn ’s mo mhiann,
A riamh air lagan a bhàigh
Ach iadsan bha fial
An gniomh, an caidreamh, ’s an àgh,
Air sgapadh gun dion
Mar thriallas ealtainn roimh nàmh.

Seileach is luachair,
Cluaran, muran ’is stàrr,
Air tachdadh nam fuaran
’N dh’fhuair mi iomadh deoch-phàit’.
Na tobhtaichean fuar
Le bualan, ’s cuiseag gu’m bàrr,
’S an eanntagach ruadh,
Fàs suas ’s a chagailt ’bha blàth.

Ach chunnaic mis’ uair,
’M bu chuannar beathail an t-àit
Le òigridh gun ghruaim
Bha uasal, modhail ’n an càil,
Le màthraichean shuairc,
Làn uaill ’n an còmpanaich gràidh
Le caoraich is buar,
Air gluas’d moch mhadainn nan tràth.

Ag amharc mu’n cuairt,
Cha dual dhomh gun a bhi ’m phràmh,
Cha’n fhaic mi an tuath,
De ’m shuaicheant’ cathrannas tlàth,
’N am fògaraich thruagh,
Chaidh ’m fuadach thairis air sàl,
’S cha chluinn iad gu buan
Mòr fhuaim na h-ataireachd àrd.

Fir sgiursaidh an t-sluaigh,
Cha bhuan iad bharrachd air càch,
Bu chridheil an uaill
’G ar ruagadh mach gun chion fàth,
Ach sannt agus cruas;
An duais tha aca mar tha,
Mòr dhiomb’ is droch luaidh
An uaigh le mallachd nan àl.

Ach siubhlaidh mi uat;
Cha ghluais mi tuilleadh ’n ad dhàil;
Tha m’ aois is mo shnuadh
’Toirt luaidh air giorrad mo là,
An àm dhomh bhi suaint’;
Am fuachd ’s an cadal a’ bhàis,
Mo leabaidh dean suas
Ri fuaim na h-ataireachd àrd.

Domhnall MacIomhair (born 1857)

THE HIGH SURGING

The everlasting surge,
Hear the sound of the high surging;
The thundering of the ocean,
That I heard as a child,
Without change, without mercy,
Mingling with the sand on the beach.
The everlasting surge,
Hear the sound of the high surging.

Each force of its breakers,
Quaking, noisy and white,
In such great haste,
So forbidding, cresting, exposed
Submitting to its speed
At the edge of each eddy,
Like the people passed on
Who once lived in this place.

In the western forests
I would not want to live forever;
My mind and my desire
Was always on the cove of the bay,
But those friends
Generous in fellowship and joy
Have been scattered, defenceless,
Gone like the flocks from their foes.

Willow and rushes,
Thistles, marram and weeds
Choking the wells
Where I oft-times slaked my thirst.
The ruins, now cold,
With groundsel and reeds to their rafters,
And red nettles
Growing up from their hearths that once were warm.

But I once saw,
When this place was lively and neat,
With blithe youth,
Noble and civil in their ways,
With courtly mothers,
Full of pride for their loved ones,
With sheep and cattle
Afoot in early morn.

Looking around,
It is not fitting for me not to grieve.
I don't see the countrymen,
The reminder of birthright,
Of the poor exiles
Who were banished over the ocean,
Never to hear
The great sound of the surging sea.

The scourge of the people
Will not outlast the rest.
Zealous they were
Evicting them only for
Greed and tyranny;
The reward they already have,
Much hatred and disrepute
The grave and the damnation of posterity.

But I will journey from you,
I will tarry no longer with you.
My age and my changes
Hinting at the shortness of my days,
Time for my sleep
In the cold slumber of death:
Make my bed,
By the sound of the surging sea.


MO CHAILIN DÌLEAS DONN

Gu ma slàn a chì mi mo chailin dìleas donn;
Bean a chuailein réidh air an deas a dh'éireadh fonn,
'Si cainnt do bheòil bu bhinne leam,
An uair bhiodh m'inntinn trom,
'S tu thogadh suas mo chridh'-sa
'Nuair bhiodh tu bruidheann riùm.

Gur muladach a tà mi,
'S mi nochd air aird a' chuain,
'S neo-shunndach mo chadal dhomh,
'S do chaidreamh fada bhuam;
Gur tric mi ort a smaointeach',
As t'aogais tha mi truagh,
'Is mar a dean mi d' fhaotainn
Cha bhi mo shaoghal buan.

Sùil chorrach mar an dearcag
Fo 'n rosg a dh'iathas dlùth
Is gruaidhean mar an caorann
Fo 'n aodann tha leam ciùin -
Mur dh'aithris iad na breugan
Gu'n tug mi fheinn dhut rùn
'S gur bliadhna leam gach latha
Bho'n uair a dh'fhàg mi thu.

Tacan mu'n do sheòl sinn,
Is ann a thòisich càch,
Ri innse do mo chruinneag-sa
Nach tillin-sa gu brath;
Na cuireadh sud ort gruaimean,
A luaidh, ma bhios mi slàn,
Cha chùm dad idir 'uat mi
Ach saighead chruaidh a'bhàis.

Tha'n t-snaim a nise ceangailte,
Gu daingeann is gu teann,
'Se their luchd na fanoid rium
Nach eil mo phrothaid ann -
Am fear aig am bheil fortan,
Tha crois aige 'na cheann,
'S tha mise taingeil, toilichte,
Ged tha mo sporan gann.

Hector MacKenzie, Loch Broom.

MY FAITHFUL BROWN-HAIRED LASS

Healthy do I see you, my faithful brown-haired lass;
Damsel of the well-groomed tresses, singer of the songs;
The words from your mouth so sweet for me
When my mind was melancholy,
And you uplifted my heart
Whenever you spoke to me.

Despondent I am,
Tonight on the high seas,
And uneasy my sleep
Your companionship far from me:
Oft-times do I think of you
As your image leaves me sad,
And if I can not have you
My world will not last.

Passionate eye like the berry
Beneath lashes that hover close
And cheeks like the rowan
In a countenance calming to me.
There were those who spoke falsehoods
About my intentions towards you,
But to me each day seems like a year
From the time that I left you.

A short time before we sailed,
That's when others began
To tell you my own darling
That I would not return;
Do not let that disturb you,
My dear if I am well
Nothing will ever keep me from you
But the cold arrow of death.

The knot is now tied
Firm and secure;
The scornful ones say to me
That I am at a disadvantage,
Like the man of great riches
Whose wealth is the cross he bears,
But I am happily thankful
Though my purse be spare.


CUMHA MHIC CRIOMAIN

Dh'iath ceò nan stùc
Mu aodan Chuillin,
Is sheinn a bhean shìth
A torman mulaid,
Gorm shùilean ciùin
'S an dùn a sileadh,
O'n thriall thu bhuainn
'S nach till thu tuille.

Cha till, cha till,
Cha till MacCriomain;
An cogadh no sith
Cha till e tuille.
Le airgiod no nì
Cha till MacCriomain;
Cha till e gu brath
Gu là na cruinne.

Tha osag nam beann
Gu fann ag iomachd,
Gach sruthan 's gach allt
Gu mall le bruthach;
Tha ealtainn nan speur
Troimh gheùgan duilleach,
A caoidh gu'n dh'fhalbh
'S nach till thu tuille.

Cha till ...

Cha chluinnear do cheòl
'S an dùn mu fheasgar,
'S Mac-Talla na mùr
Le mùirn ga fhreagairt:
Gach fleasgach is òigh
Gun cheòl 's gun bheadradh,
O'n thriall thu bhuainn
'S nach till thu tuille.

Cha till ...

MACCRIMMON'S LAMENT

The mist of the peaks
Wreathed the face of Coolin,
And the banshee sang
Her murmur of sorrow;
Tranquil blue eyes
In the fort are shedding
Since you departed
And will never return

Return not, return not,
Return not MacCrimmon
In wartime or peace
Return he will never,
With silver or else
MacCrimmon returns not ever,
Not ever at all
Until Judgement Day.

The breeze from the mountain
Is feebly departing,
Each stream and each brook
Wind round the bens.
The flocks of the air
In branches so leafy
Mourn your decease -
And you will never return.

Return not ...

Your music will not be heard
Round the fort at nightfall,
The echos of the ramparts
With fondness will answer:
Each youth and each maiden
Without music nor flirting
Since your departure
And never returning.

Return not ...


CADAL CHA DEAN MI

Cadal cha dean mi,
Sùgradh cha dean mise;
'Nochd cha'n fhaigh mi tàmh,
'S gun mo ghràdh a tighinn.

Cha b'ann dubh no ruadh
A bha luaidh mo chridhe,
'S ann a bha thu bàn,
Àilleagan nan gillean.

Dhìrich mi cnoc àrd,
Fhuair mi àite suidhe,
Timchioll Rudha Stòir
Far an seòl na luingean.

Sgriobhadair le pheann,
Leabhradair nan duilleag,
Maraiche nan tonn,
Chuireadh long gu siubhal.

Bhuail i air an tràigh
Far am fàs an duileasg,
Leum thu mach a ghràidh
Is shàbhail thu iad uile.

Bha mi 'n uiridh slàn -
Tha mi 'm bliadhna briste -
Am bàta air an tràigh
'S i na mìle bioran.

As is the case with many Gaelic songs, this one has several variations.

SLEEP COMES NOT TO ME

Sleep comes not to me,
And I am far from gay
Tonight I won't find peace
For my sweetheart comes not to me.

It was not dark nor red of hair
That my darling was
He was blonde and fair
The Jewel of all youth.

I climbed a high hill
And found a place to sit
Round the Point of Storr
Where sail by the big ships.

Writer with his pen
Author of the pages
Mariner of the high seas
He could speed a ship to sailing.

She struck upon the beach
Where the dulce grows,
You leaped out my darling
And saved each man there with you.

Last year I was healthy
But this year I am broken
My love's ship is on the shore
In a thousand pieces.


A RIBHINN ÒIG 'BHEIL CUIMHN' AGAD?

A rìbhinn a' bheil cuimhn' agad?
A' ghruagach dhonn an cluinn thu mi?
A rìbhinn òig 'bheil cuimhn' agad?
An oidhche mu'n do sheòl mi.

A rìbhinn na biodh iongnadh ort
Cho geal 's a tha mo chiabhag-sa,
'S iomadh oidhche fhiathaich
'Rinn mi 'n cuan an iar a sheòladh.

A rìbhinn a' bheil cuimhn' agad? ...

A rìbhinn na biodh àmghar ort,
Oir 's cinnteach tha mo làmh-sa dhut,
Is tu a' ghràidh as fhearr leam
Na mo mhàthair dh'àraich òg mi.

A rìbhinn a' bheil cuimhn' agad? ...

'Nuair bhios mi gun chompanach;
'Nuair bhios an oidhche trom orm,
Bi 'ghràdhach òg 'nam chuimhne-sa
Liuthad oidhch' a bha sinn comhla.

A rìbhinn a' bheil cuimhn' agad? ...

'Nuair bhios mi aig a chuidhl' aice
'S ann ort a bhios mi smaoineachadh;
Bi 'ghealach toirt nam chuimhne
Liuthad oidhch' a bha sinn còmhla.

A rìbhinn a' bheil cuimhn' agad? ...

A rìbhinn a' bheil cuimhn' agad ...
'Nuair dhìreas mi do'n chrann aice
'S a bhios an oidhche gheamhraidh ann,
Is mòr gu'm b'fhearr bhi'n oidhche sin
An coibhneas na te bhòidhich.

A rìbhinn a' bheil cuimhn' agad? ...

MY BEAUTIFUL MAIDEN, DO YOU REMEMBER?

My beautiful maiden do you remember?
My brown-haired darling do you hear me?
My beautiful young maiden do you remember?
The night before I sailed.

My darling, don't be wondering
Why my hair is turning grey,
Many's the tempestuous night
I sailed the western sea.

My beautiful young maiden do you remember? ...

My darling do not be distressed,
For my hand is destined for you
And it's you I prefer my sweetheart,
Even to my own mother who reared me young.

My beautiful young maiden do you remember? ...

When I am without companion
And the night bears heavily down on me,
My young beloved is in my thoughts -
The many nights we shared.

My beautiful young maiden do you remember? ...

When I am at the wheel
It is with you that my thoughts are -
The moon brings back to me
The nights we spent together.

My beautiful young maiden do you remember? ...

When I climb the mast
In the winter's night,
Oh greatly would I prefer
To share the tenderness of my beauty.

My beautiful young maiden do you remember? ...


EILEAN MO CHRIDH'

'S truagh nach robh mis' ann an Eilean Mo Chrìdh'
Eilean mo ghràidh far an dh'àraicheadh mi,
'S truagh nach robh mis' ann an Eilean mo Chridh',
Eilean nam fuar-bheann àrda.

Ruithinn-se cas-ruisg-t air monadh is fraoch
Nam faighinn-se thairis air aiseag a chaoil,
Rachainn le cabhag gu clachan mo ghaoil,
Do'n dachaidh 's an dh'fhuair mi m' àrach.

'S truagh nach robh mis' ann an Eilean mo Chridh' ...

'S mis' a bhiodh sona nan robh mi an dràsd
Ri taobh na cruaich-mhòna, air cnocan a tàmh;
An ceò-geal bu bhoidhche a lùbadh 'sa snàmh
'S a tuiteam mo ghualain Blath-Bheinn.

'S truagh nach robh mis' ann an Eilean mo Chridh' ...

Dhùrachdainn fuireach le cuideachd mo ghràidh
'S a bhothan aig Uilleam aig tuinne na traigh;
Gu'n éisd bhi òirnn tuile gach oidhche na là,
Ach muir agus monadh a laimh rinn.

'S truagh nach robh mis' ann an Eilean mo Chridh' ...

Chì mi am Meall, agus chì mi an Sgòrr;
Slinnean Churaing agus Binnean an Stòrr,
Healabhal Bheag agus Healabhal Mhòr -
Beul nan Tri-Allt is Geàrraidh.

By John Maclean (Caid)
Glendale, Skye.

ISLE OF MY HEART

O, would that I were in the Isle of my Heart,
My dear island where I grew up;
O, would that I were in the Isle of my Heart,
Isle of the high cold mountains.

Barefoot I'd run over moorland and heather
If I could cross over the ferry to Kyle,
I would go in a hurry to the village I love
To the home where I was raised.

O, would that I were ...

Content I would be if I were justnow
Beside the peat-stack on a hillock at rest
The most beautiful mist, wreathing and swimming
And falling o'er the shoulders of Blath-Bheinn

O, would that I were ...

My wish is to stay with the kin of my heart
In William's wee bothy by the waves on the beach,
Where forever we'd listen each night and each day
With but moorland and sea beside us.

O, would that I were ...

I see the Meall and I see the Sgorr
The side of Quirang and the hills of the Storr
Little Helaval and Big Helaval
The Three Streams delta and Gearraidh


ÒRAN NA MAIGHDINN MHARA

Hùbha i 's na Horaibh Hùbhaidh,
Hùbha i 's na Horaibh Hì:
Hùbha i 's na Horaibh Hùbhaidh,
'S ann le foill a mheall thu mì.

A mach air bharr nan stuadh ri gaillionn,
Fuachd is feannadh fad 'o thìr;
Tha mo ghaol dhuit daònan fallainn
Ged is Maighdinn mhara mì.

Hùbha ...

Chaneil mo chadal-sa ach luaineach
'Nuair bhios buaireas air an tìd':
Bha mi 'n raoir an Coirre Bhreacainn
'S bi mi nochd an Eilean I.

Hùbha ...

Seall is faic an grunnd na fairge -
Uamhan airgiod 's òr gun dìth,
Lainnearachd chan fhaca sùil e
Ann an cuirt no lùchairt righ.

Hùbha ...

THE SONG OF THE MERMAID

Hoova is na horriv hoo-vie,
Hoova is na horriv Hee:
Hoova is na horriv hoo-vie,
It was with guile that you cheated me.

Out on top of the tempest's crest,
Cold so bitter to skin alive;
My love for you is constant and healthy
Though 'tis a mermaid that I am.

Hoova ....

My sleep is sporadic
When the ocean's in turmoil:
Last night I spent in Corry Vreckan*
And tonight it's in Iona that I'll be.

Hoova ....

Look and see on the ocean's floor -
Endless caves of silver and gold
Such glittering beheld by no one
Even in the courts or palace of kings.

Hoova ...

*Coire Bhreacainn, a whirlpool in the north end of the Sound of Jura between Jura and Scarba.


MÒRAG BHEAG

Mòrag bheag nighean Mhurchaidh an t-saoir
'S aotrom a dh'fhalbhas i, 's aotrom a dh'fhalbhas i,
Mòrag bheag nighean Mhurchaidh an t-saoir,
'S aotrom a dh'fhalbhas i phòsasdh.

Dé ni mi ma shéideas a ghaoth
'N oidhche mus fhalbh sinn, an oidhche mus fhalbh sinn,
De ni mi ma shéideas a ghaoth
'N oidhche mus fhalbh sinn a phòsadh?

Mòrag bheag ...

Dh'fhalbhainn leat a Mhiabhaig an Uig
Ged bhitheadh e anmoch, ged bhitheadh e anmoch,
Dh'fhalbhainn leat a Mhiabhaig an Uig
Ged bhitheadh e anmoch is ceo ann.

Mòrag bheag ...

'S ann theid mise le mo ghaol
Gu Caimbeulach Uige, gu Caimbeulach Uige
'S ann theid mise le mo ghaol
Gu Caimbeulach Uige a phòsadh.

Mòrag bheag ...

Có 'n té bheag tha danns' air an làr
Tha bean-na-bainnse, tha bean-na-bainnse
Có 'n té bheag tha danns air an làr?
Tha bean-na-bainnse 's cha mhór i.

Mòrag bheag ...

LITTLE MORAG

Little Morag, daughter of Murdo the carpenter
Lightly she goes, lightly she goes,
Little Morag, daughter of Murdo the carpenter
Lightly she goes to her wedding.

What will I do if the wind does blow
The night ere we leave, the night ere we leave
What will I do if the wind does blow
The night ere we go to get married?

Little Morag ...

I would go with you to Meavag in Uig
Although it would be late, although it would be late
I would go with you to Meavag in Uig
Though it would be late and foggy.

Little Morag ...

It will be with my love that I'll go
To the Campbell of Uig, to the Campbell of Uig,
It will be with my love that I'll go
To the Campbell of Uig to get married.

Little Morag ...

Who is the little one dancing on the floor?
She is the bride, she is the bride.
Who is the little one dancing on the floor?
She is the bride so tiny.

Little Morag ...

Notes

This song is in the category known as "puirt a' beul", or "mouth music". At the time of the Reformation, the churches banned "artificial" music and burned all musical instruments as "tools of the Devil". While it was possible to take away the HIghlanders' musical instruments, no one could take away their music. Thus, using God's own instrument, they created a new form of music they could dance to.


BALAICH AN IASGAICH

Fàilte gu fearann air balaich an iasgaich
Iomradh is tarruing is gearradh a' bhiathaidh;
Coma leam leabaidh no cadal no biadh
Gu faigh mi mo lìon an òrdugh.

Tha 'n geamhradh cho fada 's an gallionn cho cruaidh,
Droch shìde le cabhadh, clach mheallain is fuachd,
Cha mhòr tha chuir-seachad aig balaich 'an Ruaidh
Ach cèilidh is bualadh eòrna.

Thig an Fhèill Phàruig mu 'm pàigh sinn na fiachan
Ri dorghach nam biorach air lios an Taobh Siar;
Tha prìs air an langainn an Sasuinn am bliadhna
'S gheibh mi mo lìon an òrdugh.

Bidh riasladh is màladh air ràmh agus cliabh
Gun iaradh no tàmh eadar àiteach is lìon;
Thug Cailean a làmh dhomh na 'm paigheadh an t-iasg
Gu faodainn Cairstìona phòsadh.

'Si leabaidh as fhearr leam na gàbhadh nan tonn;
Tha plaide mo mhàthar 's mo làmh fo mo cheann
Na 's fheàrr na bhith lapadh ri fasgadh nan crann
Ag èisdeach ri srann nan ròpan.

Sud agaibh na balaich nach gearain air cruadal
Sìnt' air a bhallaist gun pheallaig m' an uachdar,
Còignear mo seisear 's an lethcheann air cluasaig,
Ulpagan cruaidhe Cheòsain.

'Nuair thig sinn à Gallaibh 's a thogar am bàrr
Bheir bùth Sheumais Chaluim dhuinn preasain air dhàil;
Bidh dùil 'am bho Chailean ri feannag no dhà,
'S bheir m' athair a' phàirc is bò dhuinn.

Nam faighinn Cairstìona chan iarrainn a chaoidh
Ach bothan beag riabhach is sìoman m' a dhruim;
Sabhal is bathach is stàbhag bò-laoigh,
Gearran beag donn is òisgean.

By Donald Morrison, Bragar, Lewis.
Died Duluth, 1951

THE FISHERMEN (or, literally: The Boys of the Fishing)

Welcome to land to the boys of the fishing
Rowing and pulling, and cutting the bait
Not caring for bed or for sleeping or food
Till I put my nets back in order

The winter's so long and the tempest so hard
Bad weather with blizzards and hailstones and cold
What else are the past-times of the boys of 'an Ruadh
But ceilidhs and threshing of barley

We won't pay our debts till the Feast of St. Patrick
Fishing by handline off the West Side
There's a good price for ling in England this year
And I'll be getting my net in order

Our budgets depend on each oar and each creel
Without respite or peace between the croft and the net
Colin agreed if the fishing paid off
I could marry his daughter, Christina

It is bed I'd prefer o'er the perils of storm
My own mother's blanket and my head in my hand
Better than benumbed in the lee of the mast
Listening to the snoring of hawsers

There are the boys who complain not of hardships
Laid down on the ballast without blanket or cover
Five or six of them, with their cheeks on their pillows
Of the hardest of stones from an Ceòsan

Home from Caithness to finish the harvest
At Seumas Calum's shop we'll get presents on credit
I'll expect from Colin a lazybed or two
And my father will give us grazing land and a cow

If I got Christina I'd never want more
But a drab little bothy and a straw rope round its shoulder
A stable and byre and a well for my milk cow and calf
A little brown horse and a yearling sheep

Notes

In verse 2, "'an Ruadh" is a contraction of Iain Ruadh [Red-haired John] who was the father of the bard.

In verse 3, "ling" is a fish something like cod but available closer to shore than cod.

The "creel" in verse 4 is a lobster pot.

With regard to verse 6, stones were used for ballast on the outward journey but thrown overboard as the load of fish increased. Since there was no accommodation for sleeping, the fishermen often laid down on the deck planking to catch a few minutes' sleep using the stones for pillows. "Ulpagan" (pl.) are fairly big stones suitable for ballast.

In verse 7, "a lazybed or two" refers to a small patch of land. Lazybeds are a form of cultivation that was once used extensively in the Hebrides where tillable land was scarce, and in wet areas.

SPECIAL NOTE (September 2007):
I am indebted to Murdo Morrison, nephew of the bard, for some recent corrections to the English translation of this song, for having shared his valuable and intimate knowledge of the bard's family and local terminology. It is important that we too share with you the intentions of the bard.


CHI MI NA MÒR-BHEANNA

O, chì, chì mi na mòr-bheanna;
O, chì, chì mi na còrr-bheanna;
O, chì, chì mi na coireachan,
Chì mi na sgoran fo cheò.

Chi mi gun dàil an t-àite 'san d' rugadh mi;
Cuirear orm fàilte 'sa chànan a thuigeas mi;
Gheibh mi ann aoidh agus gràdh nuair ruigeam,
Nach reicinn air thunnachan òir.

O, chì, etc.

Chì mi ann coilltean; chi mi ann doireachan;
Chi mi ann màghan bàna is toraiche;
Chi mi na fèidh air làr nan coireachan,
Falaicht' an trusgan de cheò.

O, chì, etc.

Beanntaichean àrda is àillidh leacainnean;
Sluagh ann an còmhnuidh is còire chleachdainnean;
'S aotrom mo cheum a' leum g' am faicinn;
Is fanaidh mi tacan le deòin.

O, chì, etc.

Fàilt' air na gorm-mheallaibh, tholmach, thulachnach;
Fàilt air na còrr-bheannaibh mòra, mulanach;
Fàilt' air na coilltean, is fàilt' air na h-uile -
O! 's sona bhi fuireach 'nan còir.

O, chì, etc.

By John Cameron, Ballachulish.

I SEE THE BIG MOUNTAINS

O, I see, I see the big mountains;
O, I see, I see the big mountains;
O, I see, I do see the corries,
I see the mist-covered glens.

I see as I linger the land of my birth;
I am welcomed in the language I cherish.
I will receive there hospitality, and love when I reach it
That I'd trade not for tons of gold.

O, I see ...

I see there woods, and I see there thickets,
I see there the fair and most fertile of meadows;
I see there the deer on the ground in the corries
Hiding in mantles of mist.

O, I see ...

Lofty mountains and resplendent ledges,
There dwell my own folk, kind folk of honor.
Light is my step as I leap up to meet them;
'Tis with pleasure I'll stay there a while.

O, I see ...

Hail to the blue-green grassy knolls;
Hail to the great peaked hummocky mountains;
Hail to the forests, hail to all there,
Content I would live there forever.

O, I see ...


FEAR A' BHÀTA

Fhir a' bhàta, na hòro éile,
Fhir a' bhàta, na hòro éile,
Fhir a' bhàta, na hòro éile,
Mo shoraidh slàn dhuit's gach àit' an téid thu.

'S tric mi sealltuinn o'n chnoc as àirde,
dh'fheuch am faic mi fear a' bhàta;
An tig thu 'n diugh, na 'n tig thu màireach
'S mar tig thu idir, gur truagh a tà mi.

Fhir a' bhàta ...

Tha mo chridh'-sa briste, brùite;
'S tric na deòir a ruith o m' shùilean;
An tig thu nochd, na 'm bi mo dhùil riut,
Na 'n dùin mi 'n dorus, le osna thùrsaich?

Fhir a' bhàta ...

'S tric mi foighneachd do luchd nam bàta,
Am fac iad thu, na 'm bheil thu sàbhailt;
Ach 's ann a tha gach aon diubh 'g ràitinn,
Gur gòrach mise ma thug mi gràdh dhuit.

Fhir a' bhàta ...

Gheall mo leannan dhomh gùn do 'n t-sìoda,
Gheall e sud agus breacan rìomach;
Fainn' òir anns am faicinn 'iomhaigh;
Ach 's eagal leam gun dean e dìchuimhn'.

Fhir a' bhàta ...

Ged a thu'irt iad gun robh thu aotrom,
Cha do lughdaich sud mo ghaol ort;
Bidh tu m' aisling anns an oidhche,
'Is anns a' mhadainn bidh mi 'gad fhoighneachd.

Fhir a' bhàta ...

Thug mi gaol dhut, 's cha'n fhaod mu àicheadh;
Cha ghaol bliadhna, 's cha ghaol ràidhe;
Ach gaol a thòisich nuair bha mi 'm phàisde,
'S nach searg a chaoidh, gus an claoidh am bàs mi.

Fhir a' bhàta ...

Tha mo chàirdean gu tric ag ìnnseadh,
Gum feum mi d'aogas a leig' air dìchuimhn';
Ach tha 'n comhairle dhomh cho diamhain;
'S bi tilleadh mara 's i tabhairt lionaidh.

Fhir a' bhàta ...

Bi'dh mi tuille tùrsach dèurach,
Mar eala bhàn 's i an dèighs a rèubadh;
Guileag bàis aic' air lochan fèurach,
Is càch gu lèir an dèis a trèigadh.

Author unknown.

THE BOATMAN

Oh, my boatman, o hòro éile
Oh, my boatman, o hòro éile
Oh, my boatman, o hòro éile
My farewell and health to you, wherever you go.

Often I gaze from the highest hill
Striving to see the boatman:
Will you come today, or will you come tomorrow?
And if you don't come at all it is wretched that I'll be.

Oh, my boatman ...

My heart is bruised and broken;
Often the tears run from my eyes.
Will you come tonight - or should I even expect you?
Or will I just close the door with a melancholy sigh?

Oh, my boatman ...

It is often that I ask of mariners around
Whether they saw you; are you unharmed?
But every one of them says to me
How foolish I am to have given my love to you.

Oh, my boatman ...

My darling promised me a silken gown;
He promised me that and a tartan plaid of beauty:
A gold ring in which I could see his image,
But I fear that he has now forgotten.

Oh, my boatman ...

Although they said you had no substance
That did not diminish my love for you.
You will be in my dreams at night
And in the morning I will search for you.

Oh, my boatman ...

I dearly loved you, I do not deny,
Not a year's love nor for just a season;
But a love that began when I was a child
And will not wither until death consumes me.

Oh, my boatman ...

My friends and kinfolk often say
That I must spurn my memories of you,
But their advice to me means no more
Than the ebbing and flowing of the sea.

Oh, my boatman ...

I will be forever tearful and dejected
Like a wild swan wounded and broken
Wailing its song of death on some weedy pond -
Left by the others, alone and abandoned.


AIR FÀIL A LAIL Ò

Air fàil a lail ò, horò, air fàil a lail é
Air fàil a lail ò, horò, air fàil a lail é
Air fàil a lail ò, horò, air fàil a lail é
Fail i, fail ò, horò, air fail a lail é

A' bhuachaille bhàin mas aill leat labhairt air thùs
Gur a leat-sa gun dàil mo làmh ma thig thu le mùirn
Gur truagh mar a tha nach do thàrladh mise agus tu
Ann an eilean gun tràigh, gun ràmh gun choite, gun stiùir

Ma théid thu air sàil, a ghràidh bi gini 'ad' phòc'
Is òl mo dheoch-slàint'gach àit an suidh thu mun bhòrd
L d'chride geal, aotrom, éibhneach, aighearrach òg
Gur toigh leam am beul o'm bìnn a thigeadh an ceòl

Gur toigh leam an deud 's am beul nach labhradh le sgràing
Bhi sinnte ri m' thaobh, a ghaoil nan tigeadh tu ann
Mur bhiodh luchd nam breug bha m'eudail is mise gun taing
Le òrdugh na cléir le chéile 'n ceangal gu lann

Nach robh mis' is thu am beinn no monadh no sliabh
No air an traigh bhàn an àite nach robh duine riamh
Seachd oidhche, seachd là, gun tàmh gun chadal gun bhiadh
Ach thus' a bhi 'ghràidh 's do làmh gheal tharam gu fial.

AIR FÀIL A LAIL Ò

Air fàil a lail ò, horò, air fàil a lail é
Air fàil a lail ò, horò, air fàil a lail é
Air fàil a lail ò, horò, air fàil a lail é
Fail i, fail ò, horò air fail a lail é

Oh, fair-haired cow-herd, if it is your desire to be first to speak:
My hand is yours if you come to me with joy.
It is sad that being together is not our destiny,
On an isle with no shore, without boat or rudder or oar.

If you go to sea, my dear, there will be a guinea in your pocket,
And drink to my health each place that you sit at the table.
With your pure, glad and joyful heart,
I desire the mouth from which comes forth the music.

I so like the mouth, the tooth that would not with rancor speak,
Lying beside me, my darling, if only you'd come:
Were not the gossipers there my dear I'd give thanks,
With order of clergy our binding together forever.

Would that you and I, on mountain, on moor or on heath,
Or on the white beach in a place where no one e'er was
Seven nights, seven days, without respite, without sleep without food
But just you and I my dear, and your arm's protection around me.


The translation of the following song is purely literal, and conveys next to none of the feeling expressed by the bard. It is an invisible bond between the bard and his land, meaningful only to to the native Gaelic speaker who knows the sea, life by the sea, and the social structure that was coming to and end in the Western Isles of 1930, that conveys the true feeling. Following the song is a commentary, which provides some background information.

CHI MI'N TÌR 'S AN ROBH MI NA M' BHALACH

Chi mi 'n tìr 's an robh mi na m' bhalach,
Barr a' chruinn 's Leac a Li na m' shealladh
Chi mi 'n tìr 's an robh mi na m' bhalach.

A' tìr nan Suainich a rinn sinn gluasad
'S i leinn an uair sin tigh'n tuath air Scalpaidh
Chi mi 'n tìr 's an robh mi na m' bhalach.

Chi mi Mànais is Ceann an t-sàile,
Caolas Bhearnaraigh is tràighean Phabaidh
Chi mi 'n tìr 's an robh mi na m' bhalach.

Chi mi 'n t-iasgair aig ceann nan lionan
Gu'm b'e mo mhiann 'bhi 's a chiar g'an tarruing
Chi mi 'n tìr 's an robh mi na m' bhalach.

Gu'm b'e mo shòlas 'bhi siubh'l na mòintich
Am measg nan òighean far 'n òlainn bainne
Chi mi 'n tìr 's an robh mi na m' bhalach.

Nam faighinn òrdan gur mi bhiodh deònach
A gheòla lòradh 's a seòladh dhachaidh
Chi mi 'n tìr 's an robh mi na m' bhalach

Chi mi 'n tìr 's an robh mi na m' bhalach
Barr a chruinn 's Leac a Li na m' shealladh
Chi mi 'n tìr 's an robh mi na m' bhalach.

By John MacCuish,
Leac-a-li, Harris.

There are several more verses, but these are the ones commonly sung.

I SEE THE LAND WHERE I WAS A BOY

I see the land where I was a boy,
Top of the mast, Lackalee within my view;
I see the land where I was a boy.

From the land of the Swedes we moved,
The wind with us then coming north of Scalpay;
I see the land where I was a boy.

I see Manish and Kintail,
The Sound of Berneray, the beaches of Pabbay;
I see the land where I was a boy.

I see the fisherman at the end of his nets,
Wishing I were there in the dusk, to haul them;
I see the land where I was a boy.

It would be my delight to travel over the moorland,
Amongst the youth where I'd drink the sheiling milk;
I see the land where I was a boy.

If I were asked, then willing I would be,
To lower the dingy and sail her home;
I see the land where I was a boy.

I see the land where I was a boy,
Top of the mast, Lackalee within my view;
I see the land where I was a boy.

Notes

Simply to translate this song, literally, or with the poetic license so liberally taken by certain translators of other Gaelic songs would be to do a grave injustice to the bard.

This is not a complicated song, but perhaps it is its very simplicity that challenges the imagination of the new reader. Two main elements are, however, essential to the appreciation of its power.

The heart-rending loneliness that pervades these words demands intimate familiarity with life on or by the sea, and the experience - in person, or by appreciating all that has been written - about life on the àiridh, or sheiling, a social phenomenon now all but forgotten. What young person today, for example, could possibly find worthy of remembering, as in verse 5, tramping over the moors to be with friends and to drink milk?

The song begins with the line, I see the land where I was a boy, and the verse continues with the bard at the top of the mast of whatever vessel he is on, not because he has work to do there or that his job aboard requires him to be there, but that this vantage point allows him to see for just a little while longer, the land where he was a boy, before it disappears over the horizon.

In the second verse he describes having left "the land of the Swedes", which could mean Sweden or somewhere else in Scandinavia. The second line says "She was with us then, coming north around Scalpay" - "She" being the wind.

In the third verse he names other places that he can still see. Mànais, the small village of Manish in the Bays district on the east coast of Harris, and Ceann an t-sàile, literally The Head of the Salt (water) often anglicized as Kintail. Then he sees Caolas Bhearnaraidh, the Sound of Berneray, and Tràighean Phabaidh, the beaches of Pabbay, an island in the vicinity - all in the Sound of Harris, the channel between the islands of Harris and North Uist.

In verse four the bard sees a fisherman at the head (end) of his nets, and he longs to be there, pulling in the nets in the twilight.

In verse five, the bard tells us how contented he would be tramping over the moors to be with the milkmaids from the sheiling where he would drink milk.

To visualize this scenario one must ignore 20th century North America - where there never were any shielings to begin with - and imagine a time and place where people lived on small crofts, usually by the sea, keeping two or three cows, up to a hundred sheep, the same number of hens and/or ducks, and the usual population of dogs and cats. As the average croft would only be about fifteen acres it is obvious that overcrowding could be a problem, especially when one considers that crops had to be planted, and hay preserved.

The answer to this problem was what was known as common grazing - moorland and mountains that everyone shared. As soon as the crofts were prepared for planting, cattle and other livestock were banished to the moors, but this created another problem - milking cows when they were grazing miles away, and feeding hens and collecting the eggs. Thus the shieling.

Sheilings were small huts, made of stone or sod, with just enough room to sleep and to store milk while the cream rose to the surface, and then to prepare the cream and skimmed milk for butter, cheese, crowdie or whatever. Some shieling maids brought along their spinning wheels, and always their knitting needles.

Once a week or so, the dairy products would be transported to the croft, and the shieling would be prepared for another week of work - and play.

One would be inclined to think that with all the village girls away "on the shieling", it would be a pretty boring time for the young men, but the ever- resourceful mother nature, as usual, came to the rescue. The shielings became the center of youthful summer activity and this social phenomenon no longer seems so strange. Occupants of shielings for miles around often got together with the young men of the villages for dancing, ceilidhs, and whatever else.

The final verse sees the bard wishing for orders to lower the dinghy, which he would willingly do and he dreams of "sailing her home".


MO RÙN GEAL DÌLEAS

Mo rùn geal dìleas, dìleas, dìleas
Mo rùn geal dìleas nach till thu 'nall
Cha till mi fhein leat, a ghaoil, cha'n fhaod mi,
'S ann tha mo ghaol-sa na laidhe tinn.

Is truagh nach robh mi an riochd na faoilinn
A snàmhadh aotrom air bhàrr nan tonn;
Is bheirinn sgrìobag do'n eilean Ileach,
Far bheil an rìbhinn dh'fhàg m'inntinn trom.

Is truagh nach robh mi 's mo rogha cèile
Air mullach shlèibhte nam beanntan mòr,
'S gun bhi 'gar n-éisdeachd ach eoin na slèibhe,
'S gun tugainn fhéin di na ceudan pòg.

Thug mi corr agus naoi mìosan
Anns na h-Innsean a b'fhaide thall,
'S bean bòichead t'aodainn cha robh ri fhaotainn,
'S ged gheibhinn saoghal cha'n fhanainn ann.

Thug mi mìos ann am fiabhrus claoidhte
Gun dùil rium oidhche gu'm bithinn beò;
B'e fàth mo smaointean a là 's a dh'oidhche,
Gu'm faighinn faochadh 'us tu bhi 'm chòir.

Cha bhi mi strìth ris a' chraoibh nach lùb leam
Ged chinneadh ùbhlan air bhàrr gach gèig,
Mo shoraidh slàn leat ma rinn thu m'fhagail,
Cha d'thàinig tràigh gun mhuir làn 'na dèigh.

Words by Maclean
Torlosk, Mull.

MY FAITHFUL FAIR DARLING

My faithful fair darling,
My faithful fair darling, won't you turn back to me;
I will not turn with you, my love, I cannot
For my beloved is lying ill.

I grieve I am not in the guise of a seagull,
Swimming light on top of the waves;
And I would journey to the island of Islay
Where tarries the maiden who vexes my soul.

I regret I am not with my own chosen mate,
On the mountaintop moorland
And no one to listen but the birds of the heath;
And hundreds of kisses I would give to her.

I took more than nine months
In the Indies so distant,
Where a woman whose beauty like yours was unseen
And for all this world I would not stay there.

I spent a month in the torment of fever
When each night I did not expect to survive;
The object of my thoughts each day and night
That my request be granted and you at my side.

I will not struggle with the tree I can't bend,
Though each bough be amply laden with apples;
My fond farewell to you if you have left me,
The sea never ebbs, but follows the flow.


CLIÙ NA HEARADH

Their do chliù na Hearadh bhòidheach!
Feadh gach cearn far am bi d' àl,
Cha teid àilleachd tìr an àraich
As an seallaidhean gu brath.

Tha na deòir a ruith 'o m' shùilean
Is tha gaoir a dol tro' m' chridh',
Oir tha m'inntean 'nochd 's na Hearadh
Ged is fad an dràsd' as mi.

Tha gach sgìr is tha gach baile;
Tha gach machair, beinn is bàgh
A tigh'n dhòmhsa na dealbh-dathach,
Dùsgadh cianalas gach là'.

Cidh' an Tairbeart na cheud starsaich
Aig gach neach a theid air tìr;
Tha gach gleann is cnoc mun cuairt dhiubh
Tabhainn fia'chadh dhoibh is sìth.

Cha chuir latha, 's cha chuir bliadhna,
Cha chuir mìltean speur no cuan;
Doille iomhaigh air do mhaise
'S dha do shluagh bi' m' ghaol-sa buan.

By Norman Macleod, Tarbert. Circa 1960.
(We knew him as Tormod Neilly).

IN PRAISE OF HARRIS

Take your praise, Oh beautiful Harris!
Throughout each corner where your descendants are;
The sheer beauty of the land of their rearing
Will not leave their sight evermore.

The tears are running from my eyes,
And cries of anguish spear my heart;
For my mind tonight's in Harris
Though it's far from there I be.

Every township, every village;
Every pasture, hill and bay,
Come to me like a color picture
Arousing homesickness each day.

The quay at Tarbert, the first threshold
For everyone who goes ashore,
Every glen and hill about them
From the farthest oceans for them there's peace.

No day will put, nor will a year,
Nor miles by air or sea
Veil your image or your beauty,
And love everlasting from your people from me.


MO CHAILIN DONN

O horo mo chailin donn
'S ann ort fhéin a thogainn fonn,
Thug mi gaòl dhuit, 's tha gu trom
Ach feumaidh sin bhi falaichte.

Té mar uallach thu air sràid,
Cò an té a bheir ort bàrr?
Do chuailean donn 's do shùilean blàth
Is mì fo chràdh mar faigh mi thu.

O horo ...

Theid mi fhìn 's mo chailin donn
A null ri seòlach fada thall;
Ni sinn deònach còmhnaidh ann
Am measg nan gleann 's na machraichean.

O horo ...

Soraidh slàn do 'n chailin donn
A chuir m' inntinn-se gu fonn;
Thug i 'n còmhnaidh còmhradh rium,
Ach thug mo shùnnd air flaithalachd.

O horo ...

By Sgt. Donald Nicolson.

MY BROWN-HAIRED MAIDEN

O, horo my brown-haired maid
It is for you I sing this tune
I fell hard in love with you
But that must stay a secret.

One with your stateliness upon a street
What woman could equal you?
Your long brown hair, your warm eyes
And I'm in pain in need of you.

O, horo ...

I will go with my brown-haired maiden
To a destination far away
We will with desire make a home there
Amongst the glens and meadows.

O, horo ...

My fond farewell to the brown-haired maid
Who put my mind to make a song,
She conversed with me always
And elevated me to princeliness

O, horo ...


GRIOGAL CRIDHE

'S iomadh oidhche fhliuch is thioram,
Sìde nan seachd sian,
Gheibheadh Griogal dhòmhsa creagan
Ris an gabhainn dion.

Obhan, obhan, obhan iri
Obhan iri O!
Obhan, obhan, obhan iri,
'S mòr mo mhulad, 's mòr.

Dhìrich mi dhan t-seòmar mhullaich,
'S theirinn mi'n taigh làir,
'S cha d'fhuair mise Griogal cridhe
'Na shuidhe mu 'n chlàr.

Obhan ...

Eudail mhòir a shluaigh an Domhain
Dhòirt iad d'fhuil an dè,
'S chuir iad do cheann air stob daraich,
Tacan beag bho d' chrè

Obhan ...

B' annsa bhi le Griogal cridhe,
Teàrnadh chruidh 's a' ghleann,
No le Baran Mòr na Dalach,
Sioda geal mu m' cheann.

Obhan ...

Chan eil ùbhlan idir agam
'S ùbhlan uil' aig càch,
'S ann tha m'ubhal cùbhraidh caineal
'Cùl a' chinn ri làr.

Obhan ...

Nuair bhios mnathan òg a' bhaile
Nochd nan cadal sèimh,
'S ann bhios mise air bruaich do lice,
Bualadh mo dhà làimh.

Obhan ...

BELOVED GREGOR

Many a rainy night or fair,
The seven elements weather there
Gregor would find for me a shelter
Refuge in his care.

Obhan, obhan, obhan iri
Obhan iri O!
Obhan, obhan, obhan, iri,
In heartbreak as I mourn.

Climbing to the upper tower
And lying on the floor,
I would not find my darling Gregor,
Not then or ever more.

Obhan ...

Great darling of the "Domhainn" folk,
They let your blood yestreen,
And put your head on an oaken stake
Where your body since has been.

Obhan ...

I would be happy with dear Gregor
Herding cattle in the glen,
Instead of with Baron "Dalach,"
In mourning as I've been.

Obhan ...

I no more have a sweetheart
Though others have them all,
My sweetheart lies upon the floor
His body now embalmed.

Obhan ...

The young wives of the village
Serenely sleep this eve
But I will be at your graveside,
Remembering as I grieve.

Obhan ...

Notes

This song is believed to date from the 16th century and mourns the death of Gregor MacGregor. See Derick S. Thomson (ed.), The Companion to Gaelic Scotland, (Oxford: Basil Blackwell), 1983.


Iain Dubh, the Wizard of the North

The following song was composed by Iain Dubh, or John Macleod, who was the brother of Neil Macleod, the well-known bard. One of Neil Macleod's poems is included here. Information on Iain Dubh, including the story of how this song came to be composed is available here.

GILLEAN ÒGA TAPAIDH

'Illean òga tapaidh, tha 'n Gleann Dail ag èiridh suas,
Tha cuid dhuibh a tha deònach 'ur lòn thoirt thar a' chuain;
Nis èisdeabh ris an òran rinn MacLeoid a' chuir a' chuairt
'S bi cuimhn' agaibh an còmhnaidh air 'n àm seòladh mach a' Cluaidh.

Nuair bhios tu òg 's tu aineolach a falbh air long nan seòl,
Bi cùisean dhut glè anasach mu'n fhaithnich thu gach ròp;
Gur tric a thèid do mhionnachadh 's do sgriodadh dha'n Fhear Mhòr
G'un dìrich thu na cruinn aice cho aotrom ris na h-eòin.

Nuair dh'fhagas tu am fearann seo is d'aghaidh air cuan mòr,
A' ghrian gach là a teannadh ort, bheir fallus as'd an deò;
Ged bhiodh an teas ga d' sgaradh mar is tric a thachair dhomhs'
Gun tomhais do chuid uisge dhut, do bhriosgaidean is d'fheòil.

'S nuair theid thu do na h-Innsean, 's null do Shìne fada thall
Bi mòran do thoil-inntinn ann, 's na chì thu 'n taigh an danns'
Bheir companaich air tìr thu tha na's glice na do cheann,
'S cha dhuin' thu gu'n teid sprìdh chuir ort le fìdeagan de'n dram.

Gur iomadh rud a chì thu mu'n tìll thu bhàrr do chuairt,
Gu'n toir gach lòn do neart asad 's a' mhaise bha na d' ghruaidh;
Chì thu daoine bàsachadh gun bhàigh riutha no truas
Ach slabhraidh mu 'n sliosaidean ' an tiodhlacadh 's a'chuan.

Nuair dhèireas stoirm le cabhag ort 's an fhairg ag at 'na glinn
Na tonnan uaine chlisgeas tu a' bristeadh mu do dhruim,
Gu slatan àrda cuirear thu, ged a bhitheadh tu car tinn;
Gur tric riut fheinn a chanas tu, "Bu mhath a bhi air tìr".

Is ged tha 'n deoch 'na mhollachadh mar 's aithne dhuibh gu lèir
Ach beagan dhi aig àmanan, cha toirinn-sa dhi beum;
Ma sheachnas sibh na boireannaich bi sonas as ur ceum,
Oir 's iad ùghdar de gach mollachadh tha 'n diugh 's a' chruinne-cè.

Chaidh mi troimh gach àmghair anns gach cearn tha fo na neòil,
Cha b'urrain dhaibh mo bhàthadh, cha robh rath'd aca na dòigh,
Ach nan robh leth a nochd agam 's a chuir mi anns an òl,
Gu 'm faodainn suidhe socair am Pollaosgan rè mo bheò.

By John Macleod
(Iain Dubh Dhomhnaill nan Òran)

STALWART YOUNG LADS

You stalwart young lads, raised here in Glendale;
There are those of you so eager to cast your lot upon the sea:
Now, listen to this song by Macleod who made that journey
And you will remember it always sailing down the River Clyde.

When you are young and innocent aboard the ships of sail,
Things will be so strange to you till you recognize each rope;
Frequently you will be cursed and denounced
Till you can climb those masts as weightless as a bird.

When you depart this shore and you face the ocean wide
The fiery sun shines hot - the sweat takes your breath away,
And though the heat torments you as has often happened to me,
Your water will be rationed, your bread and meat as well.

And when you sail to the Indies, and China far away,
All pleasures there await you and you will see the dance halls;
Shipmates more worldly than you will take you ashore
And make you prove your manliness with far too many drams.

Many strange sights you'll see before you end your cruise,
Things will sap your strength and take nature's blush from your skin;
You will see men dying there, consoled by no one or comforted,
Their thighs encased in chains for burial at sea.

When sudden storms come upon you
And mountainous green waves break over your back,
To the high yards you will be ordered, no matter how sick you are,
Many's a time you'll say to yourself, "I wish I were on land".

Though drink is a curse as all of you know,
I would not condemn it at times in moderation
But do steer clear of women, and bliss will grace your step;
They are the authors of all misery of this world of today.

I have been through every anguish in every corner of the globe;
They tried but couldn't drown me - there was not any way,
But if I had half tonight of what I put in booze
I could relax and sit back in Polluskin, and savour my days that remain.

Click here to read about Iain Dubh's wizardry.


The following is really a poem - meant to be recited rather than sung. It was composed by Neil Macleod, the celebrated nineteenth century bard and brother of Iain Dubh (John Macleod). Click here to see one of Iain Dubh's songs, or here to read about Iain Dubh's wizardry.

RI TAOBH NA TRAIGH

O! nach robh agam bothan beag
An seo ri taobh na tràigh,
Aig bonn nam beann fo sgàil nan creag
'S gu 'm faighinn fois is tàmh;
Cha 'n iarrainn ceòl ach eòin nam preas
A' beadradh shuas le 'n àl;
Is guth nan tonn is fuaim nan eas
Toirt freagradh dhaibh le 'n gàir.

'N sin laighinn sios is dh'èirinn suas
Gu suaimhneach mar a b' aill,
Air m' ùrachadh le caochan cruaidh
An fhuairin fhallain làin;
Cha 'n fhaicinn fòirneartean an t-sluaigh
'S gach buaireas agus plàigh,
'S na mìlltean deòiridh breòite truagh
Fo uallaich throm an sàs.

Tha sàmchair, neo-chiont, agus sìth
Còmhnaidh an seo a ghnàth,
Gun fhoill gun fharmad is gun strì
Aig dùil a th' ann a' tàmh.
Tha 'n còmhdach glan 's an lòn gun dìth
No nì bho thràth gu tràth,
Iad beò gun lochd, 's an òran bìnn
An seo ri taobh na tràigh.

Gach feòirnean maoth tha 'n còs no 'n glaic,
Gheibh iad an cuid de 'n driùchd,
Tha ghrian 'g an àrach suas gun airc
Air aithne Righ na dùl;
Gach lus no crè is ìsle staid,
Tha iad am beachd a shùl,
'S an Ti tha freasdal dhaibh air fad,
Cha chuir e mis' air chùl.

Tha gàir na mara 's gaoth nam beann
Le 'm fuaim gu tiamhaidh, trom
Cho freag'rach dhòmh-sa aig an àm
'S do 'n ionndrainn tha 'n am chom;
Cha 'n iarrainn lùchairt mu mo cheann,
Cha 'n iarrain òr no fonn,
Na 'm faòdainn fuireach shios an gleann,
'G èisdeachd ri guth nan tonn.

Tha cuid an tòir air stòr 's air maoin,
'G an ruith bho 'm breith gu 'm bàs;
Cha 'n fhaigh iad fois 's cha bhi iad saor,
Ma chì iad sin aig càch;
Thoir dhòmh-sa sìth, is gràdh is gaol,
Aig taobh nan sruthan tlàth,
Mo bhothan beag fo sgàil nan craobh,
'S mo lios ri taobh na tràigh.

BY THE SEA

Oh, that I had a small cabin
Here beside the strand,
At the foot of the mountains, in the shade of the crags
I would find peace and calm;
I'd need no music but the birds of the bush
Frolicking in flight with their young;
The voice of the waves and the water cascading
Responding to them with their glee.

There I'd lie down, and rise at will
In luxurious tranquil leisure,
Revived by the sound of the rippling stream
From the pure and brimming well;
I would not see the depredations of the rabble
Their uprisings and their plagues,
And the thousands of tearful sickly poor
Under tyrannical hardship burdened.

There is tranquility innocence and peace
Residing always here,
Without deception, envy or strife
Prevailing in quiet ease.
Their apparel is clean, they're not in need
Of anything from morn to morn
They live without vice, their song is sweet
Here beside the sea.

Each blade of grass in crevice or hollow,
Gets its share of the dew,
Nurtured by sunlight without distress
Under the direction of the King of the creation;
Each weed or soil, the lowest state
Under the attention of His eye,
The God who's watching all of them
Will not be ignoring me.

The laughter of the sea and the wind of the mountains
With their melancholy ponderous sounds,
So appropriate for me at this time
When I miss them in my soul;
I would not wish for a palace around me
I would not wish for gold or land,
If I could stay down in the glen
Listening to the voice of the waves.

There are some who long for treasure and wealth
Pursuing those from birth to death;
They can not have peace; they won't be free,
As they covet what others possess;
Give to me peace and devotion and love,
Beside the tranquil brook,
My small cabin in the shade of the trees,
And my court beside the sea.

Notes

This poem, in particular the second half of the second verse, can be seen to display a certain callousness that is unusual in such a sensitive and perceptive bard. It was at this time that the crofters in Neil's native Isle of Skye were rising up against the tyranny of the landlords during and following the infamous Highland Clearances.

Safely ensconced in Edinburgh as a wealthy tea tycoon, he seems to bask in his good fortune in being "away from it all" and not having to see the horrors experienced by his people. There is a hint of hyprocrisy here that sticks in the craw.

Perhaps it was this that led his brother, Iain Dubh, to embarrass him in a Greenock bar one afternoon when Iain and several of his shipmates came in to celebrate their return from yet another voyage.

Neil was standing at the other side of the horseshoe bar with some local dignitaries when the sailors came in. Knowing Iain's rapier wit, the barman saw an opportunity for a lark. Turning to Neil, he said, "Do you know this fellow who just came in?" Neil looked across the bar, mortified at the possibility of having to acknowledge this scruffy sailor as his brother; "No," he replied, "I don't believe I ever set eyes on the man before."

"You bloody hypocrite!" Iain Dubh replied, "Of course you know me. Many's the night I slept with your mother." Click here to see one of Iain Dubh's songs, or here to read about Iain Dubh's wizardry.

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