Tuesday 17 August 2010

Hebridean Hymns and Popular Lore – II

Following on from a recent blog entry, here is another excerpt from the fairly long article which Alexander Carmichael contributed to The Northern Chronicle. Again, we have another example of a prayer commonly recited before retiring to bed. As with the previous prayer for the smooring of the hearth, this example demonstrates that the petitioner is asking for divine protection while he or she sleeps through the night. This recitation was obviously often the last daily ritual of a devout Catholic in the Hebrides at the time.


The following prayer is said or sung by Catholics in South Uist, in going to bed. The old men from whom I first took it down told me that he said it very night since he was fifteen years of age, and that it had been taught to him by his father.

Tha mise laidhidh nochd, le Moire ’s le’ Mac,
Le Mathair mo Righ, tha ga-m’ dhion o gach lochd;
Cha laidh mi leis an olc, cha laidh an t-olc leam,
Ach laidhidh mi le Dia, ’us laidhidh Dia leam.

Lamh dheas De fo m’ cheann,
Soillse an Spioraid os mo chionn;
Crois nan naodh aingeal tharam sios,
O mhullach mo chinn gu iocar mo bhonn.

. . . . .
. . . . .
Crois Mhoire ’s Mhicheil, ma-rium ann an sith,
M’ anam a bhi ’m fhirinn, gu’n mhi-rum am chom.

O Ios gu’n lochd, a cheusadh goirt.
Fo bhinn nan olc a sgiursadh Thu;
A liuthad lochd a rinn mo chorp,
Nach faod mi nochd a chunntachadh (1).

A Righ na fola firinnich,
Na dibir mi o d’ mhuiantireas;
Na tasgair orm mo mhi-cheartas;
Na di-chuimhnuich ad’ chunntadh mi (1).

Guidheam Peadar, guidheam Pal,
Guidheam Moir-Oigh agus a Mac,
Guidheam an da ostal deug,
Gu’n mise dhol eug a nochd.

A Dhia agus a Mhoire na glorach,
Ios a Mhic na h-Oighe cubhraidh,
Cumaidh sinne o na piantaibh;
{’S o’n teine dhorcha dhuinte.
{’S o’n teine shiorraidh mhuchta.

. . . . .
. . . . .
M’ anam aig fear shorchar na frithe (2)
Micheil Glea an codhail m’ anama.

(1). The 4th and 5th verses were not in the first version I obtained of this beautiful hymn. I am not sure that they originally formed part of it. This, however, can only be a matter of conjecture. Not infrequently in old Gaelic poetry, sacred and profane, the measure, rhyme, assonance, and even subject, change in the same poem. Old English poetry is the same.
(2). I am not satisfied that I have correctly translated this line. Sorch means “light”, in contradistinction to dorch, “dark.” Sorcher, I take it, is the man or being of light, as dorcher is the man or being of darkness. Sorch, “Light,” is the name of a woman in the Long Island.


I lie down this night, with Mary and with her Son,
With the Mother of my King, who shields me from harm;
I shall not lie down with evil, nor shall evil lie down with me,
But I shall lies with God, and God will lie down with me.

The right hand of God under my head,
The light of the Spirit Holy shining over me,
The cross of the nine angels along me, down
From the crown of my head to the soles of my feet.

. . . . .
. . . . .
Be the cross of Mary and of Michael with me in peace,
May my soul dwell in truth, and my heart be free of guile.

O Jesus without offence that was crucified cruelly
Under sentence of the evil ones, Thou wert scourged;
The many evils done by me in this body
That cannot this night be numbered!

Thou King of the Blood of Truth,
Omit me not from thy covenant.
Exact not from me my sins,
Nor forget me in thy numbering.

I pray Peter, pray I Paul,
I pray Mary, Virgin, and her Son,
I pray the Apostles twelve
That I may not die this night.

Oh, God! Oh, Mary of Glory!
Oh, Jesus! Thou Son of the Virgin Fragrant,
Keep, ye us from the pains,
{And from the dark hidden fire,
{And from the everlasting suffocating fire.

. . . . .
. . . . .
My soul is with the Lord of the mountains,
Archangel Michael shield my soul!

Carmichael, Alexander, ‘Hebridean Hymns and Popular Lore’, The Northern Chronicle, no. 177 (21 May, 1884), p. 3, cc. 5–6.
Carmichael, Alexander, ‘Grazing and Agrestic Customs of the Outer Hebrides’ in the Report of the Commissioners of Inquiry into the Condition of the Crofters and Cottars in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland (Parliamentary Papers, xxxiii–xxxvi, 1884), pp. 451–82.
Carmichael, Alexander, ‘Uist Old Hymns’, Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Glasgow, vol. i (1887–1891), pp. 34–47.
Image: The Praying Hands.

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Stone whorls WHM 1992 13 2.4

Stone whorls WHM 1992 13 2.4
Stone whorls collected by Alexander Carmichael, held by West Highland Museum (ref. WHM 1992 13 2.4). [© carstenflieger.com]