Wednesday, 25 August 2010

The Sweet Sorrow – An Arthurian Ballad II

A theme touched upon a few months ago was the famous Arthurian ballad Am Bròn Binn (‘The Sweet Sorrow’), of which two Gaelic versions were given. This ballad seems to have held a particular fascination for Alexander Carmichael as he contributed an article, giving another three versions of it, to the Inverness-based newspaper The Highlander. It came in the wake of the article already referred to in the previous blog which was contributed by John Francis Campbell but with material supplied by Carmichael. The first version given here appears in the form of a waulking song and was collected from Mary MacLellan (née MacDonald), the wife of Alexander MacLellan, a crofter in Tigharry in North Uist. This version of this ballad was later republished in the Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, vol. IX (1879–1880), pp. 68–69; and also an extra piece of information is contained in Carmina Gadelica, ii, where a note is given whereby the reciter is said to have heard the ballad from Fionnghal nighean Eóghain, Hoghearraidh [North Uist], who died in 1860, aged 80 years.

Bho Mhairi Nic an Liallain (nee Donullach) bean Alastair ’ic an Liallain craoitear Taighearaidh Uiste Tuath, 22d Oct., 1868.—Aois 44.

(Oran luadhaidh)
Iollairean us o ro i
An t-aobhar mu n taine mi steach
Iollair o’an orach o.
Ni mi e mu’ n teid mi mach,
Iollairean us o roi,
La chai Astar na’n sluagh,
Iollair orach o’an o ro.

Gu tulach na’m buadh a shealg,
Chunnacas a tighinn o’n mhuir,
Gruagach is ailli cruth fo’n ghrein,
Cruit an laimh na h-ineghil uir,
Ga glan a gnuis ’s ro-maith gne,
Aig feothas dha na sheinn i ’n ceol,
Gu’n thuit an Righ le (a) suain,
Nuair a dhuisg e as a shuain
Thug e lamh gu luath eir arm.
A bhean sin a sheinn an ceol,
Nach facas a beo no ’marbh
Dh-imich e fhe ’sa ghille sa chu,
Eir luing uir a bhreid-ghil bhain,
Far sheac seacuineann ’as tri mios,
Bha thu sgath ri siubha cuain,
Mu n d-fuair thu cala no fonn,
Anns an ga’adh an long tamh.
Chunnacas an iomal a chuain
Caisteal min-gheal buidheach (i.e., boidheach) gorm
Uinneagan glain eir a stuaigh,
Bu lionar ann cuach us corn.
’Sa ghruagach a sheinn an ceol,
An cathair an or is taigh,
Strefon sioda fo da bhonn
Bheannaich mise ga gnuis ghil.
’Sann agam fhein a bha ’n long,
Is luaith a chuir tonn a deigh,
’Sann agam fhein a bha’n cu
Is luaith a chuir a shuil a (n) seilg
Sann agam fhien a bha n t-each
Is luaith a chuir a chas eir feur
’S ann agam fhein a bha bhean
Is deirge leac ’s is gile deud,
Na bheannaich thu bria’ras fhir
Stuagh an cion thug thu thar tuinn
Eir a-laimhsa a ni bhan
Is coma liom do ghradh is d-fuath
Dianamid bruithinn us traoghamid fearg
Us cuiremid cealg mu n fhear mhor
Gu deamar a ni thu sin
S nach thu laoch is fear fo’n ghrein
Cha lais teine, ’s cha dearg arm eir an fhear
Ach a chlai geur glan fhein
Gun ghoid mi n clai bho shlios
Thug mi dheth gu’n fhiosd an ceann
Ogain ors ise thainig o (n) lear
O’ sann leat a chuireadh an t-euc—
Innis eir thoiseach do sgeul
Co thu fein no de d’ ainm.
Mise Boine Boidheach na’m flath,
Agam a tha teac do sgeul
Ma’s ail leat mis bhi leat,
Treachaid leac a (do) mhac Righ Greuig,
Treachaid leac eir ailios mne
Be siod obair fir gu’n cheil,
Gu’n ghearr ileum as (anns) an lic,
A bhean ghlic bu ro-ghlan anuagh.
A Dhun-duigh sin sa Dhun-duigh,
A Ghrianain aluinn fad o’n mhuir,
Gur moch a ghoireas a chuach,
Eir a ghualinsa Dhun-duigh,
Sin agaibh deire mo sgeuil.
S mar a chuala mi o thus.

References:
Campbell, J. F., ‘Am Bron Binn’, The Highlander, no. 148 (11 Mar. 1876), p. 3.
Carmichael, Alexander, ‘Na h-Iollaireann’, The Highlander, no. 148 (18 Mar., 1876), p. 3, cc. 1–3.
Carmichael, Alexander, ‘Na h-Iollaireann’, Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, vol. IX (1879–1880), pp. 67–74.
Carmina Gadelica, v, pp. 86–105.
Gillies, William, ‘Arthur in Gaelic Tradition. Part I: Folktales and Ballads’, Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies, vol. 2 (Winter, 1981), pp. 47–72; ‘Arthur in Gaelic Tradition. Part II: Romances and Learned Lore’, Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies, vol. 3 (Summer, 1982), pp. 41–75.
Gowans, Linda, Am Bròn Binn: An Arthurian Ballad in Scottish Gaelic (Eastbourne: privately printed, 1992).
Image: King Arthur

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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]