Monday, 6 September 2010

The Sweet Sorrow – An Arthurian Ballad IV

The last instalment of the famous Arthurian ballad Am Bròn Binn (‘The Sweet Sorrow’) was taken down from Maighread Dhòmhnallach, or Margaret MacDonald, from Malacleit, North Uist. In contrast to the other two versions already given, this seems to be a rendition of the perhaps more familiar ballad rather than a waulking song. Carmichael appends a note to this version saying just that but also lamenting the fact that his busy work schedule prevented him from transcribing any more versions of it. Perhaps this could be described as a blessing in disguise?

Bho, Mai’read (Maireirad) Dhomhnullach (“Mai’read nighean Aonais duinn?” Geari Iain Malachit, 10th Feb., 1870, Aois 83.

Noiche chai Arstar nan sluagh
Go tulach nan ruadh, nam buadh a shealg
Chunnagas a teurnadh o’n mhaogh
Gruagach a bailli cruth no ghrian’
’S cruit an laimh na h-ighinn oig
’S milis pog ’s as geal gne
’S co binn ’s ga na sheinn i chuirt
’S binne na purist a leig i leo
’S ann le fuaim a teudun binn
A chaidil an Righ na throm seimh. . . .
Mu’n ghruagach a sheinn an ceol
Nach faca i beo no mairbh
Thuirst Righ Sola ri Righ Fial. . . .
Le ’m long bhriagh bhreid gheal bhain.
Far an ga ’adh mo long gu tir
Chunnagas an oiteal dhe ’n chuan
Clach fhuar a fioclairean gorm. . . .
Far am bu lionar cuach agus cuirn
An aisighalla (? Bha Sior Ghallabha) na bhun
’S bha slaurai dhugh as a nuas
Sin an t-slaurai nach do gha crith
’S thog i casan na ruith suas
Bheil fear na creaige so slan
An d’ idir e cas no truas?
Cuis is fhaide liom nach lig
No corag dhianainn ris gu luath. . . .
Cuiremid ani thu sin. . . . .
Cha loisg teine e ’s cha dearg arm eir an fhear
Ach a chlai geur geala-ghlan fhein.
Goid thus an clai dhe ’n fhear
’S ann a bheir thu dheth an ceann
’S carpet sioda fo da bhonn
’S na bheannaich a Ni thu fhir (i.e., Ni-math)
’S trom an cion thug thu eir tuinn
Chunnagas an deigh ti’nn o’n mhuir
Oganach eir ghuin le airm
Bha spuir eil eir a chois dheis
’S bu leoir a dheiseac ’sa dhealbh
’S bha spuir eir eir a chois chli
Do dh-airgiod righ no dh-or feall
Thug mi leum a chum na spuir
De ma thug cha bu mhath a chiall
Thug easun glacadh eir arm
’S e ’m fear marbh a bhi na niall (vicinity)
’S ann agam a nist tha bhean
Is deirge leac
Na ’S ann fotham a bhios an t-each
Is luaith a chuir a chas eir feill (? feur)
’S ann mu ’m chois a bhios an cu
Is luath a chuir a shuil an sealg.
Sann liom dh-falbhas an long,
Is luaith a chuireadh tonn as a deigh,
Marcrac na fairge gu dian,
Falaireac+ an droim a chuain
Bhan ’n triuir braithse mu cheann na mne
Sin mar a mharcraich mi n t-each
Bu luaithe ’s bu reacar ceum
Nach ruig sibh Corra-ri-clach
Far am fuigh sibh beac mo sgeul,
Gu sli’un nam briara cearst
Far nach ga’tar cearst truas
Siod a cheist a chuirinn orst.
Brath do shloine no co d ainm,
Mis an currai nach do gha cosg,
Achiad mhac a bh aig Righ Fraing,
Liom a thiuteas clann Rig Greuig,
O mharbh ’ad fhein an treas fear,
Mus mail leat mise thorist leat
Treachaid leac chlann Righ Greuig,
Sin ’nuair a threachaid mi ’n leac,
Gle fharsuin mar b’ail le ’fein
Cladhaich an uaigh as a dil.
O si obair fir gu’n cheil,
Thug ise leum as an lic,
’S i bhean ghlic bu ro-ghlan snua.
’S leum an t-anam as a corp
Ochadan a noc gur truagh,
Nam biodh agams an sing leigh,
Gu’n cuirinn e fu feum san uair
Dhianainn t-abheothachadh triuir,
Cha ’n fhagainn ma run sna uaigh,
’S i nighean Righ Cholla ghrinn (2),
A chinnich leinn ’s bu mhor am beud
Mis an currai nach do gha cosg,
A chiad mhac a bh’ aig Righ Fraing (1),
Sin deire mo sgeoil,
S mar a sheinn ’ad am Bron Binn.

Note.—This seems to me a veritable Arthurian ballad, and, like other precious gems, ought, I think, to be prized for its rarity. But, I think, it has also the merit of being good besides being rare. There are several other versions, snatches, and expressions, which I would have transcribed had I time. But I am very busy just now, although with work less congenial than this.


The version with the chorus is sung by women while pulling cloth; the other is sung by men. These two versions seem to me to differ so considerably as to look like two separate ballads upon the same subject, rather than two separate versions of the same ballad.
1. Righ Fraing. Which is meant, King Francis or the Ling of France?—the last, I think.
2. Righ Cholla Ghrinn—King Colla.
Old King Coll was a jolly old soul,
Neither read nor write could he;
For to read or to write he thought useless quite,
For he kept a secretarie.—Old Song.


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]