The church and the highlands



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1 There are many more of which again we possess the titles only, such as Baile TMmaUe, quoted in LL. 190, c. 22, Gaire Earma, glosses from which are in H. 3, 18, p. 620b, or Gaire Echach quoted in Cormac's Glossary, p. 11, s. v. cermnas.

aIt should also be remembered that this list of 500 tales excludes both purely historical and hagiological literature, though this too abounds with romance.

3 In the Revue Celtique, Vol. III. p. 175.

*Ib. Vol. IX. p. 447.

s/i. Vol. XXII. p. 9.

28 Gaelic Literature and Professor Kuno Meyer

Hayes O'Grady's Silva Gadelica. In reading these and other renderings it should be remembered that hardly a single Irish tale of any length has reached us in its original form, i.e., that in which we may assume it to have been current among the people, or to have been recited by Jili or shanachie. What we have are mostly late redactions patched together from various and different sources, often fragmentary, full of inconsistencies, repetitions or contradictions. Again, some versions give only the outlines of the story, or form a mere string of clues and catchwords which have to be expanded to form an intelligible narrative. It is therefore not only the right but the duty of the modern translator to recast and restore them to something like their original condition, an easy task where several redactions of the same tale have come down to us."

Having spoken of some of the difficulties besetting the way to a freer recognition of the value of Irish literature, I cannot refrain from mentioning also the charges levelled against it in a recent notorious cam­paign against the Irish language. I refer more particularly to the unfortunate remark which, in the heat of controversy, escaped from the lips of one who has himself done so much to make Irish literature accessible—the remark that Irish literature, when not religious, is either silly or indecent. To attempt to refute in detail so sweeping and unsupported a statement would be to attach more importance to it than it deserves. The stream of Irish literature runs deep and broad, and if in its course it carries along with it some earthy matter, such slight admixture does not affect the general purity of its waters, from

1 Something of the kind has lately been attempted with great felicity by Rudolf Thurneysen in his Sagen aus dem alten Ireland. Berlin, 1901.

Gaelic Literature and Professor Kuno Meyer 29

which none need hesitate to drink deeply. The literature of no nation is free from occasional gross-ness, and considering the great antiquity of Irish literature and the primitive life which it reflects, what will strike an impartial observer most is not its licence or coarseness, but rather the purity, loftiness and tenderness which pervade it. Indeed, it may be truly said that situations and incidents which in the hand of an inferior artist would have become equivocal are nearly always treated with a light and delicate touch which speaks as highly for the moral standard of the people as for the skill of the poet.

When speaking of our imperfect acquaintance with Old-Irish literature I refer not only to the great mass of material that has been irretrievably lost— whole legendary cycles revealed by casual references only, tales of which nothing but the title, poems of which the initial lines only have been preserved— but also to what is still extant but unexplored in the manuscripts deposited in the British Museum and the Dublin libraries, to mention only the chief store­houses of Irish literature. It is true, of Irish prose a good deal has been published and translated, so that anyone can form an idea of its merits ; but for Irish poetry next to nothing has hitherto been done. The metrical festologies, the topographical, historial, chronological, geographical, grammatical, lexico­graphical compositions, which mainly for philological reasons have received the first attention of editors, do not represent Irish poetry. They were written for purposes of instruction or as a memoria technica by learned professors at the monastic schools. In­deed, the true appreciation of the merits of Irish poetry has often been obscured by the fact that metrical productions of this class have been taken as the offspring of the Irish Muse. But Oengus the

3<3 Gaelic Literature and Professor Kuno Meyer

Culdee, Fiann of Monasterboice, Mac Coisse and Gorman are not the great poets of Ireland. Their works loom large indeed in our manuscripts, but they were copied so busily for the sake of the in­formation which they conveyed in a convenient form. Meanwhile the genuine poetry of Ireland, which is to be found in such anonymous poems as the one here published, was relegated to the margins and blank spaces of vellum manuscripts, or, written on paper, has the more easily disappeared. What is left of such poetry is rarely to be met with in the great and celebrated tomes ; it has to be searched for.

It may be safely predicted that these anonymous and neglected poems, once properly collected, edited and translated will strongly appeal to all lovers of poetry. There is in them such delicate art, so subtle a charm, so true and deep a note, that, with the exception of the master-pieces of Welsh poetry, I know nothing to place by their side.

For the benefit of the reader of English I append
a verse or two from a poem on A' Bhealltainn or
May-Day, which Professor Kuno Meyer has most
admirably translated into English. Those who may
desire to read more of this beautiful poem will find
the whole of it (together with the original Irish) in
Kuno Meyer's Songs of Summer and Winter.1 I
may add that the poem entitled " Mo Sgeul," which
appears in another part of this Review and which I
have done into modern Scots Gaelic for the benefit of
Gaelic readers of Guth Na Bliadhna, is in the same
admirable collection. Alasdair Beag.

1 David Nutt, London

Bithibh Faicilleach

May-day, season surpassing! Splendid is colour then. Blackbirds sing a full lay, If there be a slender shaft of day.

The dust-coloured cuckoo calls aloud : Welcome, splendid summer! The bitter bad weather is past, The boughs of the wood are a thicket.

Summer cuts the river down, The swift herd of horses seeks the pool, The long hair of the heather is outspread, The soft white wild-cotton blows.

Panic startles the heart of the deer, The smooth sea runs apace, Season when ocean sinks asleep, Blossom covers the world.


BITHIBH FAICILLEACH

" Gabhaibh mo chomhairle" ars' an seann duine glic! "Seadh, gu dearbh" ars' 'iadsan, "is fhada bho 'n a chuala sinn ' Tha ceann mor air duine glic agus ceann-circ air amadan'" Cha 'n eil mise a gabhail orm gu bheil mi nas glice na feadhain eile ach dh' fhaodainn a radh mur a thuairt a Ministair coir "bheirear comhairle seachad, ach cha toirear giùlan."

Bha uair ann 'n uair a bha an Sagart "a muirn, 's miad, 's meas" cha 'n e mhain air feadh na Gaidhealtachd, mar a tha 'a chomharradh anns na


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Bithibk Faicilleach

Bithibh Faicilleach 33

seann "Chaipalean" anns gach seann chladh's an duthaich, agus ann a cainnt air sinnsir; agus a bharrachd air sin, air a Ghalldaehd far an robh eaglaisean mora, briadha agus taighean-crabhaidh tha an diugh nan laraichean.
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Ach dh' fhalbh an latha sin bho chionn uime linn ; air chor's gu d' fhuair an Sagart agus a' dhriachd agus a' chreideamh fior dhroch ainm agus mi-chliu. Cha b' iongantas e.

Thug lagh na rioghachd a h-uile oidheirp air a chreideamh sin a sgrios, ach dh' fhairslich air sin a dhiannadh. Tha giùlan lagh na rioghachd agus oidheirp 's innleachd na Ministairean a cuir am chuimhne giùlan na " Caillaiche" an toiseachd an Earraich. Tha i sid gu foghainteach le' slacdhan na' dorn a diannadh a dichioll a cumail a sios fàs an fheoir. Mo dheireadh, chaill a Chailleach a misneach, chaill i greim a' laimhe, is thilg i a slacdhan fada 'laimhe agus thug i beuchd eisde a bheireadh sniomh air cridhe na cloiche, is dh' eigh i ard a' cinn :—

Dh' fhag e shios mi, dh' fhag e shuas mi Dh' fhag e eadar mo dha chluais mi Dh' fhag e thall mi, dh fhag e bhos mi Dh' fhag e eadar mo dha chois mi Tilgeam seo' am bun preas cuillinn Far nach fàs fiar no duilleach.
Ach mu'n d' thuairt bean Dhomhnuil Ghalld' e " s' e neoni an Saoghal sallach, 's mearg nach gabhadh na neoni e." Tha 'n Sagart agus "Creideamh an t-Shagairt" a fas uidh air n' uidh cho measail agus cho cliuteach agus a bha e riamh. Nach e so a thuairt an t-sheann fheadhainn a bhitheadh a g' innseadh dhuinn, gu'm b' e creideamh an t-Shagairt a bh' ann bho thùs agus gur e a bhiodh ann mu dheireadh. Tha' bhlath's bhuil 'n uair a chi sinn na miltean de dh' iosalean agus de dh' uaislean agus de chleir na h-Eaglais shassanaich a tionndadh ri eaglais na Roimhe a thuileadh air iosalean agus uaislean agus ministairean-sgeirachd Eaglais na h-Alba.

Tha mi cur mo luchd-leughaidh air an earalas. Bithibh faicilleach, modhail, beusach, turail. Tha mi dol a dh' innseadh dhuibh gu de 'thachair. Bha Sagart Gaidhealach's aithne dhomhsa latha bha sid air a cheum dol do Shassun. Ghabh e an "Train" ann an Dunedin. Thainig da dhuine-uasal gasda stigh, is thoisich a chracaireachd. B'iad, gu dearbh, daoine cho suilbhir 's thachair riamh air. Mu dheireadh thainig crioch air a chomhradh agus thug an Sagairt tarrainn air a leabhar. Ann sin thoisich na gillean air bruidhinn mu' n t-Shagairt ann an Gaidhlig bhinn an eilean Ileaich. Thuirt fear dhiu, gu' n robh e an duil gur Eirionnach a bh' ann ; ach bha am fear eile am beachd nach b' e ach gu'm b' e Spainndeach a bh' ann, a chaidh a thogail agus arach anns an rioghachd so a chionns gu' n robh rogha's tagha na beurl' a aige.

'S e thug air a leithid so do bheachd a bhi aige, chionns gu robh snuadh iarnaidh-duibh air gnuis an t-Shagairt.

Cha do ghabh an e Sagart air gu' n do thuig e facal gus an do stad an "Train." Chuir e a cheann a mach air an uinneig, 's thug e suil mu' n cuairt, an sin shuidh e far an robh e roimhe, agus le snodha gaire dhur - bheachdaich e air na gillean agus thuirt e ann an Gaidhlig smiorail na h-Apuinn, "tha eagal orm gu bheil coltas an uisge air"! 'S ann a sin bha' n luasgan, an naire agus am masladh air na gillean! Dh' iarr iad mile mathaneas air an t' Shagairt chionns gu' n robh iad cho neofhaicilleach 's bha iad. Ach chuir an Sagairt an sid orre, nuair a thuairt e. Cha 'n 'eil sibh an ion a bhi

c


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Bithibh Faicilleach

Russia, England and Japan

35

narach, oir cha d' thuirt sibh ni a bha na chulaidh-naire dhuibh. Bithibh na s faicilleache as a sa suas.
57


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Thuit dha 'n phears-eaglais chiadna dol air sgriob do dh! Challum-Chille. Eader an t-Oban agus I chuir e eolas air teaghlach Frangach a bha air bord, a bha cuideachd air an ceum do 'n Eilean ainmeil. Bha na Frangaich, fior thaingeil chionns gu'n do thacair iad air a h-aon a bha min-eolach air an cainnt agus air an duthaich anns an robh iad. 'N uair a bha iad a gabhail an aisig eader bata mor Mhic Bhrian agus an cladachd chuala'n Sagart an gille a bh'air an ramh-bhraghad ag radh ri chompach. " Eobhain,

eisd ris an fhear ad's e b do Shagart Frangach a

th ann." Cha do ghabh an Sagart air gu'n cual'e dig gus an robh iad faisg air a chlacdach, 'n uair a labhair e ann an Gaidhlig. c< Buil ann a Dhomhnuil, dian fodha, Eobhain." Cha 'n eil mi n'ion a radh gu'n robh tamailt gu leoir air na portairean. Lath'eile thuit dha a bhi dol thairis air drochaid mhor Ghlaschu, 'n uair a thug e 'n aire do dhithis ghillean air robh "smuid." Gun teagamh, mur a thuirt iad fhein's ann as an Eilean 'bha iad. Dh'eigh fear dhiu ris an fhear eile. " A Thormaid, gabh beachd air Sagart an diabhol." Thionnaidh an Sagairt air a shail agus thuairt e; "A laocbain gu'n tur, cha'n e mac t-atharse, bu choir a leithid a radh ri mac m 'atharse." 'S e bh'ann gu 'n do dh'iarr na gaisgich mille mathanas air t-Shagairt, a thuile air a sin bha iad air bheachd gu'n d'aithnich e iad, ged nach fhac an Sagairt iad riamh roimhe iad.

Seall, gu de' thacair an la-roimhe. Thainig dithis ghillean a Ile de Ghlaschu's bha iad a dh' amharc ann an iunneier buth a bhuinadh de dh' Iudhach araidh. Bha 'n h-uile seorsa de ghnothaicean prised anns an uinneig. Bha uairadearen oir ann, 's fainneachan's cluas-fhailean agus ailbheagan aluinn do gach gnè. Co thainig thun an doruis ach an t-Iudhach e fhein. *N uair a thug na gillean an aire dha thuirt fear dhiu

ri' charaid, "Seall, 'ille, so agad a am b e fhein."

Rinn an t-Iudhach glag gaire, agus thuirt e; " Thigibh 'stigh 'illean agus ceannaichaibh 'faidhirean' do 'n fheadhainn a dh' fhag sibh aig an tigh." Chaidh na gillean a stigh ga rireamh, agus mun d' fhag iad an t-Iudhach dh' fhag iad corr's tri-puinnd-shassunach anns a bhuth an lath' ad. 'Sann an Ile fhein a dh' ionnsaich an t-Iudhach a ghaidhlig a chiosnaich na gillean. Cha bhi mi ann brath-foille dhuibh. Bithibh daonan air ur 'n earalas. Bithibh faiceallach, agus na bithibh am feasda 'nar culaidh-naire do Thir nam Beann, na 'n Ghleann's 'na Gaisgeach.

Gtt.leasba' Mac Dhomhuil 'ic Eobhain.



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