Play recording: Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh: Seachrán Chearbhaill (1)
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- Teideal (Title): Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh: Seachrán Chearbhaill (1).
- Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 853920.
- Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
- Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
- Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
- Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
- Cnuasach (Collection): Joe Heaney Collection, University of Washington, Seattle.
- Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): Irish.
- Catagóir (Category): song, story.
- Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
- Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Lucy Simpson.
- Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 14/04/1981.
- Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York, United States of America.
- Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
- Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
- Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.
Cearbhallán — Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh — rinne sé Eileanóir a Rún agus ansin rinne sé… an ceann eile faoin siochrán1, nuair a fuair na daoine aithne Chearbhalláin chuir a hathair daoine ina dhiaidh, agus tháinigdar chuig an teach seo agus bhí time ar bun sa teach, agus nuair a bhí a fhios ag Cearbhallán go rabhdar ag an doras, chuaigh sé isteach faoin mbord, agus lig sé air féin go raibh sé a’ rámhailtí. Agus nuair a d’imíodar amach aríst, d’éirigh sé suas agus dúirt sé ceathrú d’amhrán. Tháinigdar ar ais agus chuaigh sé isteach faoin mbord aríst agus thosaigh sé a rámhailtí. Siochrán Chearbhalláin.
Muise lá breá a ndeachaigh mise ag breathnú ar an spéirbhean bhreá
Ó b’iúd í ainnirín na malaí is na ngeal-chromh lámh.
Bhí a grua mar na ballaí le go mbreactar ar an t-aol mar bhláth
Is a seang-mhalaí searca le go nglaoitear air an aol-tsúil bhreá.
Ó tá siúd aici, deir Peadar, más fíor le rá:
Ó rós-bhéilín tanaí le caiseal agus taoim-bhéal tláth.
Bhí pingin ins an maide aici ‘gus dhá leithphingin eile anuas ar an gclár
Ní raibh fáil aici ar an gcluiche údan ó mhaidin nó go n-éiríodh lá.
Muise, an gcluineann sibhse mise libh, a chailíní na sráide údan thiar,
A bhfuil mé i ngean oraibh le fada is mé faoi ghrásta Dé.
Tabhair scéala uaim chuici agus aithris di nach taobh léi atáim
Mar go bhfuil ansin bean eile údan le fada do mo chloí le grá.
Ó lán doirne díomhaine ins gach buine dá dlaoi-fholt bhreá
Nó an bhfuil sibh in bhur gcodladh mar is mithid díbh m’úrscéal a fháil.
Dar seo is dar siúd, is é an t-úrscéal a bhí ansiúd ná triúr bodachaí i dtús earraigh a chuaigh ar thóir móna, iad féin agus an dá mhada con a bhí acu. Chuadar ag iarraidh cead coille ar an gCoirbíneach, agus thus sé é sin dóibh. Chrochadar leo a bpéire tuannaí, cúl ramhara, béal tanaí. Dhearmadar ar an tapa, thugadar an míthapa leo. Bhriseadar na giarsaí, lig siad na maidí rámha leis an sruth.
Muise ar arraingeachaí agallta dhom nó pianta báis
Mar tá mé do mo stangadh ag an arraing atá dul thrí mo lár.
Ó, b’fhearr liom seal fada a bheinn ag breathnú ar a mínchnis bhreá
Nó dhá bréagadh go maidin, cé go mbaoisiúil dom a leithéid a rá.
Bhuel, dar seo ‘gus dar siúd, is é an t-úrscéal a bhi ansiúd ná Cormac Mac Airt Mac Chuinn Mac Thréanmhór Uí Bhaoiscne. Chuaigh ag tois na léime bine brice bua a bhí ar an mBinn Éadair Mhic Céadta Mhic Amhlaí, san áit a dtáinig an chéad loing agus an chéad laoch go hÉirinn ariamh.
Muise dheamhan sin gort socair nach bhogas chugat a’ nóinín fraoigh
Agus dheamhan sin loch ar bith gan abhainn a bheith ag dul uaithi síos.
Tá an rotha seo sna sodair agus níl aon chónaí faoi
Is ní minic a tháinig sonas gan an donas a bheith ina orlaí thríd.
Bhuel, dar seo ‘gus dar siúd, is é an t-úrscéal a bhi ansiúd ná rotha mór mo mháthar mór a chuaigh isteach sa teampall mór ag réabadh amach deskannaí. Mara a dtaga sibh roimhe rotha mór mo mháthar mór, déanfaidh sé an divvil sa teampall mór.
Is má théann tú thart siar ansin ag seanbheainín bhéasach
A bhfuil aici scata de pháistí bréagach,
Cuimil do bhosa go sleamhan dhá n-éadan
Is fainic a lochtófá tada dhá dtréithre
‘S an bhaigearó-éaró, sí an chraoibhín gheal donn.
Má théann tú thart siar ansin in easca údan tomáin
Fainic thú féin ar eas údan Shiobháin:
Báitheadh dhá chaora inti, minseach is mionnán
Capall Uí Dhónaill, a chú ‘gus a ghearrán,
‘S an bhaigearó-éaró, sí an chraoibhín gheal donn.
Discussion with Lucy Simpson
LS: The rambles?
JH: The Rambles of Carolan. When he eloped, he eloped with Eleanor. Her father sent people after them, to bring her back. And he disguised himself, you know. And… wherever they were, her father’s people came looking for them. He turned out to be a tramp, by the way, and he used to sit down in the middle of the floor and start saying this, so they wouldn’t recognize him. This makes no sense, you know, what he says in the talk, now. When he’s finished one verse, he starts talking, by the way that he’s mad. You get me now? Rambles. He’s rambling — like somebody rambling in his sleep…
[sings Seachrán Chearbhaill as above]
LS: What on earth does it mean? What is it?
JH: Well, this is what he was saying, you see, he was rambling, by the way that they wouldn’t know who he was. He was talking about different things that happened, you know.
LS: Like what?
JH: He was still praising her; but when they looked around and said, ‘Who is that man?’ he started rambling then. It makes no sense, what he was saying, but it did, in a way. He was talking about the first boat and the first ship — the first things that ever came to Ireland came at Binn Éadair [Howth], which was right, you know; and this is what he was saying [when] her father’s people from — ‘Who’s that? Who’s that fool?’
LS: Is the singing…? Or just the talking, you said, the silly stuff?
JH: The… talking is the silly thing, the ramble, that’s when he’s rambling. The singing is good. Praising her. But you see, every time somebody got suspicious of the man who was singing, he pretended he was mad, he was, you know, he was loony. That’s a very ancient, that’s really, really ancient.
LS: Are all those verses different — all those talking verses?
JH: Oh, they are different, yeah.
LS: What are you talking about? Just — odds and ends?
JH: They’re talking about… Fionn Mac Cumhaill, the first time he ever landed in Ireland in Binn Éadair, you know, the boat he had; and then about two brothers who went to ask permission of the forester to cut down two trees, if they brought with them their two hatchets, you know — dhearmadar an tapa is thugadar a mí-thapa leo — they forgot to say ‘good morning’ and they started saying ‘good-night’. Bhriseadar na giarsaí is lig siad — They broke the hatchets, and they both fell down and drowned. I mean it’s only — it’s like you waking up with a nightmare2.
LS: Is that a verse? That thing about the forest?
JH: Dar seo is dar siúd, is é an t-úrscéal a bhí ansiúd ná triúr bodachaí i dtús earraigh a chuaigh ar thóir móna, iad féin agus an dá mhada con a bhí acu. Chuadar ag iarraidh cead coille ar an gCoirbíneach, agus thus sé é sin dóibh. Chrochadar leo a bpéire tuannaí, cúl ramhara, béal tanaí. Dhearmadar an tapa, thugadar an míthapa leo. Bhriseadar na giarsaí, lig siad na maidí rámha leis an sruth. That’s it. But you got to say it quick, you know! It’s like telling a story — embellishing a story.
LS: Each verse is about something?
JH: Each verse is about something. He’s praising the woman between these things, you know. But these things are about something; and it doesn’t make sense, really, that’s why it’s called rambles. And that’s how he tricked her father’s people.
LS: What is that last verse where you get real-you slow down?
JH: This is, now… a different tune, different words [sings]: Má théann tú thart siar ag an seanbheainín bhéasach ‘If you go back, a little bit, to an old little woman’ [speaks] a bhfuil aici scata de pháistí bréagach ‘who has a multitude of kids that never tells the truth’ cuimil do bhosa go sleamhan dá n-éadan ‘rub your hands gently on your mouth’ is fainic a lochtó-‘but whatever you do, don’t fault them in front of the woman.’
LS: That’s how it is?
JH: That’s how it is.
LS: That’s the end of the song? Just like that? What does that mean?
JH: That’s what I’m trying to tell you again — this is the rambles of Carolan!
LS: But that’s not speaking — that’s you singing.
JH: Well, Má théann tú thart siar ar an each údan tomáin ‘If you go back there you’ll see a horse’ — Fainic thú féin ar eas údan Shiobháin ‘Watch out for Siobháin’s goat’ Báitheadh dhá chaora inti, minseach is mionnán ‘she drowned two sheep and a goat’ capall Uí Dhónaill — O’Donnell’s horse, his hound and his foal ‘S an bhaigearó-éaró, sí an chraoibhín gheal. This doesn’t belong — the point is, this is absolutely the end of the song.
LS: That’s the very end of the song?
JH: That’s the very end.
LS: I thought you talked3…
JH: Well, Dar seo ‘gus dar siúd, is é an t-úrscéal a bhi ansiúd: Rotha mór mo mháthar mór a chuaigh isteach sa teampall mór ag réabadh- Rotha mór mo mháthar mór: ‘My mother’s billy-goat went into the church and he started tearing out the desks in the church. Mara a dtaga sibh roimhe rotha mór- If you don’t stop my grandmother’s ram – or goat – he’ll create a divvil in the church.’ See, these things were never meant for translation. Pure, old Irish4.
1. The word seachrán is spelt siochrán here to reflect Joe’s pronunciation.
2. Joe’s translation is inaccurate. The hatchets weren’t broken and nobody drowned. The passage actually goes something like this: By this and by that, the story was this: three old fellows at the beginning of spring went looking for turf, themselves and their two hound dogs. They went to Corbett looking for permission to go into the forest, and he gave it to them. They took with them their two wide-backed, thin-bladed hatchets. They forgot their quickness and took their slowness with them: they broke the joists and let the oars drift.
3 In performing the Seachrán for Lucy, Joe transposed the final spoken passage with the two verses of the second song, so that the spoken passage came last. Normally he performed it so that the two verses ending with an chraoibhín gheal donn came last.
4. Joe’s translation goes astray here as well — though, interestingly, he tries to sustain the inaccuracy when he ‘corrects’ himself near the end. There is no billy-goat, and his mother wasn’t involved. What it actually says is: By this and by that, the story was this: my grandmother’s big ram went into the big [Protestant] church tearing out pews. If you don’t put a stop to my grandmother’s big ram, he’ll play the divil in the big church.
This extraordinary tour-de-force has been the subject of much study. For those interested in learning more, here are a few places to start:
- The poetic form used in the Seachrán is known as crosántacht, a mixture of verse and prose. For a discussion of this form, see Alan Harrison, An Chrosántacht (Dublin, 1979).
- For more about Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh, Seachrán Chearbhaill and the song Eileanóir na Rún, see James Doan, ‘The Folksong Tradition of Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh’ in Folklore, Vol. 96, No. 1 (1985), 67-86; also L. Ó Laoire, S. Williams and V. S. Blankenhorn, ‘Seosamh Ó hÉanaí agus Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh: Cleasa an Chrosáin san Oileán Úr,’ New Hibernia Review (2011).
- Ó Laoire, Lillis and Sean Williams, Bright Star of the West: Joe Heaney, Irish Song-Man. Oxford University Press.
- Three of Joe’s performances of Seachrán Chearbhaill, recorded commercially.
Joe has a point when he says that ‘these things were never meant for translation’. The great delight of this song is in its sounds — the amazing succession of rhymes and alliterative words that vividly illustrate the Irish love of language for its own sake. This aspect can be appreciated even by those who don’t understand a word of Irish, especially once they’ve understood that the meaning of the words is meant to be mysterious anyway. For those who want to see a literal translation based on Joe Heaney’s text of the Seachrán, one is included — along with full discussion of this important text — in Ó Laoire, L., and Williams, S., Bright Star of the West: Joe Heaney, Irish Song-Man (Oxford University Press).
A translation is also supplied with a recording of Seachrán Chearbhaill made by Peadar Ó Ceannabháin, one of the finest singers to have emerged from the tradition in recent years (Mo Chuid den tSaol: Traditional Songs from Conamara, Cló Iar-Chonnachta CICD 131). Some of his CD notes are included online, including his own text of the Seachrán and his translation of it. Note that Ó Ceannabháin’s text is based on a version collected at the turn of the nineteenth century by Mícheál and Tomás Ó Máille near Cor na Mona. This text is more internally coherent than Joe’s, which has suffered the vicissitudes of oral tradition to the point where it’s hard to differentiate the passages which were intentionally mysterious from those which have simply become so over time.
The form of the Seachrán is basically as Joe describes it to Lucy: a mixture of sung lines (the structure of the air puts them across as couplets, but they may originally have been stanzas or paragraphs of different lengths) alternating with the prose rambles. With the exception of the last two stanzas, the sung portions refer generally to the vagaries of love, while the prose sections — the first two of them, anyway — are similar to the stylized, formulaic ‘runs’ occurring in stories about Fionn Mac Cumhaill and other heroes.
The third prose passage, with its use of English and its reference to a Protestant church, is more likely just a play-on-words; it doesn’t appear in the version collected by the Ó Máille brothers. Neither do the two stanzas ending in the refrain ‘s a bhaigeró éaró, sí an chraoibhín gheal donn, which involve neither courship nor Fenian lore.