Play recording: Bean an Fhir Rua
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- Teideal (Title): Bean an Fhir Rua.
- Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 853921.
- 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.
- 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): 13/10/1981.
- Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York, United States of America.
- Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): unavailable.
- Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
- Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.
She was courted by many, and the poet reckoned that she was even worse than the woman who made Samson lose his hair – that she was worse than Helen of Troy – that she was worse than the woman responsible for the Sons of Uisne falling apart and killing one another. And so on and so forth, you know. And he said the tailor was the man responsible for it all – the tailor would be in hell because of the red-haired man’s wife. And only for the sins of Eve, Adam and Eve he said, Christ would never be crucified on the cross. This [is] all history in this song…
Tabhair leitir uaim scríofa síos go baile chois cuain
Ar thóraíocht na mná chaoin a bhfuil an chaor thrí lasadh ina gruaidh
Ó mheallfadh sí an draoi, tá na céadta fear léi dhá lua
Ach glac misneach, a Bhríd, dheamhan lá nach leat (?) an fear rua
Nuair a théimse thart síos bím i bpríosún ceanglaithe crua
Le boltaí ar mo chaol le míl[t]e glas ortha suas
Óra, thabhairfinnse míonna1 mar a thabhairfeas an eala ar an gcuan
Ach aon phóigín amháin ‘s é a fháil ó bhean an fhir rua.
Tuig feasta gur céasadh an tAon-Mhac Muire ar an gcrann
Faoi pheacaí Shíl Éabha, is é mo léan mar rugadh muid ann
Beidh mallacht na naomh agat le do ló má níonn tú an cháin
Géill feasta don chléir, is ná caill na grásta le mná.
Is ceanglaíodh le Blánaéid ard-mhac Chú Chulainn crua
Thit Diarmaid le Gráinne ar mhullach Cnoc Bolgain ó thuaidh
Samson le mnaoi, chaill sé a bhrí ‘s a spreagadh ‘s a ghruaig
A tháilliúir na gaoithe, is daor a íocfas tú bean an fhir rua.
Is a Hercules láidir, thit sé i gcogadh na draoi
Gur maraíodh na céadta le Helen nó scriosadh an Traoi
Clann Uisne grámhar, thit siad as a seasamh le draíocht
‘S gur maraíodh Tuirgéisius le iníon Mhaoilsheachlainn na Mí.
Tá crann insa ngáirdin ar a bhfásann duilliúr bláth buí
Nuair a leagaim mo lámh air is láidir nach mbriseann mo chroí
Ó, ní iarrfainn de spás ar an Ard-Rí atá thuas ós mo chionn
Ach aon phóigín amháin is é a fháil ó stóirín mo chroí.
Take a letter from me down to the farm at the harbour’s edge,
To seek out the gentle woman whose cheek is lit with the colour of berries;
Oh, she would entice a druid – a hundred men are after her;
But take courage, Bríd, and the red-haired man will always be yours.
When I go down there, it’s as if I were a prisoner, held fast,
Bolts on my ankles and a thousand locks on them;
Oh, I would surge upward as the swan does over the harbour
Were I to get one single kiss from the wife of the red-haired man.
We know that the only son of Mary was tortured on the cross
For the sin of the seed of Eve – alas that we were born into it;
You’ll have the curse of the saints for the rest of your days you if you do this bad thing;
Obey the clergy from now onwards, and don’t lose [God’s] grace over a woman.
CuChulainn’s great son was tied to Blánaéid,
And Diarmaid fell on Ben Bulben because of his involvement with Gráinne;
Because of a woman, Samson lost his strength, his energy and his hair;
You, tailor of the wind, it’s dearly you’ll pay for the red-haired man’s wife.
Strong Hercules fell in the war of enchantment (?);
And hundreds were killed by Helen until Troy fell;
The loving sons of Uisne, they were brought low by [a woman’s] enchantment;
And Turgesius was killed by the daughter of Maoilsheachlainn of Meath.
There’s a tree in the garden on which leaves and yellow flowers grow;
And when I lay my hand upon it, it’s a wonder that my heart doesn’t break.
I would asking nothing more of the High King of heaven above me
Than one single kiss from the treasure of my heart.
1. It’s not clear what Joe means here. The word here in most renditions is sítheadh, ‘rush, dash, swoop’; thus the line would mean ‘I would rush, as the swan swoops down to the harbour, in order to get just one kiss from the red-haired man’s wife.’
This is not the place to attempt to un-pick the complexities of this song, one of the ‘big songs’ of the Conamara sean-nós repertoire. Most performances these days – and most of those included on commercially-available recordings – comprise only those stanzas that deal most directly with the feelings of the love-lorn suitor; see Ó Máille/Mahon, Amhráin Ghlainne Gael (Dublin, 1991), 126-7 for a representative sample. Joe’s version includes some of these.
Verses dealing with figures from ancient Greece, from the Old Irish tales, and from the Bible appear in a version – perhaps an elaboration of the original song – attributed to the poet Raftery; see Douglas Hyde, Abhráin agus Dánta an Reachtabhraigh (Dublin 1933), 95-101. Some of these are referenced in Joe’s rendition, as is also the case in the version recorded by Josie Sheáin Jeaic Mac Donncha, from Aird Thiar, Carna (CD Cinq Planetes, released in 2000); both men may ultimately have got the song from the same source.