Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Fine words and thoughts might sound quite good,
devoid of acts are destitute;
Like some sick tree that bears no fruit,
but sheds its leaves to bare dead wood.

When all is said and nothing's done,
of what use is opinion?
Which, while it sure amuses some,
is destined for oblivion.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

On reading Galeano.

Passion spares no one, Conquistador.

Earth wet with blood,
Your shiny armour,
Orders and commands,
Brutal habits,
Thirst for gold.

The earth will swallow you whole:
I see just footprints
where you have trampled,
and the barren landscape
you leave behind,


Wednesday, 24 March 2010


By the gate, old age waits with patience
for youth to catch up, and to seek in wisdom
the solution and cure.

"How does it feel, to be old and grey?"
"Fresh as a bird and full of song!"
"Tell me if this fancy be..."
"Oh, no sir!" she replied.

"I'm young at heart with each new day,
Just like I was when I was small.
It's the bones that creak and ache, you see,
Age has creased me, withered me dry."

"Youth is folly," I replied,
"yet great the gift it brings to life.
Tell me, from all you've seen,
what is the cause of our misery?"

"The world is made of shady dreams,
that make men chase from shore to shore,
to shoot at space, invade the sea,
and all for our sake, so they say."

"They kill the herbs, and raze the plants,
and banish all who dare trespass,
The birds, foxes, insects too,
yet each one has its work to do."

"The trees grieve and shed their leaves,
though they cannot walk, they leave the fields;
Beneath their bark they tell the tale
of every ring their trunks have made."

"Every morning, foul or fair,
 People sleep in dreaming while the daylight glares;
Then they rush out speeding, incanting their cares,
Their insides reeling from a life's wear and tear."

"And so Life passes, year upon year.
Bright at day's dawning, gone heaven knows where;
Night time's ghost with silver white hair,
A whisper in the wind while the earth lies bare."

"But look at me, this humble frame:
Once I didn't seem so plain.
Young men turned their heads and sighed,
the bold came knocking at my door."

"Who'd look at me now, as pale as straw,
a frail bent stalk while the wind blows raw?
Gone are the days I played my charms
and grown men sheltered in my arms."

"Remember, remember, exactly just how,
far off in the dim past it always was now.
But since we forget this, we furrow the brow,
yet from only one seedling grows golden the bough."

"Now the hour is late, and the way is long:
take this gift, now be good and be gone!"
I left her smiling as I strode out the miles
with a gold bowl corona of the herb Celandine."
From our source we begin,
and in return seek origin.
A drop of light
in a glistening sea,
endowed lucidity,
and cast into a frail form,
painfully small,
born to bear the burden
of our secret.
Kuno Meyer's 1906 translation in contemporary English.
"Traduttore traditore."


Summer has come, healthy and free,
Whence the brown wood is aslope ;
The slender nimble deer leap.
And the path of seals is smooth.

The cuckoo sings sweet music.
Whence there is smooth restful sleep ;
Gentle birds leap upon the hill.
And swift grey stags.

Heat has laid hold of the rest of the deer;
The lovely cry of curly packs !
The white extent of the strand smiles,
There the swift sea is.

A sound of playful breezes in the tops
Of a black oakwood is Drum Daill,
The noble hornless herd runs.
To whom Cuan-wood is a shelter.

Green bursts out on every herb.
The top of the green oakwood is bushy.
Summer has come, winter has gone,
Twisted hollies wound the hound.

The blackbird sings a loud strain.
To him the live wood is a heritage,
The sad angry sea is fallen asleep.
The speckled salmon leaps.

The sun smiles over every land,
A parting for me from the brood of cares
Hounds bark, stags tryst.
Ravens flourish, summer has come !


Summer-time, season supreme !
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 bitterness of bad weather is past.
The boughs of the wood are a thicket.

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

Bees with puny strength carry
A goodly burden, the harvest of blossoms ;
Up the mountain-side kine take with them mud,
The ant makes a rich meal.

The harp of the forest sounds music,
The sail gathers - perfect peace ;
Colour has settled on every height.
Haze on the lake of full waters.

The corncrake, a strenuous bard, discourses.
The lofty cold waterfall sings
A welcome to the warm pool‚
The talk of the rushes has come.

Light swallows dart aloft.
Loud melody encircles the hill,
The soft rich mast buds.
The stuttering quagmire prattles.

The peat-bog is as the raven's coat,
The loud cuckoo bids welcome,
The speckled fish leaps ‚
Strong is the bound of the swift warrior.

Man flourishes, the maiden buds
In her fair strong pride.
Perfect each forest from top to ground.
Perfect each great stately plain.

Delightful is the season's splendour,
Rough winter has gone :
Every fruitful wood shines white,
A joyous peace is summer.

A flock of birds settles
In the midst of meadows,
The green field rustles.
Wherein is a brawling white stream.

A wild longing is on you to race horses.
The ranked host is ranged around :
A bright shaft has been shot into the land.
So that the water-flag is gold beneath it.

A timorous, tiny, persistent little fellow
Sings at the top of his voice,
The lark sings clear tidings :
Surpassing summer-time of delicate hues !


My tidings for you : the stag bells.
Winter snows, summer is gone.

Wind high and cold, low the sun,
Short his course, sea running high.

Deep-red the bracken, its shape all gone ‚
The wild-goose has raised his wonted cry.

Cold has caught the wings of birds ;
Season of ice : these are my tidings.


Cold! Cold !
Cold to-night is broad Moylurg,
Higher the snow than the mountain-range.
The deer cannot get at their food.

Cold till Doom !
The storm has spread over all :
A river is each furrow upon the slope,
Each ford a full pool.

A great tidal sea is each loch,
A full loch is each pool :
Horses cannot get over the ford of Ross,
No more can two feet get there.

The fish of Ireland are a-roaming,
There is no strand which the wave does not pound.
Not a town there is in the land,
Not a bell is heard, no crane talks.

The wolves of Cuan-wood get
Neither rest nor sleep in their lair,
The little wren cannot find
Shelter in her nest on the slope of Lon.

Keen wind and cold ice
Has burst upon the little company of birds,
The blackbird cannot get a lee to her liking.
Shelter for its side in Cuan-wood.

Cosy our pot on its hook.
Crazy the hut on the slope of Lon :
The snow has crushed the wood here.
Toilsome to climb up Ben-bo.

Glenn Rye's ancient bird
From the bitter wind gets grief ;
Great her misery and her pain.
The ice will get into her mouth.

From flock and from down to rise ‚
Take it to heart ! were folly for thee
Ice in heaps on every ford ‚
That is why I say "Cold ! Cold !"


Arran of the many stags,
The sea strikes against its shoulder,
Isle in which companies are fed.
Ridge on which blue spears are reddened.

Skittish deer are on her peaks,
Delicious berries on her manes.
Cool water in her rivers.
Mast upon her dun oaks.

Greyhounds are in it and beagles,
Blackberries and sloes of the dark blackthorn,
Her dwellings close against the woods,
Deer scattered about her oak-woods.

Gleaning of purple upon her rocks.
Faultless grass upon her slopes,
Over her fair shapely crags
Noise of dappled fawns a-skipping.

Smooth is her level land, fat are her swine.
Bright are her fields.
Her nuts upon the tops of her hazel-wood,
Long galleys sailing past her.

Delightful it is when the fair season comes.
Trout under the brinks of her rivers.
Seagulls answer each other round her white cHff ,
Delightful at all times is Arran !

"Summer has come." Text and translation in Kuno Meyer:
"Four Songs of Summer and Winter" (D. Nutt, 1903), p. 20 ff.
Probably tenth century.

"Song of Summer", Ibid., p. 8 ff., and "Eriu",
"Journal of the School of Irish Learning", i. p. 186.
Probably ninth century.

"Summer is gone."‚ Ibid., p. 14.
Ninth century.

"A Song of Winter", from the story called
"The Hiding of the Hill of Howth", first printed and translated
by Kuno Meyer in "Revue Celtique", xi. p. 125 ff.
Probably tenth century.

"Arran", taken from the prose tale, "Agallamh na SenSrach",
edited and translated by S. H. O'Grady in "Silva Gadelica".
The poem refers to the island in the Firth of Clyde.
Thirteenth century.