Silver apples of the moon

MARGARET MACDONALD MAKINTOSH (1865-1933) The Silver Apples of the Moon
MARGARET MACDONALD MAKINTOSH (1865-1933)
The Silver Apples of the Moon

Leggi in italiano

The song of wandering Aengus was published in 1899, in the collection of poems “The Wind among the reeds” by William Butler Yeats (1865-1939).

Aengus (Oengus)  is the god of love of Irish mythology, belonging to the mythical ranks of the Tuatha De Dannan, eternally young ruler of the Brug na Boinne near the banks of the river Boyne. It is said of him that he fell in love with a beautiful girl seen in a dream and, sick with love, looked for her for a long time before finding her and taking her to her kingdom.

In poetry, however, the character is a young mortal (perhaps the poet himself) in search of his poetic inspiration or the most ancestral side of knowledge. He tells of his initiation into the past, because he became old, in the perennial search for beauty, or poetic enlightenment, embodied by the girl with the apple blossoms in her hair.

The first to put the poem into music was the same Yeats who composed or adapted a traditional Irish melody: in 1907 he published his essay ‘Speaking to the Psaltery’ in which the poem is recited bardically, sung with the accompaniment of the psaltery; but many other artists were inspired by the text and composed further melodies.

Burt Ives with the title The Wandering of Old Angus  in ‘Burl Ives: Songs of Ireland‘ Decca DL 8444 (ca. 1954) in the liner notes the Yeats melody is credited

Judy Collins with the title ‘Golden Apples of the Sun’  – Golden Apples of the Sun 1962. “Learned from the singing of Will Holt, this stunning song is a musical setting of a W. B. Yeats poem ‘The Song of the Wandering Angus’. It is not a folk song, it tends to be an art song. It has a traditional feeling about it; the repetitiveness gives you the impression of an incantation, which the poem does too. Of her learning it I had heard the song almost two years ago. When I heard Will Holt sing it late one night at the Gate of Horn, I was greatly impressed, and determined to learn it. Will sang it for me a number of times, and even gave me a tape of it. I lived with the Golden Apples of the Sun almost a year-and-a-half before I ever sang it, and then it burst out one day – almost of its own accord – while I was visiting friends. It took me a long time to assimilate it, but now it’s part of me. I feel that the song has something to do with what people want – what they don’t have – and sometimes the desire for these things is almost as satisfying as the getting.'”

Donovan in H. M. S. 1971

Richie Havens in “Mixed Bag II” 1974

Christy Moore in “Ride On” 1986

Paul Winter & Karen Casey in Celtic Solstice 1999

Jolie Holland in Catalpa 2003

Waterboys in “An Appointment with Mr Yeats” 2011
an almost spoken version

Sedrenn  in De l’autri cotè 2013 (the review of the cd here

Robert Lawrence & Jill Greene (music by Jill Diana Greene) 2016

I
I went out to the hazel wood
because a fire was in my head(1)
and cut and peeled a hazel wand(2)
and hooked a berry to a thread.
II
And when white moths were on the wing
and moth-like stars were flickering out
I dropped the berry in the stream(3)
and caught a little silver trout(4).
III
When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire aflame
But something rustled on the floor
and someone called me by my name.
IV
It had become a glimmering girl
with apple blossom(5) in her hair
who called me by my name and ran
and vanished through the brightening air
V
Though I am old with wandering
through hollow lands and hills lands
I will find out where she has gone
and kiss her lips and take her hands.
VI
And walk among long dappled grass
and pluck till time and times are done
the silver apples of the moon
the golden apples of the sun(5).

NOTES
1) it’s the fire what characterizes the visionary experience of shamanism (see). In the book “The Fire in the Head” (2007) Tom Cowan examines the connections between shamanism and Celtic imagination, analyzing the myths, the stories, the ancient Celtic poets and narrators and describing the techniques used to access the world of the shamans. So the protagonist approaches the waters of the river to practice a ritual that allows him to travel in the Other World.
2) the hazelnut is the fruit of science and falls into the sacred spring, where it is eaten by salmon / trout (which becomes the salmon of knowledge).
3) most likely it is the Boyne River. According to mythology, Brug na Boinne or “Boyne River Palace” is the current Newgrange. Dimora del Dagda and then the son Aengus (Oengus) and the most important gods. The mound rises on the north bank of the Boyne River, east of Slane (County Meath).

new-grange
here is how the mound was once

4)A reference to a mythological tale by Fionn Mac Cumhaill (salomon of knowledge).

Even the trout is considered by the Celtic tradition as a guardian spirit of the waterways, and represents the Underworld, which it is materially embodied under the gaze of the poet in a young girl from the Other World, in a sort of dream or vision ( aisling) that disappears when the day is cleared: the poet tells us he will dedicate his life to chasing that girl or to reach (in life) the Other World
5) The apple tree and its fruit are always present in the Otherworld and most of the time it is a female creature to offer the golden apple to the hero or the poet. The apple is the fruit of immortality but also of death, of eternal sleep.
The access (in life) to the Other Celtic World is an honor reserved for poets, semi-divine heroes and a few privileged visitors (sometimes ravished by fairies for their beauty), Yeats hopes to be able to feed on Avalon apples and obtain the gift of immortality (poetic).

Aengus il vagabondo

Angelo Branduardi in “Branduardi canta Yeats” 1986 music by Donovan, text-translation by Luisa Zappa

Fu così che al bosco andai,
chè un fuoco in capo mi sentivo,
un ramo di nocciolo io tagliai
ed una bacca appesi al filo.
Bianche falene vennero volando,
e poi le stelle luccicando,
la bacca nella corrente lanciai
e pescai una piccola trota d’argento.
Quando a terra l’ebbi posata
per ravvivare il fuoco assopito,
qualcosa si mosse all’improvviso
e col mio nome mi chiamò.
Una fanciulla era divenuta,
fiori di melo nei capelli,
per nome mi chiamò e svanì
nello splendore dell’aria.
Sono invecchiato vagabondando
per vallate e per colline,
ma saprò alla fine dove e`andata,
la bacerò e la prenderò per mano;
cammineremo tra l’erba variegata,
sino alla fine dei tempi coglieremo
le mele d’argento della luna,
le mele d’oro del sole.

LINK
http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=44244 http://branoalcollo.wordpress.com/2011/07/11/le-metamorfosi-di-yeats/ http://lebuoneinterferenze.blogspot.it/2010/02/le-mele-della-notte.html http://www.ilcerchiosciamanico.it/articoli/p2/123/il-regno-sotto-le-acque-il-recupero-dello-sciamanesimo-celtico-di-sharon-paice-macleod.html