Some Cradle songs from the Isle of Man

Leggi in italiano

In Manx Gaelic we have some lullabies from folklore, fairy melodies handed down from mother to daughter, which are the splits of life of the old time. The traditional music of the island has experienced a revival in the years of 1970 with a stirring of interest towards the local Gaelic and more generally of popular culture. Today Manks is taught thanks to the records of the 50-70 years released by the last Manx speakers. A great contribution to the compilation was made by Mona Douglas (1898-1987) who began collecting the songs from 1914 and until 1950 and who did a great job of classification and translation.

“The Smuggler’s Wife’s Song”

Also titled Arrane Ben Hraghtalagh, Smuggler’s Lullaby, Song Of The Smuggler’s Wife, it is a lullaby sung to the occasion, not so much to the child, as to the husband to warn him of the raid of the English excise men.

Caera in Suantraighe 2006

Mannin Folk 

English version
See the excise men are coming
(Sleep my little hero)
They’ll be seeking wine and whiskey
(Sleep my little hero)
Ah me, child of mine
Sleep my little hero
Daddy’s late and we must warn him
This time he’ll have nothing illegal
The Englishmen may board us
Nothing wrong they’ll discover
Let them searching on boat or dwelling
Nothing’s in the hold but herrings.
Manx Gaelic
Jeeagh quoi to cheet! T’an Ferny Keeshyn
(Chaddil oo my Laala!)
Shirraghey son ushteybio ny feeyney.
(Chaddil oo my Laala!)
Oghene, lhiannoo meein,
(Chaddil oo my Laala!)
Hig yn Fer thie ‘sy thie anmagh…
As cha bee noiraanaght echey…
Cuin vees ny Sostynee cheet orrin…
Cha vow ad rederbee meereiltagh…
Lhig daue shirr ayns thie ny baatey…
Beggan aynjee nish agh sceddan!


Mona Douglas classifies this song as originally composed in English and then translated into Manks. The text recalls the nursery rhyme “Rock-a-bye Baby” (in Mother Goose’s Melody 1765)

Rock-a-bye baby
On the tree tops,
When the wind blows,
The cradle will rock
When the bough breaks,
The cradle will fall,
and down will come Baby,
Cradle and all.

Cairistiona Dougherty & Paul Rogers in two versions

 with final melody composed of Caz (flute)

live (voice and guitar)


English translation Mona Douglas
O hush you my child, sleep while I sing
the wind blows your hammock will swing
But if the branch breaks down, down we shall fall
The babe in the cradle, the singer and all!
Oh hush my child on a wave born along
The tall ship is swaying, loud the wind’s song
‘Tis over the tide-ways, over the sea
Wrapped safe you will slumber sailing to me.
On the hills of the West, O child of my love
When darkens the twilight, peace broods above
But cobwebs of music (1) through the air go
Hark! Can you not hear them drift to and fro?
Manx Gaelic
O bee dty host, lhiannoo, er dty lunjean
Tra heidys y geay eisht leaystee yn clean
My brishys y bangan neose gys yn ooir
Hig lhiannoo as clean as ooilley nyn droor
O bee dty host, lhiannoo, er baare y tonn
Tra yllys yn geay lunjeanee y lhong
She harrish yn aarkey, harrish y cheayn
Ayns lhiabbee t’ou cadley, lhiannoo veg veen
Heear er y chronk glass, O lhiannoo my chree
Tra cheerys yn oie vees ooilley ec shee
Agh ass yn aer feayn hig snieuaneyn kiaull
Eaisht! Cluinnee uss adsyn syn troailt noon as noal?

1) The image of the spiders that weave the canvas in the silence of the night is very powerful: it is the concept of Wyrd, the Wyrd canvas which in ancient iconografy is represented by a network of lozenges.
It is a network of threads that runs through the earth, it is the link of destiny for which we are all bound one to others.

Arrane ny niee


Sylphs and sylphids butterflies in the wind

Leggi in italiano

We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.(The Tempest act IV sc I)

Winged spirit of Germanic and Celtic mythology, sometimes considered an angel, the Sylph (Sylphid lives in the woods and dances in the wind. It is depicted as a long-legged girl with a diaphanous skin and long blonde hair (sometimes honey-colored, sometimes silver), a delicate and budding beauty that emanates the charm of grace. The most famous name is Ariel immortalized by Shakespeare in his comedy “The Tempest”.

Henry Fuseli, Ariel c. 1800-10

Ariel is the sylph of the Air, its power is that of the wind and its character is the same, changeable and capricious: caressing and playful or threatening like a storm.
So Ariel sleeps in the corolla of a primrose, rides a bat and, sitting on a cloud, contemplates the human leisures.
The song of Ariel is melodious and fairy, seductive to the point of inducing madness.
Sylphs control winds and rain and give shape to clouds, lightning is their weapon and their power is stronger during sunrise or twilight.

The alchemist Paracelsus describes the sylphids in his book “De Nymphis, Sylphis, Pygmaeis et Salamandris et coeteris spiritibus” cataloging them among the elemental spirits.

John Anster Fitzgerald, Ariel (1858)

John Anster Fitzgerald depicts a winged, ephebic, and feminine sylph as he sways on the branch of a blossoming hawthorn surrounded by multicolored birds: the sylphs are the creatures of Spring, and their songs and dances awaken Nature. Their language is similar to that of birds, so they communicate with music and their favorite instrument is the flute.

To the sylphs the ancients gave the labor of modeling the snowflakes and gathering clouds. This latter they accomplished with the cooperation of the undines who supplied the moisture. The winds were their particular vehicle and the ancients referred to them as the spirits of the air. They are the highest of all the elementals, their native element being the highest in vibratory rate. They live hundreds of years, often attaining to a thousand years and never seeming to grow old. The leader of the sylphs is called Paralda, who is said to dwell on the highest mountain of the earth. The female sylphs were called sylphids.
The sylphs sometimes assume human form, but apparently for only short periods of time. Their size varies, but in the majority of cases they are no larger than human beings and often considerably smaller. It is said that the sylphs have accepted human beings into their communities and have permitted them to live there for a considerable period; in fact, Paracelsus wrote of such an incident, but of course it could not have occurred while the human stranger was in his physical body. By some, the Muses of the Greeks are believed to have been sylphs, for these spirits are said to gather around the mind of the dreamer, the poet, and the artist, and inspire him with their intimate knowledge of the beauties and workings of Nature. To the sylphs were given the eastern corner of creation. Their temperament is mirthful, changeable, and eccentric. The peculiar qualities common to men of genius are supposedly the result of the cooperation of sylphs, whose aid also brings with it the sylphic inconsistency. The sylphs labor with the gases of the human body and indirectly with the nervous system, where their inconstancy is again apparent. They have no fixed domicile, but wander about from place to place–elemental nomads, invisible but ever-present powers in the intelligent activity of the universe
..” Mainly P. Hall “The Secret Teachings Of All Ages (from here)”


Jean-Luc Lenoir in “Old Celtic & Nordic Ballads” 2013: Air Du Sylphe the melody in the central part takes the shape of a medieval estampie.


Maria Taglioni, The Sylphide

The classical ballet could have been born from the inspiration of a sylphid, such is the title of the first romantic ballet born from the choreography of Filippo Taglioni for his daughter Maria who excelled in dance en pointe (the first performance was held in Paris in March 1832) .
Celtic legends were fashionable (James Macpherson with the Ossian saga published in 1807 as a translation of ancient Gaelic songs in the Highlands, gave rise to Romanticism) and the story takes place in Scotland, in the Highlands to tell the impossible love between a human and a fairy creature: James about to marry with Effie falls in love with a beautiful sylphid that seduces him in a dream.

Eva Evdokimova “Sylphide”