Pretty girl milking her cow, a irish pastoral love song

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Cailín Deas Cruíte na mBó” is a song in Irish Gaelic of the eighteenth century with an English version titled “Pretty girl milking her cow”, a version erroneously attributed to the Irish poet Thomas Moore who actually used the same Irish melody for another song entitled “The valley before smiling” (“The Song of O’Ruark, Prince of Breffni”)
The “Cailin Deas” melody is found in “Ancient Irish Music” by Edward Bunting (1796). The actress singer Judy Garland (from the Irish origins) has made the song very popular also in America, proposing it in various arrangements since 1940. (the Gaelic version in the first part)


559A maiden milking a cow is a figure found carved on the walls of many medieval churches, and is a very old presence in the land of Ireland, or more generally along the coasts of Europe: already in the megalithism there are names like The Cow and Calf attributed to particular rocks. In Ireland Boinn-Boann, the “White Cow” is the goddess who represents prosperity. The Cow or Bull ridden by Goddesses or by the Moon itself is the symbol of the power of Mother Earth, the force enclosed in the secret of Nature. Thus the cult of the ancient goddess is always transformed according to the new conceptions .. to remain always unchanged! (see more)
The White Cow of Crichie,in the Buchan, has a name “frequently given to great stones, presumably, as this one, of white quartz”.vi The Cow and Calf Rocks loom near a dense cluster of carved rocks on Ilkley Moor, West Yorkshire. The Buwch a’r Llo – ‘Cow and Calf’ – are two standing stones by the road near Melindwr, Ceredigion, Wales. Such names may be the last trace of narratives associated with these configurations,vii evoking the belief that ‘the presence of her calf was essential when a cow was being milked and that a cow deprived of her calf would retain her milk’.viiiL’ Épine Blanche (‘White Thorn’), the heroine of a Breton folktale, used a holly stick to strike a rock on the sea-shore, from which a cow emerged, to provide copious amounts of milk for the girl and her mother.ix One story, from Ireland, relates how a family on Dursey Island found a black bull and cow near the beach. The cow furnished sufficient butter and milk for all domestic wants, and soon a calf was added to the number. However, a wicked servant girl, milking the parent cow, struck the beast and cursed her. The animal turned to the other two and lowed to them, sorrowfully, and the three moved off to the sea. They plunged in, and forthwith the three rocks, since known as the Bull, Cow and Calf, arose. Milking legends’ surround megalithic structures such as Mitchell’s Fold stone circle in Staffordshire, where a witch milked a magical cow through a sieve, the cow thence ceasing to give her bounty of milk.xi During a famine, a benevolent white sea-cow provided milk at the Callanish stone circle on the Isle of Lewis, until a witch milked her through a sieve.xii The Glas Gowlawn (the Grey Cow), presented itself every day before each house in Ireland, giving a day’s supply of milk. So she continued until an avaricious person laid in a quantity for traffic, whereupon she left Ireland, going into the sea off the Hill of Howth.xiiiY Fuwch Frech, ‘The Freckled Cow’, roamed the Mynydd Hiraethog near Ruthin. Her pasture was near a farm called Cefn Bannog (‘Horned Ridge’); she drank at the spring called Ffynnon y Fuwch Frech.xiv A stone circle, Preseb y Fuwch Frech (‘The Freckled Cow’s Crib’) was her shelter.xv Whenever anyone went to her for milk, she filled the vessel with milk of the richest quality, and she never became dry. Eventually, a witch took a sieve and milked her dry. In response she walked to Llyn dau ychain, the Lake of the Two Oxen, in the parish of Cerrig-y-drudion, followed by her two children the Ychen Bannawg, the legendary long-horned oxen, bellowing as they went. They disappeared into the lake and were never seen again.xvi In County Limerick, a cow emerged from the River Deel; if she were milked a hundred times a day she would each time fill a can. She departed into the river and was never more seen, when she was cursed by a woman milking her.xvii This confluence of stone, water and animals in these narratives is a discernible element in a wide array of rock art traditions worldwide.” (from here)


A slow air that is almost a lullaby, typical of the aisling song, a literary genre of Irish poetry of the 1600-1700 in which the protagonist (often a poet) has the vision in dream of a beautiful girl who represents Ireland.

Duck Baker and his guitar arrangement

John Renbourn & Stefan Grossman

The text, however, does not speak of fairies, it is rather an irish pastoral love song (a courting song), with more or less serious marriage proposals. The theme of bucolic romantic contrast is reminiscent of the medieval tradition of troubadours and of troubadour lyricism, and indeed the language is florid and full of elaborate images! Nowadays the lyrics appear a little laughable, but these songs were part of the “educational system” of the past, where the girls learned how to behave especially with noblemen who wandered the countryside in search of easy prey!
The stanzas contained in the English version are 6-8 out of 4 in Gaelic: the gallant proposals of the young man are not accepted because the girl prefers to be free rather than to bond to a man, she will marry only when she will be rich. But he replies that money does not count becouse the time of love is that of youth.
The pastoral genre was also widespread among the “gentry”, but more like a playful form or “divertissement“.


 Hannah Peel

It was on a fine summer’s morning
The birds sweetly tune on each bough
And as I walked out for my pleasure
I saw a maid milking a cow
Her voice was so enchanting, melodious
Left me quite unable to go
My heart, it was loaded with sorrow
For the pretty maid milking her cow
Then to her I made my advances
“Good morrow most beautiful maid
Your beauty my heart so entrances”
“Pray sir do not banter,” she said
“I’m not such a rare precious jewel
That I should enamour you so
I am but a poor little milk girl,”
Says the pretty maid milking her cow
The Indies afford no such jewel
So bright, so transparently clear
I do not add things to my funeral
Consent but to know me my dear
Oh, had I the Lamp of Aladdin(1)
Or the wealth that gold mines can bestow
I’d rather be poor in a cottage
With the pretty girl milking her cow.”
1) the verse is also found in another song of the same genre entitled Lough Erne Shore

In this other version we come to know the reason for the girl’s refusal, a very “feminist” motif, the girl prefers independence rather than a life of submission to her husband (see marriage in the story here)
Cathie Ryan

Sara Redding

It being on a fine summer’s morning
As the birds sweetly tuned on each bough,
I heard a fair maid sing most charming
As she sat milking her cow
Her voice was enchanting melodious
Which left me scarce able to go
My heart it was soothed with solace
By the cailín deas crúite na mbó
I courteously did salute her
“Good morning, most amiable maid
I’m your captive slave for the future”
“Kind sir, do not banter,’ she said…
I’m not such a precious rare jewel
That I should enamour you so
I am but a plain county girl
Says the cailín deas crúite na mbó”
“The Indies afford no such jewels
So precious, so transparent clear
Oh do not refuse me, my jewel
Consent now and love me, my dear
For riches I care not a farthing
It’s your love that I want and no more
I’d rather live poor on the mountain
With my cailín deas crúite na mbó'”
“I don’t understand what you mean, sir
I ne’er was a slave yet to love
For these feelings I have no desire
I pray your affection remove
To marry, I can assure you
That state I will not undergo
I’m prepared to live single and airy”
Says the cailín deas crúite na mbó…

The Sacred Whore: Sheela Goddess of the Celts by Maureen Concannon

Bonny Portmore: the ornament tree

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When the great oak of Portmore was break down in 1760, someone wrote a song known as “The Highlander’s Farewell to Bonny Portmore“; in 1796 Edward Bunting picked it up from Daniel Black, an old harpist from Glenoak (Antrim, Northern Ireland), and published it in “Ancient Music of Ireland” – 1840.
The age-old oak was located on the estate of Portmore’s Castle on the banks of Lugh Bege and it was knocked down by a great wind; the tree was already famous for its posture and was nicknamed “the ornament tree“. The oak was cut and the wood sold, from the measurements made we know that the trunk was 13 meters wide.


1032910_tcm9-205039Loch un Phoirt Mhóir (lake with a large landing place) is an almost circular lake in the South-West of Antrim County, Northern Ireland, today a nature reserve for bird protection.
The property formerly belonged to the O’Neill clan of Ballinderry, while the castle was built in 1661 or 1664 by Lord Conway (on the foundations of an ancient fortress) between Lough Beg and Lough Neagh; the estate was rich in centenarian trees and beautiful woods; however, the count fell into ruin and lost the property when he decided to drain Lake Ber to cultivate the land (the drainage system called “Tunny cut” is still existing); the ambitious project failed and the land passed into the hands of English nobles.
In other versions more simply the Count’s dynasty became extinct and the new owners left the estate in a state of neglect, since they did not intend to reside in Ireland. Almost all the trees were cut down and sold as timber for shipbuilding and the castle fell into disrepair.

Bonny Portmore could be understood symbolically as the decline of the Irish Gaelic lords: pain and nostalgia mixed in a lament of a twilight beauty; the dutiful tribute goes to Loreena McKennitt who brought this traditional iris  song to the international attention.
Loreena McKennitt in The Visit 1991
Nights from the Alhambra: live

O bonny Portmore,
you shine where you stand
And the more I think on you the more I think long
If I had you now as I had once before
All the lords in Old England would not purchase Portmore.
O bonny Portmore, I am sorry to see
Such a woeful destruction of your ornament tree
For it stood on your shore for many’s the long day
Till the long boats from Antrim came to float it away.
All the birds in the forest they bitterly weep
Saying, “Where will we shelter or where will we sleep?”
For the Oak and the Ash (1), they are all cutten down
And the walls of bonny Portmore are all down to the ground.
1) coded phrase to indicate the decline of the Gaelic lineage clans

Laura Marling live
Laura Creamer

Lucinda Williams in Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs and Chanteys ANTI 2006

Dan Gibson & Michael Maxwell in Emerald Forest instrumental version
And here I open a small parenthesis recalling a personal episode of a long time ago in which I met an ancient tree: at the time I lived in Florence and I had the opportunity to turn a bit for Tuscany, now I can not remember the location, but I know that I was in the Colli Senesi and it was summer; someone advised us to go and see an old holm oak, explaining roughly to the road; in the distance it seemed we were approaching a grove, in reality it was a single tree whose foliage was so leafy and vast, the old branches so bent, that to get closer to the trunk we had to bow. I still remember after many years the feeling of a presence, a deep and vital breath, and the discomfort that I tried to disturb the place. I do not exaggerate speaking of fear at all, and I think that feeling was the same feeling experienced by the ancient man, who felt in the centenarian trees the presence of a spirit.

Amhrán Na Bealtaine

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TITLES: Amhran Na Bealtaine, Samhradh, Summertime, Thugamur Fein An Samhradh Linn (We Brought The Summer With Us, We Have Brought The Summer In) or Beltane Song
It is a traditional Irish tune sung on May Day (Lá Bealtaine).

Charles Daniel Ward: Processing of Spring -1905
Charles Daniel Ward: Processing of Spring -1905


A Gaelic Summer song that could date back to the late Middle Ages played in the feast for the landing of James Butler Duke of Ormonde in 1662, the new Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. It is a traditional song in the southeastern part of Ulster (Northern Ireland) and it was sung by young men and women on May Eve, while they carried around the Garland of May.
Most likely this was a begging song to get food or drink in exchange for the May branch, tabranch of hawthorn or blackthorn to be left in front of the door. With this auspicious gesture, the inhabitants are protected from fairies because fairies could not overcome these flowered barriers (see more).

The song is still very popular in Ireland, Oriel area (t included parts of Louth, Monaghan and Armagh) and is performed both in instrumental version and sung.
Edward Bunting states that the song had been played in the Dublin area since 1633.
The Chieftains (a instrumental version that is a hymn to joy, a song of birds awakening to the call of spring: the Irish flute starts imitating a lark followed in musical canon by some
wind instruments (the Irish flute, the whistle and the uillean pipes) and the violin, great!)

Gloaming  live Samhradh Samhradh (Martin Hayes fiddle)

Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin from A Stór Is A Stóirín 1994 

English translation*
Mayday doll(1),
maiden of Summer
Up every hill
and down every glen,
Beautiful girls,
radiant and shining,
We have brought the Summer in.
Summer, Summer,
milk of the calves(2),
We have brought the Summer in.
Yellow(3) summer
of clear bright daisies,
We have brought the Summer in.
We brought it in
from the leafy woods(4),
We have brought the Summer in.
Yellow(3) Summer
from the time of the sunset(5),
We have brought the Summer in.
The lark(6) is singing
and swinging around in the skies,
Joy for the day
and the flower on the trees.
The cuckoo and the lark
are singing with pleasure,
We have brought the Summer in.
Irish gaelic
Bábóg na Bealtaine,
maighdean an tSamhraidh,
Suas gach cnoc
is síos gach gleann,
Cailíní maiseacha
bán-gheala gléasta,
Thugamar féin an samhradh linn
Samhradh, samhradh,
bainne na ngamhna,
Thugamar féin an samhradh linn.
Samhradh buí
na nóinín glégeal,
Thugamar féin an samhradh linn.

Thugamar linn
é ón gcoill chraobhaigh,
Thugamar féin an samhradh linn.
Samhradh buí
ó luí na gréine,
Thugamar féin an samhradh linn
Tá an fhuiseog ag seinm
‘sag luascadh sna spéartha,
Áthas do lá
is bláth ar chrann.
Tá an chuach is an fhuiseog
ag seinm le pléisiúr,
Thugamar féin an samhradh linn.

* from here
garlan-may-day1) the Bábóg is the spring doll, Brídeóg, the “little Bride”, (Brigit, or Brigantia in Britannia, a trine goddess -Virgin, Mother, Crona) among the most important of the Celtic pantheon, the maiden of wheat made by women in Imbolc (February 1) with the last sheaf of harvest; the young Goddess of Spring, a strong symbol of rebirth in the cycle of death-life in which Nature is perpetuated: in the doll still lives the spirit of the wheat. Brigid’s dolls were also dressed in a white dress, decorated with stones, ribbons and flowers and carried in procession throughout the village.
The doll will reappear in the Victorian celebrations of May in her white-robed, placed between a wreath of flowers and ribbons hanging on a rod and carryed by mayers (see more)
2) milk from cows for calves. The May Day is called na Beal tina or the day of the fire of Beal, then consecrated to the god Bel or Belenos. On the eve large fires were lit and the cattle were passed among them, this celtic custom is still remained in the Irish countryside with the belief that this prevented the Wee Folk to make bad jokes like braiding the tails of the cows or stealing the milk
3) the May flowers were mostly yellow to recall the color and the warmth of the sun. Flowers and green branches were placed on the threshold of the house and window sills to protect the inhabitants from the fairies and as a sign of good fortune. Fairies could not overcome these flowered barriers. This tradition was typical of Northern Ireland. The children mostly went to pick wild flowers to make garlands, especially with yellow flowers.4) the greenwood, the most inviolate and sacred forest of the ancient Celtic rituals

Bringing Home the May, 1862, Henry Peach Robinson
Bringing Home the May, 1862, Henry Peach Robinson

5) the youth go into the woods at night of the eve till the morn  (see more)
6) the lark is a sacred bird with solar symbolism (see more)
7) the song of the cuckoo is a harbinger of Spring, also because once the season of love is over (end of May), the cuckoo (male) no longer sings  (see more)

Extra verses 

English translation (*)
Holly and hazel
and elder and rowan,(1)
We have brought the Summer in.
And brightly shining ash
from Bhéal an Átha,(2)
We have brought the Summer in
Irish Gaelic
Cuileann is coll
is trom is cárthain,
Thugamar féin
an samhradh linn
Is fuinseog ghléigeal Bhéal an Átha,
Thugamar féin an samhradh linn.

1) The hawthorn is a fairy plant like holly, hazel, elderberry and rowan, protective and auspicious (probably due to the very sharp thorns). The May tradition places the branch of hawthorn outside the house (hanging on the windows and next to the entrance) because if it is brought into home, especially when it is flowered, brings bad luck. This negative meaning dates back to the Middle Ages when the branches of hawthorn were used as amulets against the evil eye, witches and demons; it might be traced back to the vague rotting smell of the branches, but it is certainly linked to the Church’s attempt to assimilate pre-Christian rites to satanic practices.
2) Bhéal an Átha literally the mouth of the ford is also a place known today as Ballina a city on the river Moy in the Mayo counts. However, the settlement is relatively recent (late 15th century). Na Bealtaine is more likely to refer to a toponym Beulteine as it was called the place of the Beltane festival on the border between the county of Armagh and that of Louth, in Kilcurry, today there are only a small mound with the ruins of an old church. All versions collected in the area describe a radius around this location of about twenty miles

Bábóg na Bealtaine, Other Tunes

La Lugh (Eithne Ní Uallacháin & Gerry O’Connor) from Brighid’s Kiss 1995. Tune composed by Eithne Ní Uallacháin (I, III,IV, V, VI)

Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin has reinterpreted the song, previously published on the tune transcribed by Edward Bunting, on the tune and text as transcribed by Séamus Ennis from the testimony of Mick McKeown, Lough Ross recorded on a wax cylinder (I, II, III, IV, V , VII)

English translation*
Golden Summer of the white daisies,
we bring the Summer with us,
from village to village
and home again,
and we bring the Summer with us.
I Mick McKeown version
Golden summer, lying in the meadows,
we brought the summer with us;
Golden summer, spring and winter,
and we brought the summer with us.

Young maidens, gentle and lovely,
we brought the summer with us;
Lads who are clever, sturdy and agile,
and we brought the summer with us.
Beltaine dolls,
Summer maidens
Up hill and down glens
Girls adorned
in pure white,
and we bring the Summer with us.
The lark making music
and sky dancing
the blossomed trees laden with bees
the cuckoo and the birds
singing with joy
and we bring the Summer with us.
The hare nests on the edge of the cliff
the heron nests
in the branches
the doves are cooing,
honey on stems
and we bring the Summer with us.
The shining sun is lighting the darkness
the silvery sea shines like a mirror
the dogs are barking,
the cattle lowing
and we bring the Summer with us.
Golden summer, lying in the meadow,
we brought the summer with us;
From home to home and to Lisdoonan of pleasure,
and we brought the summer with us.
Irish Gaelic
Samhradh buí na nóiníní gléigeal,
thugamar fhéin an samhradh linn,
Ó bhaile go baile is chun ár mbaile ’na dhiaidh sin,/’s thugamar fhéin an samhradh linn
(Mick McKeown version
Samhradh buí ’na luí ins na léanaí,
thugamar féin a’ samhradh linn;
Samhradh buí, earrach is geimhreadh
is thugamar féin a’ samhradh linn.)
Cailíní óga, mómhar sciamhach,
thugamar féin a’ samhradh linn;
Buachaillí glice, teann is lúfar,
is thugamar féin a’ samhradh linn.
Bábóg na Bealtaine,
maighdean an tsamhraidh
suas gach cnoc is síos gach gleann
cailíní maiseacha, bángheala gléasta,/’s thugamar fhéin an samhradh linn
Tá an fhuiseog ag seinm is ag luasadh sna spéartha,
beacha is cuileoga is bláth ar na crainn,
tá’n chuach’s na héanlaith ag seinm le pléisiúr,/’s thugamar fhéin an samhradh linn
Tá nead ag an ghiorria ar imeall na haille,
is nead ag an chorr éisc i ngéaga an chrainn,
tá mil ar na cuiseoga is na coilm ag béiceadh,/’s thugamar fhéin an samhradh linn.
Tá an ghrian ag loinnriú`s ag lasadh na dtabhartas,
tá an fharraige mar scathán ag gháirí don ghlinn,
tá na madaí ag peithreadh is an t-eallach ag géimni
’s thugamar fhéin an samhradh linn
Samhradh buí ’na luí ins a’ léana,
thugamar féin a’ samhradh linn;
Ó bhaile go baile is go Lios Dúnáin a’ phléisiúir,
is thugamar féin a’ samhradh linn.

* from here and here


Amhrán na Craoibhe (The Garland Song)



“‘Twas pretty to be in Ballinderry” o semplicemente “Ballinderry” è una canzone del Nord d’Irlanda poco conosciuta: la poesia scritta da Alfred Perceval Graves è un lament in cui una fanciulla piange la morte del suo Phelim che voleva emigrare in America ma la nave su cui si è imbarcato ha fatto naufragio. Il testo fu pubblicato con musica arrangiata da Charles Villiers Stanford nella raccolta “Sing of Old Ireland” sulla scia dell’Irish revival e il gusto antiquario delle antiche melodie “celtiche” : la melodia originale proviene dalle trascrizioni di Edward Bunting ed era popolare già nel Settecento nelle campagne delle contee di Down e Antrim.
Bunting scrive in “Ancient Music of Ireland” (1840):
(Ballinderry) has been a favorite performance from time immemorial with the peasantry of the counties of Down and Antrim, the words being sung by one person while the rest of the party chant the cronan (chorus) in consonance…..There are numerous other sets of words sung to Ballinderry; they are all of a very rustic character and uniformly refer to localities along the rivers Bann and Lagan such as
‘T is pretty to be in Ballinderry,
‘T is pretty to be in Magheralin etc
‘T is pretty to be in Ballinderry,
‘T is pretty to be at the Cash of Toome etc

Queste varie versioni testuali furono trascritte fin dagli inizi dell’Ottocento e una sorta di sequel alla poesia di Graves venne scritto nel 1880 con il titolo di “The return of Phelimy Hyland” da James N. Richardson .


Alfred Perceval Graves traspone in inglese un tipico keening irlandese, un’antica arte del pianto e del canto funebre derivato dalle tradizioni gaeliche.
Ballinderry è un distretto della costa occidentale del Lough Neagh il cuore azzurro della provincia Nord d’Irlanda, l’Ulster (da Lennymore Bay e Sandy Bay si raggiunge l’isoletta di Ram).
Erano signori gli O’Neill di Ballinderry che risiedevano nel castello di Portmore costruito nel 1661 o 1664 da Lord Conway (sulle fondamenta di una antica fortezza) tra Lough Beg e Lough Neagh; la tenuta era ricca di alberi centenari e di bellissimi boschi (vedi Bonny Portmore)


L’isoletta oggi disabitata,  fu sede nel Medioevo di un monastero per poi essere venduta ai Conti O’Neill; un grazioso cottage estivo con il tetto in paglia fu edificato dal primo conte Charles O’Neill agli inizi dell’Ottocento proprio nelle vicinanze dei ruderi del monastero, unitamente a una casetta per i custodi; sembra che con la bassa marea l’isola fosse raggiungibile via terra percorrendo una strada pavimentata rialzata (i cui resti sono ancora visibili).
L’isola è un luogo ameno in cui passeggiare rigoglioso di alberi (molti dei quali piantati proprio dal conte) e ricco di roseti, feconda e bella come un angolo di paradiso; sull’isola vivevano due custodi Jane e Robert Cardwell, una sorta di geni tutelari che conducevano una semplice ed eremitica vita in simbiosi con l’isola e le sue risorse: si trasferirono sull’isola nel 1883 e ci rimasero fino alla fine, Robert morì nel 1929 e Jane nel 1933 alla veneranda età di 102 anni.

Ecco come appariva il cottage a metà ottocento

e come appare oggi

ASCOLTA The Cottars in “Made In Cape Breton,” 2002 che tenerezza sentire cantare una voce così fresca e giovane! (all’epoca del loro primo cd erano tutti degli adolescenti)

‘Twas pretty to be in Ballinderry (1)
‘Twas pretty to be in Aghalee (2)
Still prettier to be on bonny Ram’s Island
Sitting forever beneath a tree (3)
Ochone, ochone! Ochone, ochone!(4)
II (5)
For often I sailed to bonny Ram’s Island
Arm in arm with Phelim, my diamond (6)
And he would whistle and I would sing
And we would make the whole island ring
“I’m going,” he said, “from bonny Ram’s Island
Out and across the deep blue sea
And if in your heart you love me, Mary
Open your arms at last to me”
‘Twas happy to be in little Ballinderry
now ‘tis sad as sad can be;
For the ship that sailed with Phelimy Diamond
Is lost for ever beneath the sea.
Traduzione di Cattia Salto
Era bello stare a Ballinderry
era bello stare a Aghalee
e ancora meglio stare nella bella isola di Ram
seduti per sempre sotto ad un albero
Ahimè, ahimè, Ahimè, ahimè
Perchè spesso navigavo verso la bella isola di Ram
tra le braccia di Phelim, il mio gioiello
e lui avrebbe suonato il flauto e io avrei cantato
e noi avremmo fatto il giro di tutta l’isola
“Vado via- disse lui – dalla bella isola di Ram
per attraversare il mare profondo
e se nel tuo cuore mi ami Mary
abbracciami un’ultima volta”
Era bello stare a Ballinderry
ora invece è molto triste
perchè la nave che salpò con Phelimy Diamond
è perduta per sempre nell’oceano

1) dal gaelico Baile an Doire = ‘town of the oak wood’
2) i Clancy Brothers dicono Aucholee
3) il verso di Graves dice “Trysting under the ivy tree!”
4) lamento in gaelico equivalente ad Alas
5) la strofa nella versione di Graves dice
“For often I roved in little Ram’s Island,
Side by side with Phelimy Hyland,
And still he’d court me and I’d be coy,
Though at heart I loved him, my handsome boy!”
6) Phelimy Hyland probabilmente storpiato in “Phelimy Diamond.” invece di diamond i Clancy Brothers dicono demon; scritto anche come Phelim my love,


Caitilín Ní Uallacháin = Katty Hualloghan è il titolo di un canto giacobita irlandese settecentesco, attribuito al maestro di scuola William Heffernan (di Lattin) abbinato a una melodia che conobbe una grande fortuna nell’Ottocento, essendo stata associata alla poesia di Sir Samuel Ferguson, “The Lark in the clear air” .

Il canto si inserisce nel filone delle aisling song in cui il poeta viene abbagliato al sorgere dell’alba da una visione soprannaturale: una splendida fanciulla personificazione dell’Irlanda è in mestizia e predice un tempo in cui la terra irlandese sarà libera. Il tema conobbe una grande fioritura nel Settecento, quando i poeti irlandesi dovevano nascondere il loro nazionalismo nella poesia bucolica di genere amoroso. (vedi)


Qui però l’Irlanda non è una fanciulla ma una “povera vecchia” (la Sean-Bhean bhocht – scritto foneticamente come “the Shan Van Vocht”), la signora Katty Hualloghan – Cathleen o Kathleen Nì Houlihan-,  padrona di quattro campi verdi (cioè le quattro province in cui è divisa per tradizione l’Irlanda). Il nome è anche il titolo di una opera teatrale di W.B. Yeats e Lady Augusta Gregory ambientata nel 1798.

Maud Gonne (a destra) nel ruolo di Cathleen Ni Houlihan, 1902
Macha Curses The Men Of Ulster – Stephen Reid (1904)

Cathleen mitica regina d’Irlanda è una dea-guardiana che appartiene alla terra, la personificazione della dea Ana (iath nAnann -la terra di Ana ) costretta all’esilio dai troppi stranieri che l’anno vilipesa e che vaga in cerca di aiuto, così è una dea decaduta, povera, invecchiata, scacciata da casa. Ma è pur sempre una dea e ancora chiede sacrifici umani, incanta i giovani uomini e li convince a dare la vita per amor suo: la Cathleen di Yeats ringiovanisce poi nutrendosi del sangue degli eroi.

Caitilín Ní Uallacháin è riportato nel “Ancient Music of Ireland” di George Petrie vol II pg 8 (vedi) che così scrive
Of this song at least two versions have been already printed, and both with English metrical translations, – one by the late Mr. Edward Walsh, in his “Irish Popular Songs,” and the other by Mr. John O’Daly, in his “Poets and Poetry of Munster,” the versifications in which were made by the late James Clarence Mangan. In both these works the authorship of this song is assigned, but, as it would appear, erroneously, to one of the Irish poetic celebrities of the eighteenth century, – a blind Tipperrary poet named William O’Heffernan; for Mr. Curry has supplied me with a copy of the song which he transcribed from a manuscript now in his possession, and which was written in the year 1780 by a distinguished Clare scribe and Irish scholar, named Peter Connell, or O’Connell; and as in this MS. the name William O’Hanrahan is given as that of its author, such authority is certainly superior in weight to any that has been,m or probably could be, assigned for ascribing it to the Tipperary poet; for it can scarcely be doubted that Connell was personally acquainted with its true author.

Nella canzone il poeta spera in una sconfitta inglese in guerra con le potenze del tempo, e invoca la libertà dell’Irlanda.


Il testo fu associato a una melodia intitolata Kathleen Nowlan  scritta da Edward Bunting nelle sue notazioni, da non confondersi però con la melodia Kitty Nowlan sempre annotata da Bunting e trascritta nelle raccolte della Irish Folk Society: fu Charlotte Milligan Fox (1864-1916) a far pubblicare la vecchia melodia irlandese Kathleen Nowlan  nel volume VIII della Raccolta

Ma tutta la storia dietro la canzone viene raccontata in questo video di Eugene Dunphy


Mise Éire – I am Ireland


The Bonny Cuckoo

An old melody from Northern Ireland transcribed by Edward Bunting on the occasion of the Bardic festival held in Belfast in 1793 (the song comes from Henry Joy of Ballinascreen, Co. Londonderry or from the harpist Arthur O’Neill). The original was in Irish Gaelic, titled An Chuaichin Mhaiseach”, but Bunting transcribed a version “.. a close translation from the original Irish”. Surely the bard Turlough O’Carolan in 1691 took inspiration from this melody to compose his “Sí bheag Sí mhor“.
Una vecchia melodia dall’Irlanda del Nord trascritta da Edward Bunting in occasione del festival bardico che si tenne nel 1793 a Belfast (il brano giunge da Henry Joy di Ballinascreen, Co. Londonderry o dall’arpista Arthur O’Neill). L’originale era in gaelico irlandese “An Chuaichin Mhaiseach” ma Bunting ne trascrisse una versione  “molto simile all’originale irlandese”
Sicuramente il bardo Turlough O’Carolan nel 1691 prese ispirazione da questa melodia per comporre “Sí bheag Sí mhor” .


Mi fermai per ascoltare il cuculo, il primo di quest’anno.  Poi il suo richiamo ipocrita fu ripreso da un canto. Quella sera c’era una calura umida e le note si appiccicavano alle nuvole basse come un profumo. Era una salmodia, più che una canzone, e le pause e i crescendo suggerivano un solista, che quasi non riuscivo ad udire, e un coro, come in un responsorio. Mentre il cuculo si alzava in volo verso est, il canto sembrò crescere e spostarsi dalla valle verso il lato sinistro del sentiero; i bassi allungavano le pliche fin tra le radici degli alberi, gli acuti si arrampicavano sul pentagramma fin dove l’usignolo sfarfalla come un tremolo. Le note si gonfiavano con l’alzarsi della brezza e calavano, sempre invisibili, muovendosi all’unisono con l’orzo.” (da “Il pozzo” di Chaterine Chanter pg 129)

The Charles Hennessey Duo ( Sarai Robin Charles: Clarsach) in Now Strike The Harp Gladly 2019

Shirley Collins 1959

My bonny cuckoo,
I tell you true
That through the groves
I’ll rove with you;
I’ll rove with you
until the (next) spring
And then my cuckoo
shall sweetly sing
The ash and the hazel
shall mourning say,
“Oh bonny cuckoo, don’t go away;
Don’t go away, but tarry here,
And sing for us throughout the year.
Cuckoo, cuckoo, pray tarry here,
And make the spring last all the year.”
Traduzione italiano di Cattia Salto
Mio bel cuculo,
ti dico la verità,
per i boschi
andrò peregrino con te;
andrò peregrino con te
fino alla prossima primavera
e allora il mio cuculo
canterà soave.
Il frassino e il nocciolo
si lamentano e dicono
“Oh bel cuculo, non andare via;
non andare via, qui rimani,
a cantare per noi tutto l’anno.
Cuculo, cuculo resta qui
e fai durare la primavera tutto l’anno”


It is a “modern english country dance” conceived by Gail Ticknor in 1986 to be danced on the melody of the same name or on “Sí bheag Sí mhor”
E’ una “modern english country dance” ideata da Gail Ticknor  nel 1986 da ballarsi sulla melodia omonima ma anche su “Sí bheag Sí mhor”


501c1a56c3261cb2a69548bbf68ca75cAnche come Pearl Of The White Breast (in gaelico Pearla na m-Brollac Baine o Péarla an Bhrollaigh Bháin) è una poesia irlandese del 18° secolo, tradotta in inglese da George Petrie nel 1855. La melodia è stata stampata in “A General Collection of the Ancient Irish Music” di Edward Bunting (1796) che l’ha accreditata a Turlough O’Carolan. “The tune was recorded (as “Pearla an Vroley Vaun”) by the Belfast Northern Star of July 15, 1792, as having been played in competition by one of ten Irish harp masters at the last great convocation of ancient Irish harpers, the Belfast Harp Festival, held that week. O’Neill (Music of Ireland: 1850 Melodies), 1903/1979; No. 511, pg. 89. Stanford/Petrie (Complete Collection), 1905; No. 623, pg. 156.”( The Fiddler’s Companion)


ASCOLTA Cáit Ní Chonchúir all’arpa


ASCOLTA Pádraig Mac Niocaill
ASCOLTA Joe Heaney

Tá cailín deas ‘mo chrádh le bliain agus le lá Is geallta a bheith a’m le pósadh Ach mo chreach agus mo chrádh ní dhom a bhí sí i ndán Ach an té údan nár labhair mé go fóill air Don Fhrainc nó don Spáinn dhá dtéadh mo ghrá Ó rachainn gach lá dhá féachaint Mara dhomsa a bhí tú i ndán, a phéarla an bhrollaigh bháin Mac Muire go brách ar fónamh(1).

A lovely girl has been tormenting me for a year and a day, and was promised to be mine in marriage; but alas and alack, she was not destined for me, but for the one over there whom I’ve not yet told of. If my love went to France or Spain I would go there every day to see her. If you were not to be mine, oh pearl of the white breast, Son of Mary, fit (1) for ever.

1) Donal O’Sullivan in “Songs of the Irish” (Dublino, 1960, p. 46) ‘Mac Muire na ngrás Dar Saora!’ – May the Son of Mary of the graces save us! La melodia è come quella riportata da O’Sullivan

Una bella ragazza mi ha tormentato per un anno e un giorno e le avevo promesso di diventare mia in matrimonio; ma ahimè e purtroppo lei non era destinata a me, ma per colui laggiù di cui non ho ancora detto. Se il mio amore andasse in Francia o in Spagna andrei là ogni giorno per vederla. Se tu non dovessi essere mia perla dal candido seno, possa il Figlio di Maria misericordiosa salvarci


ASCOLTA Wolfe Tones in Let the people sing 1972 che la suonano più velocemente come un valzer

ASCOLTA Landor (strofe I e III) in una versione più moderna e dal ritmo sincopato la musica è di Katharina Schwärzer e sfuma nella jig dal titolo Muiñeira de Bargaz (melodia tradizionale delle Asturie)

There’s a colleen fair as May For a year and for a day I have sought by every way her heart to gain There’s no art of tongue or eye Fond youths with maidens try Yet I’ve tried with ceasless sigh, yet tried in vain
If to France or far off Spain She crossed the watery main To see her face again the seas I’d brave But if this is Heaven’s decree That mine she may not be May the Son of Mary me in mercy save
Oh, thou blooming milk white dove To whom I’ve given true love Do not ever thus reprove my constancy. There are maidens would be mine With wealth in land and kine(1) If my heart would but incline to turn from thee
But a kiss with welcome bland And touch of thy fair hand Are all that I demand would’st thou not spurn But if not mine dear girl Oh, Snowy Breasted Pearl May I never from the fair, with life, return(2)
C’è una ragazza bella come il Maggio per un anno e un giorno ho cercato in tutti i modi di conquistare il suo cuore. Non c’è arte nel dire o nello sguardo con cui i giovani appassionati tentano le ragazze eppure ho provato con incessanti sospiri ma ho provato invano.
Se per la Francia o la lontana Spagna lei attraversasse il mare, per vedere il suo viso ancora gli oceani affronterei, ma se questo è il decreto celeste che ella non possa essere mia, che il figlio di Maria abbia misericordia di me.
O tu bianca colomba in fiore alla quale ho dato il vero amore così dunque non rimproverare la mia costanza ci sono fanciulle che vorrebbero essere mie in ricchezza e in povertà e tuttavia il mio cuore è incline a ritornare da te
Ma un bacio di benvenuto lieve e un tocco della tua bella mano sono tutto ciò che chiedo invece del disprezzo, e se altrimenti, mia cara ragazza, perla dal niveo seno, possa io dalla fiera mai ritornare vivo.

1) la traduzione letterale è “in ricchezza di terra o vacche”
2) cosa ci sia di così pericoloso dall’andare ad una fiera da rischiare di non ritornare a casa vivo, non sono ancora riuscita a capirlo!


Stessa melodia ma testo diverso la canzone nota anche con il titolo “Oh! She Is Not Like The Rose“, venne scritta da Sir Stephen Edward De Vere (1812-1904) uomo politico e poeta della contea di Limerick.
Il tipo di donna descritto, dolce, modesta e remissiva era evidentemente il modello della perfetta moglie e madre di figli che un uomo vittoriano e vecchio stile potesse desiderare.. una donna decisamente anacronistica alla luce di tutte le battaglie femministe (all’epoca le chiamavano suffragette!!) che fervevano nella fine dell’Ottocento!

ASCOLTA John McCormack 1910 La canzone venne cantata al “Dublino Feis Ceol” del 1903 dall’allora diciannovenne e sconosciuto tenore e la sua interpretazione gli valse il primo premio nella sua categoria.

Oh she is not like the rose that proud in beauty glows And boasteth that she’s so wondrous fair But she’s like the violet blue, ever modest, ever true From her leafy bower perfuming the still night air Oh, she’s gentle, loving, mild, she’s artless as a child Her clustering tresses softly flowing down I’ll love thee ever more, sweet colleen Oge as-thore(1) My true love, My Snowy Breasted Pearl.
If I sigh, a sudden fear comes o’er her and a tear Stands quivering within her downcast eye When I smile those orbs of azure gleam forth with love and pleasure Like sudden glory bursting through a clouded sky If I claim her for my bride she trembles at my side And gently lifts her eyes with looks so tender I love the, only thee, my colleen Oge Machree My true love, my snowy breasted pearl.
Such was she, but oh! A change, how mournful and how strange On my loved one, my own beloved one came Paler still her cheer grew and her eyes azure hue Seemed lighted with a flame, a fatal, wasting flame Oh! We laid her in the grave, where the willows sadly wave And the hollow winds are sighing a plaintive wail I’m alone, alone, alone; so wearily I moan For my lost love, my snowy breasted pearl

1) colleen Oge as-thore = Young girl, my treasure
Lei non è come la rosa che fiera risplende di bellezza e si vanta di essere così mirabilmente bella, piuttosto lei è come la viola del pensiero sempre modesta, sempre sincera, dal pergolato frondoso profumando l’aria della notte immota o lei è gentile, amabile, docile è senza finzione come un bambino, le sue ciocche intrecciate con grazia cadono ti amo sempre più, dolce fanciulla, mio tesoro. Mio vero amore, mia perla dal seno niveo.
Se sospiro un’improvvisa paura cade su di lei e una lacrima sta fremente sul suo occhio rivolto in basso quando sorrido quelle sfere di azzurro brillano con amore e piacere come una gloria improvvisa squarcia un cielo rannuvolato se lei rivendico come mia sposa, lei trema al mio fianco e gentilmente alza gli occhi con sguardi così teneri io amo lei, la sola la mia dolce fanciulla, mio tesoro, giovane ragazza, mio amore Mio vero amore, mia perla dal seno niveo.
Così era lei ma oh un cambiamento qual triste e strano sulla mia amata, proprio la mia amata venne. Il pallore sulle sue guance crebbe ,i suoi occhi d’azzurro sembravano illuminarsi di fiamma, una fatale, fiamma malata. O la deponemmo nel sepolcro dove i salici tristemente mormorano e i venti cupi sospirano un lamentoso ululato sono solo, solo, solo; così spossato piango per il mio amore perduto, la mia perla dal niveo seno




Melodia composta secondo Edward Bunting (in “The Ancient Music of Ireland”) dall’arpista cieco irlandese “Ruairi Dall” O Cathain (c. 1570-c.1650) nel 1603 mentre era in visita presso la nobiltà scozzese. Alcuni tuttavia, erroneamente, attribuiscono la melodia al bardo Turlough O’Carolan.

Francis O’Neill un altro grande collezionista di antiche melodie celtiche scrisse di “Ruairi Dall”Proud and spirited, he resented anything in the nature of trespass on his dignity. Among his visits to the houses of Scottish nobility, he is said to have called at Eglinton Castle, Ayrshire. Knowing he was a harper, but being unaware of his rank, Lady Eglinton commanded him to play a tune. Taking oftence at her peremptory manner, Ó Catháin refused and left the castle. When she found out who her guest was her ladyship sought and effected a speedy reconciliation. This incident furnished a theme for one of the harper’s best compositions. “Tabhair Damh do Lámh,” or “Give Me Your Hand!” The name has been latinized into “Da Mihi Manum.” The fame of the composition and the occasion which gave birth to it reaching the ear of King James the Sixth, induced him to send for the composer. Ó Catháin accordingly attended at the Scottish court, and created a sensation. His performance so delighted the royal circle that King James I familiarly laid his royal hand on the harper’s shoulder. When asked by one of the courtiers if he realized the honour thus conferred on him, to their consternation Rory replied: ‘A greater than King James has laid his hand on my shoulder.’ Who was that man?’ cried the King. ‘O’Neill, Sire,’ proudly answered Rory standing up

Jeremy Main scrive invece “One of the blind harpers Rory Dall was dumped in the ditch while travelling between gigs in Scotland by his hostess for the evening, who took him for a blind beggar. The said hostess (a Lady Eglington) was told what she had done when she got home, so she fetched the harper home in style cleaned him up and apologised most fulsomely. To show he had no ill-will, he produced one of the finest harp airs “Da Mihi Manum” – Give Me Your Hand. The Latin text has been lost, and there’ll be fame in the harp world for any archivist who finds it.

maclise-harperRuaidhrí Dall (Rory Dall ovvero Rory il cieco) era probabilmente di nobili natali (del clan O’Neil) originario dell’attuale Londonderry (Nord Irlanda); trascorse molta parte della sua vita in Scozia dove morì proprio nella casa di Lady Eglinton, evidentemente diventata sua mecenate. Secondo gli studiosi è l’autore della melodia The Derry Air, (Londonderry Air) diventata la nota Danny Boy.

Tutti questi aneddoti e altre storie circolate confondono spesso i due arpisti Rory Dall O’Caghan (c1570-c1650) e Rory Dall Morrison (1660-1714), che vissero per lo più in Scozia, in un’unica persona. Da alcuni studiosi Rory Dall Morrison ovvero Roderick Morison è considerato di origini scozzesi, e fu l’ultimo bardo che compose in gaelico scozzese suonando con la clarsach, la tipica piccola arpa scozzese. E qui si riapre la discussione su tante controverse attribuzioni di belle melodie al di qua o aldilà del “the channel”

Nel tempo è sopravvissuta solo la melodia peraltro riportata in molte raccolte settecentesche “The melody’s popularity was long-lived, as attested by its appearance in many collections throughout the 18th century, including Wright’s Aria di Camera (1730), Neal’s Celebrated Irish Tunes (c. 1742—a revised date from the oft-given 1721 or 1726, this based on watermark research—see the appendix to the 2001 edition of O’Sullivan’s Carolan), Burk Thumoth’s Twelve English and Irish Airs (c. 1745-50), Thompson’s Hibernian Muse (c. 1786), Brysson’s Curious Selection of Favourite Tunes (c. 1790, and Mulholland’s Ancient Irish Airs (1810).”(secondo Fiddler’s Companion)

La melodia è spesso suonata nei matrimoni irlandesi (con l’immancabile battuta: da non confondere con il brano “give me your house” più adatto per un divorzio irlandese)

ASCOLTA Chieftains

ASCOLTA con hammer dulcimer e violino
ASCOLTA Vicente La Camera Mariño sull’arpa bardica piccola

L’unica versione con il testo (al giorno d’oggi) è dei Wolfe Tones con testo scritto in inglese da Brian Warfield.

ASCOLTA Wolfe Tones in Till Ireland a Nation 1974 “Brian’s words are directed at the disagreements between the two peoples in Ireland today.” (Note Wolfe Tones, ‘Till Ireland A Nation’) Un semplice gesto di pace e fratellanza come quello di prendersi per mano

Will you give me your hand, is tabhair dom do lámh(1) Just give me your hand and I’ll walk with you Through the streets of our land, through the mountains so grand If you give me your hand Just give me your hand and come along with me Will you give me your hand and the world it can see That we can be free in peace and harmony From the north to the south, from the east to the west Every mountain, every valley, every bush and bird’s nest

CHORUS By day and night throughout struggle and strife I’m beside you to guide you forever my love For love’s not for one but for both of us to share For this country so fair for our world and what’s there

Just give me your hand, is tabhair dom do lámh Will you give me your hand, for the world it is ours All the sea and the land to destroy or command If you give me your hand. Just give me your hand in a gesture of peace Just give me your hand and all troubles will cease The strong and the weak, both the rich and the poor All peoples and creeds let’s meet their needs With a passion we can fashion a new world of love

NOTE 1) foneticamente “taur dum do law”.

Mi darai la mano? Dammi solo la mano e camminerò con te, per le strade della nostra terra, tra le montagne così grandi, se tu mi darai la mano. Dammi solo la mano e vieni con me, mi darai la mano e potremo vedere il mondo per poter stare liberi in pace e armonia, da nord a sud da est a ovest, ogni montagna, in ogni valle ogni cespuglio e nido d’uccello
(CORO Di giorno e di notte, durante la lotta e il conflitto io ti sono accanto a guidarti per sempre, amore mio. Perchè l’amore non è per uno ma per entrambi da condividere, per questo paese così bello, per il nostro mondo e quello che è.) Dammi solo la tua mano, mi darai la tua mano perchè il mondo è nostro, tutto il mare e la terra da distruggere o comandare se tu mi darai la mano, dammi solo la tua mano in un gesto di pace dammi solo la tua mano e tutti i guai cesseranno. I forti e i deboli i ricchi e i poveri, tutti i popoli e le fedi soddisferanno i loro bisogni, con passione possiamo plasmare un nuovo mondo d’amore.

FONTI secondary/genericcontent_tcm4556878.asp

An chúilfhionn (The Coolin)

‘Cúilfhionn’ (coolun) is an Irish word, “Cuil-Fhionn” meaning “long flowing blonde hair” and the word Colleen, Cailin means a beautiful girl.
[‘Cúilfhionn‘ (coolun) è una parola irlandese composta (Cuil-Fhionn) che si traduce come lunghi capelli fluenti -con il significato di biondi – così con la parola Colleen, Cailin si intende in senso lato una bella ragazza.]

Of the ancient “slow air” entitled “The Coolin” there were in the eighteenth century several transcriptions in English, as well as arrangements of the melody in the classical style .
The oldest text (in Irish Gaelic) is attributed to the bard of Tyrone Maurice O’Dugan and is a love song addressed to a sweet blond creature with fairy beauty, but adaptations to the melody both in Gaelic and in English (or translations into verses) are common throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
[Dell’antica “slow air” dal titolo “The Coolin”  ci furono nel Settecento parecchie trascrizioni in inglese, nonchè arrangiamenti in stile classico della melodia.
Il testo più antico (in gaelico irlandese) è attribuito al bardo di Tyrone Maurice O’Dugan ed è un canto d’amore indirizzato a una soave creatura bionda dalla bellezza di fata, ma adattamenti alla melodia sia in gaelico che in inglese (o traduzioni in versi) sono comuni per tutto il settecento e ottocento.]


Edward Bunting transcribed melody and text by harpist Dennis Hempson in 1796, but the first verses in Gaelic date back to 1641 attributed to Maurice O’Dugan (Muiris Ua Duagain) bard of Tyrone, but there are more or less imaginative speculations about hairstyles “ringlets” worn by young Irish men:
“The original song, told from a young maiden’s point of view, berates those Anglo-Irish who conformed to the edit by cutting their hair, and praises the proud Irishman who remained true to ancestral custom (the Gaelic title “An Chuilfhionn,” means ‘the fair-haired one’). The Irish Parliament passed another law in 1539 forbidding any male, Irish or Anglo-Irish, from wearing long or flowing locks of hair–this enactment, relates Flood, is the supposed impetus for the claim that Thomas Moore wrote the song and tune of “The Coolin,” which was printed by Walker in 1786.” (from Fiddler Companion)

Edward Bunting trascrisse melodia e testo dall’arpista Dennis Hempson nel 1796, ma i primi versi in gaelico risalgono al 1641 attribuiti a Maurice O’Dugan (Muiris Ua Duagain) bardo di Tyrone, non mancano però speculazioni più o meno fantasiose riguardo alle capigliature a “boccoli” portate un tempo dai giovani irlandesi: “La canzone originale, raccontata dal punto di vista di una giovane fanciulla, rimprovera gli anglo-irlandesi che si sono conformati tagliandosi i capelli, e loda l’orgoglioso irlandese rimasto fedele alle usanze ancestrali (il titolo gaelico “An Chuilfhionn” significa “ quello biondo »). Il Parlamento irlandese approvò un’altra legge nel 1539 che vietava a qualsiasi maschio, irlandese o anglo-irlandese di portare lunghi capelli o i capelli a ciuffo – questa promulgazione, riferisce Flood, è il presunto impulso per l’affermazione che Thomas Moore scrisse la canzone e la melodia di “The Coolin”, che è stata stampata da Walker nel 1786″ (tradotto da Fiddler Companion)

THE COOLIN: the melody

Perhaps the most popular Irish “slow air”, originally a harp melody, performed today by almost all traditional Irish instruments (especially the violin). According to some scholars, the melody may date back to the mid-late thirteenth century, but the standard version is decidedly arranged in the baroque taste: we can consider the song a happy example of adaptation of a traditional folk melody in a classic key, a darkling “slow air” so beautiful that it is said to have been stolen from the elves and it is virtually a tipical irish wedding song !!!
[Probabilmente la più popolare “slow air” irlandese, in origine una melodia per arpa, eseguita oggi da quasi tutti gli strumenti della tradizione irlandese (in particolare il violino). Secondo alcuni studiosi il brano potrebbe risalire a metà-fine XIII secolo, ma la versione standard è decisamente arrangiata con il gusto barocco: possiamo considerare il brano un felice esempio di adattamento di una melodia tradizionale popolare in chiave classica, una “slow air” crepuscolare talmente bella che si dice sia stata rubata agli elfi ed è praticamente immancabile come wedding song!!!]
Jim McKillop & Zoe Conway

Liam O’Connor

Michael Flatley  (Whispering Wind)

But if you prefer another instrument, there’s no need to worry.

[Ma se preferite un altro strumento non c’è che da scegliere!]
Seamus Tansey & John Blake irish flute (flauto irlandese)
Matt Dean tin whistle
Leo Rowsome uilleann pipes (cornamusa irlandese)
Crimson Ensemble uilleann pipes 
Clive Murray guitar (chitarra)
Brendan Doc Savage mandolin
J.J. Sheridan piano
Katy Graham harp (arpa)
Star Edwards bardic harp (arpa con corde di metallo)

AN CHÚILFHIONN (Irish gaelic version)

elfoAs we said at the beginning of the alleged female version there is no trace, but rather the oldest text attributed to the Bard of Tyrone Maurice O’Dugan is a love song addressed to a sweet blonde with fairy beauty.
Starting from the eighteenth century there are transcriptions of a series of texts coming from many parts of Ireland, from Clare and Munster as evidence of the great popularity of the song.
[Come si diceva all’inizio, della presunta versione al femminile non resta traccia, quanto piuttosto il testo più antico attribuito al bardo di Tyrone Maurice O’Dugan è un canto d’amore indirizzato a una soave creatura bionda dalla bellezza di fata.
Ma a partire dal Settecento si trovano le trascrizioni di una serie di testi provenienti da più parti d’Irlanda, vuoi dal Clare e dal Munster a testimonianza della grande popolarità del brano.]
Folkstone ( I , III)

An bhfaca tú an chúilfhionn ‘s í ag siúl ar na bóithre
Maidin gheal drúchta, ní raibh smúit ar a bróga
Is iomadh ógánach súlghlas ag tnúth lena pósadh
Ach ní bhfaighidh siad mo rún-sa ar an gcúntar is dóigh leo.
An bhfaca tú mo bhábán lá breá is í ina haonar
A cúl dualach drisleánach go slinneán síos léi?
Mil ar an ógmhnaoi is rós breá ina héadan
Gur dóigh le gach spreasán gur leannán leis féin í.
An bhfaca tú mo spéirbhean ‘s í taobh leis an toinn
Fáinní óir ar a méara ‘s í ag réiteach a cinn?
‘Sé dúirt an Paorach a bhí ina mhaor ar an loing
Go mb’fhearr leis aige féin í ná Éire gan roinn.

English translation
Have you seen the faired-haired girl
walking down the road
on a bright dewy morning,
not a drop on her shoes?(1)
Many’s the grey-eyed youth
thinking to marry her,
but they’ll not get my treasure
for the bargain they have in mind
Did you see my baby
on a fine day on her own,
her twining tresses tumbling
down to her shoulders?
Sweet young woman of rosy countenance,
whom every worthless youth
imagines will be his sweetheart.
Did you see the goddess by the side of the sea,
gold rings on her fingers,
dressing her hair?
Power, steward on the boat,
said that he’d rather have her
than the whole of Ireland.
traduzione italiano Cattia Salto
Avete visto la mia ragazza dai lunghi capelli biondi, camminare per la strada
in un mattino umido di rugiada,
senza nemmeno una goccia sulle sue scarpe? (1)
Ci sono molti giovani invidiosi
che vorrebbero sposarla,
ma essi non prenderanno il mio tesoro,
non importa quello che pensano.
Avete visto la mia bella
in un bel giorno tutta sola,
i suoi capelli arricciati in boccoli
ricadenti sulle spalle?
Amata giovinetta dal roseo colorito
di cui ogni giovane indegno
spera di essere l’amante!
Avete visto la dea in riva al mare,
anelli d’oro alle dita
che si acconcia i capelli?
Power, che è il comandante della nave
disse che avrebbe preferito lei
piuttosto che l’intera Irlanda.

1) in the Edward Bunting version (see below) we read that the girl has just emerged from the deepest forest (a way of saying that she is a fairy creature) with her shoes still wet with dew (a sort of Venus born from the woods instead of the water).
[nella versione di Edward Bunting leggiamo che la fanciulla è appena uscita dal bosco più profondo (un modo per dire che è una creatura fatata) con le scarpe ancora umide di rugiada (una sorta di Venere nata dai boschi invece che dalle acque).]

Brendan Behan

The text published by Edward Bunting, however, is different (“Bunting’s Ancient Music of Ireland” Cork: Cork University Press, 1963, Donal O’Sullivan & Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin, ed): it is an elegy to the beauty of the girl.
[Il testo pubblicato da Edward Bunting è però diverso (“Bunting’s Ancient Music of Ireland” Cork: Cork University Press, 1963, Donal O’Sullivan & Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin, ed): è un elegia alla bellezza della fanciulla.]
Da bh[f]aicfeá-sa an chúilfionn,
Is í siúl ar na bóithribh
Dul bealach na cúl-choill’
‘S an drúcht lena brógaibh.
Mo bhrón ‘sí mó brún í,
Is níl [tnúth?] aici le óige
‘S go dtug sí barr múinte
Ar chúigibh na Fódla.
Is lonrach ‘s is péarlach
An mhaighdean chiúin tséimh í,
Is ró-dheise len fhéachaint
‘Na sceimh an ghréinéirí (?).
Samhail de Dheirdre
A méin is a breáthacht
Mar shoilse lae ag éirí
Nó réalta oíche Márta.

english translation
If you were to see the fair lady,
As she walked the roads
Going by the way of the back woods
And the dew on her shoes
Alas, she is my loved one
And she pities not my youth
She excels the five provinces of Erin
In high accomplishments.
She is radiant and beautiful.
This mild gentle maiden .
It is a great loveliness to see
In her beauty, the rising sun.
She is an image of Venus
In her disposition and splendour
As the morning light arising
Or as the stars on a March sky.

traduzione italiano Cattia Salto
Se vedeste la mia bella ragazza
camminare per le strade
proveniente dai boschi
con la rugiada sulle scarpe.
Ahimè è colei che amo
e non ha pietà della mia gioventù.
Ella eccelle nelle cinque province d’Irlanda
per gli alti conseguimenti.
E’ radiosa e bella
questa fanciulla mite e gentile.
E’ una grande bellezza da vedere
nella sua beltà il sorgere del sole.
E’ l’immagine di Venere
nella sua indole e splendore,
come il sorgere della luce mattutina
o come le stelle in un cielo di Marzo.

english translation by Thomas Furlong
Had you seen my sweet Coulin
at the days early dawn,
When she moves through the Wildwood
or wide dewy lawn?
There is joy, there is bliss
in her soul-cheering smile,
She’s the fairest of flowers
in our green bosomed isle.
In Balanagar dwells the bright blooming maid,
Retired, like the primrose
that blows in the shade;
Still dear to the eye that fair primrose may be,
But dearer and sweeter is my Coulin to me.
Oh, Dearest! thy love from thy childhood,
was mine,
Oh, Sweetest! this heart from life’s op’ning
was thine
And though coldness by kindred
or friends may be shown,
Still, still my sweet Coulin,
that heart is thine own.
Thou light of all beauty, be true still to me,
Forsake not thy swain, love
though poor he may be;
For rich in affection, in constancy tried,
We may look down on wealth
in its pomp and its pride.
english translation by Samuel Ferguson (Sparling, Irish Minstrelsy, 1888)
O had you see the Coolun,
Walking down the cuckoo’s street,
With the dew of the meadow shining
On her milk-white twinkling feet!
My love she is, and my coleen oge,
And she dwells in Bal’nagar;
And she bears the palm of beauty bright,
From the fairest that in Erin are.
In Bal’nagar is the Coolun
Like the berry on the bough her cheek;
Bright beauty dwells for ever
On her fair neck and ringlets sleek;
Oh, sweeter is her mouth’s soft music
Than the lark or thrush at dawn,
Or the blackbird in the greenwood singing
Farewell to the setting sun.
Rise up, my boy! make ready
My horse, for I forth would ride,
To follow the modest damsel,
Where since our youth were we plighted,
In faith, troth, and wedlock true –
She is sweeter to me nine times over,
Than organ or cuckoo!
For, ever since my childhood
I loved the fair and darling child;
But our people came between us,
And with lucre out pure love defiled;
Ah, my woe is is, and my bitter pain,
And I weep it night and day,
That the coleen bawn of my early love,
Is torn from my heart away.
Sweetheart and faithful treasure,
Be constant still and true;
Now for want of hers and houses
Leave one who would ne’er leave you,
I’ll plege you the blessed Bible,
Without and eke within,
That the faithful God will provide for us,
Without thanks to kith or kin.
Oh, love, do you remember
When we lay all night alone,
Beneath the ash in the winter storm
When the oak wood round did groan?
No shelter then from the blast had we,
The bitter blast or sleet,
But your gown to wrap about our heads,
And my coat around our feet.



Al O’Donnell in ‘Al O’Donnell’, 1972

Oh say did you see her
by the gloaming or the sunrise
as she stepped like a fawn in Ballinagar(1)
or sang far sweeter than
the lark or thrush at eventide.
Red ripened her cheek is,
Like the berry upon a tree
and her neck more graceful than the swan is,
her lips like petals from
the red rose smile on me.
When she was a little girl,
and I a tender child I loved her,
But her parents’ money placed between us
So farewell my cúilín deas mo chroí (2)
Fair Flower of Ballinagar
Wait for me forever,
By the place where we lay alone,
Through the night where the elfin
storm winds whistle
and the old ash tremble in the dark
with fearful moan.
I will come to my cúilín
Ere the life from my corpse
shall wander
and will hold as I did when in my childhood
my little jewelled flower of Ballinagar.
Traduzione italiano Cattia Salto
L’avete vista,
al tramonto o all’alba,
che incede come una cerbiatta a Ballinagar
o canta più dolcemente dell’allodola
o del merlo sul far della sera?
Rosso acceso sono le sue guance
come le bacche sull’albero
e il suo collo è più aggraziato di un cigno,
le sue labbra come petali
di rosa rossa mi sorridono.
Quando lei era una bimbetta
e io un tenero bimbo l’amavo,
ma il denaro della sua famiglia stava tra noi due
così addio mia ragazza dai lunghi capelli biondi,
il bel fiore di Ballinagar.
Aspettami per sempre
nel posto dove stavamo soli,
nella notte dove la schiera elfica
soffia il flauto
e il vecchio frassino trema nel buio
con lamento spaventoso.
Verrò dalla mia ragazza
prima che la vita dal mio corpo
se ne vada
e terrò come facevo nella mia gioventù
il mio piccolo prezioso fiore di Ballinagar

1)  Ballinagar = Ballynagore, Bellanagare in the county of Roscommon. but there are many towns with similar names in all Ireland [Ballinagar = Ballynagore, Bellanagare nella contea di Roscommon. ma ci sono molte cittadine dal nome simile sparse un po’ per le contee d’Irlanda]
2) cúilín deas mo chroí = sweet fair (haired) maiden of my heart

(keep it going) continua



Patrick Kavanag (1904-1967) pubblicò nel 1946 la poesia  intitolata “Dark Haired Myriam Ran Away” (su The Irish Times del 3 ottobre), tormentato da un amore non corrisposto , ma solo nel 1960 incontra Luke Kelly e nasce la popolarità della canzone “Raglan Road

La melodia è un’antica aria irlandese attribuita da Edward Bunting all’arpista Thomas Connellan (1640/1645 – 1698-1700) dal titolo “Fáinne Geal an Lae” letteralmente “Bright Ring of the day” (in italiano “Il brillante anello del giorno”) ovvero l’anello luminoso che contorna il sole quando sorge.. continua

Il testo proviene dalla poesia “Dark Haired Myriam Ran Away”, scritta da Raglan RoadPatrick Kavanag (1904-1967) mentre era tormentato da un amore non corrisposto e venne pubblicata nel 1946 (su “The Irish Times” del 3 ottobre); però la canzone  “Raglan Road” diventò famosa solo dopo l’incontro tra Patrick Kavanag e  Luke Kelly. In un intervista del 1980 lo stesso Luke racconta come andò: i due si conobbero nel 1966 al The Baily di Dublino che all’epoca era un pub frequentato da artisti e Patrick Kavanag gli chiese di cantare la sua poesia.
“I was sitting in a pub in Dublin, The Baily, and as you know in the old days – It’s changed a bit now. It was known as a literary pub, an artistic pub. I happened to be sitting there in the same company as Patrick Kavanagh and one or two other poets, and someone asked him to recite a poem, which he did, and someone asked me to sing a song, which I did. Being in the presence of the great man I was very nervous. Then he leaned over to me and said in that sepulcharl voice of his, he could hardly get his voice out, he was very old. It was just the year before he died – and he said ”You Should Sing My Song”, and I said what’s that Mr. Kavanagh ? and he said Raglan Road, So he gave me permission. I got permission from the man himself.”
Così come riportato da Luke Kelly, sembra che l’adattamento della poesia alla melodia più conosciuta con il nome di “The dawning of the day” sia stata opera del poeta stesso, altri sostengono che Luke abbia voluto lasciare il merito al poeta, ma che in realtà sia stato lui a trovare la corrispondenza. In realtà Kavanag doveva già aver avuto in mente la canzone “The Dawning of the Day” quando scrisse la sua poesia: il tenore John McCormack l’aveva resa popolare nel 1934 (cantata anche nel film “Wings of the morning” uscito nel 1939). Oltre alla metrica simile alcune frasi si rispecchiano e lo stesso Kavanag la canticchiava negli anni 45-47!

HildaMoriartyLA MUSA

Il poeta aveva 40 anni quando conobbe Hilda Moriarty, studentessa poco più che ventenne in un pub di Dublino, e s’innamorò di lei (sembra in modo quasi ossessivo, oggi si direbbe da “stalker”): la passione non è mai stata ricambiata.
Un aneddoto, riportato in un intervista da Hilda stessa, ci dice che lei lo prendesse in giro perchè era un poeta “contadino” e che gli avesse chiesto di leggere qualcosa di più fondamentale scritto da lui, così Patrick compose “Raglan road”.
ASCOLTA intervista a Hilda Moriarty

Alla fine al poeta la cotta è passata e così le scrive: (vedi)
62 Pembroke Road.
31 May 1945.
My dearest Hilda,
Please do not take exception to the address of ‘dearest’ or think it a presumption on my part. I am no longer mad about you although I do like you very very much. I like you because of your enchanting selfishness and I really am your friend – if you will let me.
I should not, perhaps, write this letter to you without you replying to my other, but I am in such a good humour regarding you that I want you to know it. Remembering you is like remembering some dear one who has died. There has never been – and never will be – another woman who can be the same to me as you have been. Your friendship and love or whatever it was, was so curious, so different.
Write to me a friendly letter even if I cannot see you. I met Cyril in the Country Shop and he was looking well,
Believe me, Hilda,
Yours fondly,

A voler un po’ esagerare la lettera non sembra proprio essere una lettere d’addio quanto appunto una lettera da stalker: prima di tutto Patrick Kavanag le scrive, sebbene lei non abbia nemmeno risposto alla sua lettera precedente, per farle sapere che lui non è più innamorato di lei, però continua a ripetere quanto le piaccia proprio, ma proprio tanto, e che non c’è mai stata, e non ci sarà mai, un’altra donna come lei, il suo vero amore; che dire poi delle velate minacce “ti ricordo come si ricorda una cara persona che è morta“? Ovviamente non si tratta di una minaccia, quanto piuttosto la lettera sottolinea il dolore del poeta per aver perduto un rapporto importante.
In effetti Patrick continuò a pedinare Hilda fino a quando  lei sposò Donogh O’Malley nel 1947.( e Hilda ha mandato una corona di rose rosse al funerale di Kavanagh!)
Come dice Nora-Jane Thornton “l’amore non corrisposto piuttosto che l’amore stesso, è la più grande delle Muse!”

ASCOLTA la poesia recitata da Tom O’Bedlam

Quando la canzone venne messa nel repertorio dei Dubliners – nell’album Hometown, 1972 – fu scambiata per una canzone tradizionale.
Non è facile fare una cernita per la guida all’ascolto, anche perchè la canzone è stata eseguita da molti big della musica celtica e della scena rock: i vari interpreti hanno modificato alcune parole tranne Mary Black la cui versione testuale è identica alla poesia di Kavanag.

ASCOLTA Luke Kelly

ASCOLTA Dick Gaughan in Kist O’ Gold 1977
ASCOLTA Mark Knopfler e Donal Lunny 1996 – live
Joan Osborne & The Chieftains in Tears of Stone 1999

ASCOLTA Young Dubliners in With all due respect, 2009

ASCOLTA Mary Black 1986
ASCOLTA Sinead O’Connor in Common live 1995
ASCOLTA Loreena McKennitt in An Ancient Muse 2006 – live

On Raglan Road(1)
on an autumn day
I met her first and knew
That her dark hair would weave a snare
That I might one day rue
I saw the danger yet I walked
Along the enchanted way(2)
And I said “let grief be a fallen leaf
At the dawning of the day (3)”
On Grafton Street in November
We tripped lightly along the ledge
Of a deep ravine where can be seen
The worth of passion’s pledge
The Queen of Hearts still making tarts(4)
And I not making hay(5)
Oh I loved too much and by such by such
Is happiness thrown away
I gave her gifts of the mind
I gave her the secret sign that’s known
To the artists who have known
The true gods of sound and stone(6)
And word and tint I did not stint
For I gave her poems to say
With her own name there
And her own dark hair
Like clouds over fields of May
On a quiet street(7) where old ghosts meet
I see her walking now
Away from me so hurriedly my reason must allow
That I had wooed not as I should
A creature made of clay (8)
When the angel woos the clay
He’ll lose his wings at the dawn of day
traduzione italiano Cattia Salto*
Sulla Raglan Road (1)
in un giorno d’autunno
la vidi per la prima volta e seppi
che i suoi capelli scuri avrebbero tessuto una trappola,
di cui un giorno mi sarei pentito,
vidi il pericolo e tuttavia m’incamminai per il Viale degli Incanti (2)
e dissi “Che il dolore sia una foglia caduta al sorgere del  giorno (3)”
Su Grafton Street a Novembre
ci fermammo spensierati sulla sporgenza
di un profondo burrone dove poteva essere visto il valore di una passione promessa, la Regina di Cuori ancora faceva le crostate (4)
e io non coglievo la mela (5);
oh ho amato troppo e per questo e quest’altro
la felicità è andata sprecata
Le diedi i doni della mente
le diedi il segno segreto che è riconosciuto
dagli artisti che hanno conosciuto
i veri dei del suono e della pietra (6),
e non mi limitai alla parola e alla tinta,
perché le diedi le poesie da recitare
là con il suo nome proprio
e i suoi capelli scuri
come nuvole sopra i campi di Maggio
Sul “Viale del Tramonto” (7) dove i vecchi fantasmi si incontrano,
la vedo camminare ora,
si allontana da me più in fretta di quanto io riesca a pensare
di non aver amato come avrei dovuto, una creatura d’argilla(8);
quando l’angelo ama la terra
perderà le sue ali allo spuntare del giorno

* (un’altra traduzione qui) si ringrazia Roberto Romano per aver portato luce sul significato dell’ultima strofa
1) strade di Dublino che identificano una zona precisa intorno al Trinity College tra St Stephen’s Green e Grand Canal
2) enchanted way: è il percorso tra le nuvole degli innamorati, il viale pieno di promesse e speranze soffuso di una luce rosata, ma anche alla luce della stagione autunnale il “viale del tramonto” presagio di desolazione e solitudine
3) la citazione è tratta dalla aisling song in  gaelico irlandese dal titolo “Fáinne Geal an Lae” letteralmente “Bright Ring of the day” ma tradotta poeticamente come “the dawning of the day”: il poeta incontra una dea ovvero una creatura fatata dalla sublime bellezza che rappresenta l’Irlanda.
4) citazione da “the queen of hearts baked some tarts” della nursery rhyme di origine 700esca sulle carte da gioco: la regina di cuori cuoce le torte e il fante di cuori le ruba.
The Queen of Hearts she made some tarts all on a summer’s day;
The Knave of Hearts he stole the tarts and took them clean away.
The King of Hearts called for the tarts and beat the Knave full sore
The Knave of Hearts brought back the tarts and
vowed he’d steal no more.
Nell’Alice nel paese delle Meraviglie di Lewis Carroll la filastrocca è portata come prova nel processo al fante di cuori.
5) letteralmente “fare fieno”, il detto irlandese “make hay while the sun shines” significa cercare di trarre vantaggio dalle opportunità, che sono spesso fugaci e irripetibili. Si intende anche con una sfumatura sessuale: in italiano equivale al significato di cogliere la “mela”. E’ anche l’equivalente dell’espressione “battere il ferro finchè è caldo”. Qui la frase conclude l’immagine dei due separati da una profonda difficoltà (invalicabile) al fondo della quale si agita la passione: significa che il poeta non ottiene l’amore della donna
6) si riferisce a un cromlech, vuole richiamare un cerchio di pietre? Più in generale gli dei  sono le muse della musica, poesia, scultura e pittura. Il protagonista ha condiviso con la donna la propria conoscenza come se fosse stata un’adepta da iniziare ai misteri arcani.
7) incidentalmente a Dublino c’è una strada rinomata per essere luogo di ritrovo dei fantasmi, Haddington Road, ma il poeta si riferisce ancora a Ragland Road: simmetricamente come la storia nasce in autunno lungo l'”enchanted way” adesso la storia è finita e la strada diventa una “quiet street” letteralmente “una via tranquilla”
8) letteralmente “fatta di terra” così commenta Roberto Romano: “That I had wooed not as I should A creature made of clay” vuol dire chiaramente “che non ho amato come avrei dovuto (cioè nella maniera che si conviene) una creatura fatta d’argilla (cioè di poco valore)” quindi: “ho amato troppo senza che ne valesse la pena”! Il concetto è rafforzato dalla stupenda metafora dell’angelo che, per aver amato la terra (qualcosa di “basso”, poco elevato) perde le ali (cioè la sua condizione sublime) e, a mio parere è spiegato fuor di metafore dai versi finali della 2a strofa: “Oh I loved too much and by such by such – Is happiness thrown away”. Secondo me la bellezza di questa poesia è proprio nel concetto di “dannarsi l’anima per un amore che non vale la pena”: chi non ha mai sperimentata questa forma di “eroismo sentimentale” che all’inizio appare coraggioso ma poi si rivela autodistruttivo?