Wednesday, April 29, 2009

353. Roisín Dubh (The Dark Rose)

A Róisín ná bíodh brón ort fé'r éirigh dhuit:
Tá na bráithre 'teacht thar sáile 's iad ag triall ar muir,
Tiocfaidh do phárdún ón bPápa is ón Róimh anoir
'S ní spárálfar fíon Spáinneach ar mo Róisín Dubh.

Little Rose, be not sad for all that hath behapped thee:
The friars are coming across the sea, they march on the main.
From the Pope shall come thy pardon, and from Rome, from the East-
And stint not Spanish wine to my Little Dark Rose.

Raise your spirits, little Rose, after all that has befallen:
the friars will come over the sea, they will bestride the waters,
and from the Pope will come blessings, from Rome and from the East,
and we shall drink Spanish wine for our Little Dark Rose .

Is fada an réim a léig mé léi ó inné 'dtí inniu,
Trasna sléibhte go ndeachas léi, fé sheolta ar muir;
An éirne is chaith mé 'léim í, cé gur mór é an sruth;
'S bhí ceol téad ar gach taobh díom is mo Róisín Dubh.

Long the journey that I made with her from yesterday till today,
Over mountains did I go with her, under the sails upon the sea,
The Erne I passed by leaping, though wide the flood,
And there was string music on each side of me and my Little Dark Rose!

(no changes here, spot-on)

Mhairbh tú mé, a bhrídeach, is nárbh fhearrde dhuit,
Is go bhfuil m'anam istigh i ngean ort 's ní inné ná inniu;
D'fhág tú lag anbhfann mé i ngné is i gcruth-
Ná feall orm is mé i ngean ort, a Róisín Dubh.

Thou hast slain me, O my bride, and may it serve thee no whit,
For the soul within me loveth thee, not since yesterday nor today,
Thou has left me weak and broken in mien and in shape,
Betray me not who love thee, my Little Dark Rose!

You have killed me, my bride, though it serves you no reason,
the soul within me has loved you from beginning to end,
yet you have despised my weakness, you have broken me down,
you should not turn on your lover, my Little Dark Rose!

Shiubhalfainn féin an drúcht leat is fásaigh ghuirt,
Mar shúil go bhfaighinn rún uait nó páirt dem thoil.
A chraoibhín chumhra, gheallais domhsa go raibh grá agat dom
-'S gurab í fíor-scoth na Mumhan í, mo Róisín Dubh.

I would walk the dew with thee and the meadowy wastes,
In hope of getting love from thee, or part of my will,
Frangrant branch, thou didst promise me that thou hadst for me love-
And sure the flower of all Munster is Little Dark Rose!

I would walk with you, on fields or through dew,
in hopes of your love, your recognition,
but you are like the blossoms of a tree, flowering, promising,
the flower of all Munster is my Little Dark Rose!

Beidh an Éirne 'na tuiltibh tréana is réabfar cnoic,
Beidh an fharraige 'na tonntaibh dearga is doirtfear fuil,
Beidh gach gleann sléibhe ar fud éireann is móinte ar crith,
Lá éigin sul a n-éagfaidh mo Róisín Dubh.

The Erne shall rise in rude torrents, hills shall be rent,
The sea shall roll in red waves, and blood be poured out,
Every mountain glen in Ireland, and the bogs shall quake
Some day ere shall perish my Little Dark Rose!

(no changes … I mean, what can you do with a verse like that?)

OK, now here is the celebrated 1840s translation ....

Dark Rosaleen
translated by James Clarence Mangan

O My Dark Rosaleen,
Do not sigh, do not weep!
The priests are on the ocean green,
They march along the deep.
There 's wine from the royal Pope,
Upon the ocean green;
And Spanish ale shall give you hope,
My Dark Rosaleen!
My own Rosaleen!
Shall glad your heart, shall give you hope,
Shall give you health, and help, and hope,
My Dark Rosaleen!

Over hills, and thro' dales,
Have I roam'd for your sake;
All yesterday I sail'd with sails
On river and on lake.
The Erne, at its highest flood,
I dash'd across unseen,
For there was lightning in my blood,
My Dark Rosaleen!
My own Rosaleen!
O, there was lightning in my blood,
Red lightning lighten'd thro' my blood.
My Dark Rosaleen!

All day long, in unrest,
To and fro, do I move.
The very soul within my breast
Is wasted for you, love!
The heart in my bosom faints
To think of you, my Queen,
My life of life, my saint of saints,
My Dark Rosaleen!
My own Rosaleen!
To hear your sweet and sad complaints,
My life, my love, my saint of saints,
My Dark Rosaleen!

Woe and pain, pain and woe,
Are my lot, night and noon,
To see your bright face clouded so,
Like to the mournful moon.
But yet will I rear your throne
Again in golden sheen;
'Tis you shall reign, shall reign alone,
My Dark Rosaleen!
My own Rosaleen!
'Tis you shall have the golden throne,
'Tis you shall reign, and reign alone,
My Dark Rosaleen!

Over dews, over sands,
Will I fly, for your weal:
Your holy delicate white hands
Shall girdle me with steel.
At home, in your emerald bowers,
From morning's dawn till e'en,
You'll pray for me, my flower of flowers,
My Dark Rosaleen!
My fond Rosaleen!
You'll think of me through daylight hours,
My virgin flower, my flower of flowers,
My Dark Rosaleen!

I could scale the blue air,
I could plough the high hills,
O, I could kneel all night in prayer,
To heal your many ills!
And one beamy smile from you
Would float like light between
My toils and me, my own, my true,
My Dark Rosaleen!
My fond Rosaleen!
Would give me life and soul anew,
A second life, a soul anew,
My Dark Rosaleen!

O, the Erne shall run red,
With redundance of blood,
The earth shall rock beneath our tread,
And flames wrap hill and wood,
And gun-peal and slogan-cry
Wake many a glen serene,
Ere you shall fade, ere you shall die,
My Dark Rosaleen!
My own Rosaleen!
The Judgement Hour must first be nigh,
Ere you can fade, ere you can die,
My Dark Rosaleen!

“Mangan’s version is much greater than the original poem. It is supposed to be Hugh O’Donnell’s address to Ireland at a time when the Irish chiefs were expecting help from Spain and from the Pope.” – says one among many commentators.

Non-Irish-speakers (and I'm not all that great at it!!) appear to believe Mangan's translation is the real thing. It’s dramatic, to be sure, overblown in the spirit of the age, but an entirely different poem. It has emotional power, granted, but in terms of translation from the Irish it is wildly inaccurate. In fact it comes across as a parody of the original. I’m stepping on to more dangerous ground by calling into question the translation by the beloved & sainted Padraig Pearse (the lines in italics above). Pearse led the 1916 Rebellion, founded the Republic I belong to, and got himself shot for Ireland. Parts of his translation cannot or even should not be faulted, but other bits need to be rescued from the outdated (poetic) English of the late 19th century Gaelic Revival. I wouldn't be at all surprised if Thomas Kinsella or O Connor or one of the other well-known native speakers has made a more recent translation but I haven't come across it ... yet.

Slán agus beannacht,

Sunday, April 12, 2009

352. Four Chinese Poems


At the time of the rains
when you burst in upon me
here in my damp and narrow quarters
next to the temple, your arms
were full of new manuscripts
and I rejoiced to see you.

Unlike you, dear friend,
I have been unlucky in my career
and my wife, unused to privation,
has even seen fit to scold me.
I called for wine when you came
and that flea-bitten merchant refused me
until you threw golden coins
upon the table: after that flasks
of exquisite vintage arrived.

We drank deeply: we drank
and talked far far into the night
praising or laughingly destroying
every poem that had ever been written
since those happy days we shared
below the mountains of Dao-Shan
and you were good enough
to praise my unpublished works
and I was polite about the popular pieces
that have lately made you famous.

In the morning, when you departed,
you had a litter and four servants awaiting you
and when we smiled and embraced
I could see the neighbours looking on,
to many of whom I owe sums of money,
rather large sums of money,
and as I smiled and sent you on your way
I cursed my fate and also you.


My father told me to stay in the house
with the women children and servants
while outside in clouds of rolling dust
came the victorious army of Bu Chao Lin.
I raced up to the roof to be with him
and found him wailing in a high keening voice
and pulling at his beard; he frowned at me
and then did a very strange thing, he tore off
his button cap, without which I had never seen him,
and began to stamp upon it. I stared, wide-eyed,
and decided to help my distraught father
by stamping on the cap he obviously disliked
with cries of joy and enthusiasm.
I will never forget the way he looked at me,
his eyes so round with horror.


In the provincial town of Di Lai
I sat (again) for the examination
gave them Do Bai's song
and a clever critique
of Three Veils in the Morning
and sauntered away.

Of course they failed me.

But I had made travel plans
unknown to my father
and with the saved silver coins
hired a team of rough bearers
for the path up the mountain
then down to the valley
of P'ai To Shan.

Such sweetness in your eyes,
the plain and beguiling
roundness. I gasp,
I tell myself it doesn't matter
as I finger the folds
of my soft and elegant cloak.


Counsellor Zhang has four young daughters
each one more beautiful than the next
and I feel that I might carefully dare
to marry one of them, perhaps the one
least reminiscent of her father
whose bulging eyes and purple face
rather distressed me
at the ritual strangulation.

Friday, April 03, 2009

351. Baby Boomer

I couldn’t have chosen to be born
in a better town, but it was the wrong
bloody side of the river, thanks to my besotted
madly in love young parents, so totally
full of themselves and of the delights of young love
that they were not thinking ahead to important things
that mean so much today. Me granf’aar
had bought the solid still-standing family home
up there on the North Side, the right side, up by Sion Hill
in the middle of muddy fields, back in 1939,
and he planted potatoes in the garden during the War
and for some time after. Now the bricks themselves
are worth millions of pounds. Me mammy
popped me out, thoughtlessly, on the South Side
in Earlsfort Terrace just along from Stephen’s Green
and I was a Southside brat from the age of 3-minutes.

I play it down.

Bono at Obama’s Inauguration: he said, Mr. President, sir,
we are four Irish guys from the North Side of Dublin
and he was talking through his arse as usual
since only one of them lives there now: Larry Mullen.
I cringe every time I see Bono with Bush and Blair,
says Larry, the drummer, they are out and out war criminals.
Larry was in the (Northside) Artane Boys
but me, I wasn’t. We weren’t really Dublin working class,
more sort of of hopeful lower middle, one step away
from tenant farmers, from those who died in the Famine.
And with stubborn application and some dedication,
with no need to be be flash but out to make cash,
my Daddy paid out for a good education.

I was the first: three others followed (still close).
I was born in Ireland, woke up in the UK,
got sent to a school and ran away. I walked across London
to get away from them. I had a penny for bus-fare
but you had to hand it up so I walked. I was about five.
Me mam she was frantic, she hugged me far too tight,
but she sent me back the next day, and she knew,
she knew I’d be beaten. She said, “Remember, you’re Irish!”
I thought just being born in Ireland made you Irish.
I was starting to learn things.

My Dad, he was a clever man, he got work with the Yanks
and they sent him off to Germany. I grew up there
somewhere between the Americans and the Germans
(we got sent to American military schools)
and in the process I became totally, angrily Irish.
I got in fights with the Americans.
I got in fights with the Germans.
Finally, my Dad shippped me off to Ireland
to a dank medieval boarding school
where I could get into fights with the Irish instead.
No worries, it’s a settling-in process, nothing more,
you fight off and on for six months, try to win
a few more than you lose, and you never never cry,
so then, naturally, you become one of the lads.

The school was totally horrible but I rather liked it.
I can never read Dickens without thinking about it.
That’s where I learned how to really play rugby
in the fearless kamikaze Irish style, a Celtic death-wish
that opened many doors, especially, a bit later, in Texas.
But I tend to gallop, I fear, and get ahead of myself.
I was marginally feral but I wasn’t dumb
and the school had scholars as well as teachers.
They literally forced you to learn and think.
I had to memorise reams and reams of poetry, never mind
bloody Shakespeare (him too) but even Arnold and Hopkins
and they’d take a swing at you and beat you if you didn’t.
Couldn’t see that happpening today: it works, though.

I amazed everyone, got into ancient creaking Trinity College
but proceeded to go totally wild. I ended up in Istanbul
just when the Sergeant Pepper album came out. Thanks,
no really, thanks to traditional herbs it was memorable.
A Day in the Life? Whoopee. Then you floated out in the streets.
They say ( just who is they? ) if you remember the Sixties
you were not really there. I was there, all right. I remember.
I just remember things differently:

n I remember Radio Luxembourg, Radio Caroline
n I remember thinking the Kinks and the Who were pretty cool for new groups
n I remember jobs at 10 Pounds a week
n I remember being 17-years-old and in the Army
n I remember that first real kiss, the clean peppermint smell of her!
n I remember being on an Honour Guard for DeValera in front of the GPO
n I remember a pint of Guinness for 2 shillings (10P) in Kerry
n I remember climbing Nelson’s Pillar
n I remember the Pretty Things live
n I remember a lot of jovial ex-Nazis
n I remember dear Theo who fought in Poland, France, the Balkans and Russia with the Wehrmacht but who was still a lovely guy.
n I remember crowds rushing through the streets of London celebrating Israeli victory in the Six-Day War
n I remember Ludwig in Bavaria who also fought in Russia (well, attended the War) and incidentally saved my life.
n I remember an Israeli guy on a boat in the Gulf of Corinth mourning his dead comrades at the Battle of the Golan Heights
n I remember the blonde girl on the boat to Iceland
n I remember the Greek guy on the same boat who told me he “accidentally” killed three Turkish soldiers in Cyprus
n I remember the Eskimos (Inuit, whatever) in Iceland who kept getting flattened and killed by local traffic
n I remember Rome and Florence and Lisa, my first real love
n I remember Paris in May 1968
n I remember going to America for the first time
n I remember San Francisco and the dregs of Haight-Ashbury

O, I can remember a lot of things.
Some of them, of course, I'll never tell you.

It’s easy, you know, for the Irish to adjust to America
(not so easy for Americans to adjust to Ireland)
since the land has been well-ploughed, markers laid down
by former generations. Americans are simple and generous people
until it comes to business, power, and war.
There they tend to lose the run of themselves.
They seem to have such far-fetched delirious notions
about other countries and the people within them
that it leads to the wholesale murder of dusky foreigners
under the guise of “War” ; idiots, really,
but preferable to the Russians or the Chinese.

I like Americans. Cheerful, nice teeth.
Might not want to be one.

So, after Texas and the champion rugby team
and the Federal Judge’s daughter,
the University with its assassin’s tower, the gay landlord,
not least the hard-won speedy degree,
I survived the bus crash in Afghanistan
after the driver, wise man, ran like hell away.
They would have killed him, sure, it was his fault.
So there we were in the middle of nowhere
on the bleak snowblown road to Kandahar,
with the flakes still falling and bits of bodies all around
and you start to think, do I really need to travel?

Later, much later, in India,
when I was living in that little temple
and the priest would come by every morning at sunrise
I would shrivel my sleeping body like a corpse
there on the charpoy, so as not to disturb him.
I would pretend I was asleep. It was so hard to do.
I wanted to leap up and show him how to pray,
I wanted to say, stop fuckin mumbling, open your eyes,
every cell in my body was tingling. No, I never said
make a Sign of the Cross, ye heathen Hindoo.
Not at all , I felt that devotions were a form of slavery
and that the Power of God was within. I could feel it.
Well, at that time of my life I felt something.

Ser, nada mas
Es la ultima dichta

The local college boys came around
all so young and hopeful, just like a cloud of locusts,
you couldn’t get away from them. I considered them
a pestilence but I could see from the eyes of the locals
that I’d become a Man of Knowledge, a guru, not often
do the rich kids come into these dirty narrow streets.
It was a poor neighbourhood. I had a few local friends
but the hard-timers didn’t know what to make of me.
Seething with impatience I would have to listen
to these ignorant insolent kids with their bubbling Indo-English,
People would be peering in, cups of tea would arrive.
I hated these kids. I saw how they pushed my friends aside.
On top of that they were dumb. No Dickensian Irish schooling.

Ser, nada mas

Couldn’t get their heads around it. Neither, I suppose, could I.

Later, of course, I moved on.
I really can’t keep doing this.
I got lost in North Thailand for several months
and then moved on to Japan.

Now I have twenty or more stories about Thailand
a thousand more of Japan.