Friday, April 15, 2011

427. The Temporary Exile of Conor MacArt

Tá an Deoraíocht Sealadach na Conchubhair Mac Airt

An marc an uasal na hÉireann é --
leagann an-bhreá ach neamhaird de bróga. *

November 1562 - February 1563

It was either murder or the cold shoulder
when one crossed the path of Shane O Neill,
and thus I hurriedly hied me off to France
before the latter became the former

in the twenty-third year of my youth,
with angry bailiffs battering at the door
and my wife Eileen was in floods of tears
as the cows and the pigs were driven away

and the children as well, not to be sold
or eaten, or not at once, but sent to the cousins
who would happily hold this against me forever
in the way all strongood Irish families do.

It was a joy to speak Latin in France
with the learned men of Rouen and Grenoble,
to discourse on Ariosto and the Nine Commandments,
the fifth never having quite caught on in Ireland

and to have blood-red wine not made from nettles
and cheese not pressed from the udders of goats,
and one slipped into one’s weary bed of an evening
warmed by the breasts of the live-in language teacher.

I made remarkable progress in their pouting tongue,
a slurry Latin spoken with fingers and shoulders,
and I rode in the Tuilleries with the haut de haut monde,
they on horses and me, well-shod, on a Connemara pony

for all the world to gaze and wonder and stroke their chins
so that even the King sent his young men to call on me,
as that foul evil knave of an English Ambassador
eyed me coldly, and sent over a cask of poisoned wine

which put an end to the language teacher, a pleasant wench,
voluble, affectionate, but a wee bit too fond of a drop,
and so I decamped thereafter for the shores of Spain,
to cousin Rodrigo and his sunny vineyards in the South.

* The ignored mark of the Irish nobility - a very fine set of shoes.