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Did their ears hear her as they gave up the ghost or was the answer snuffed out by the noise and the smoke?

To mark World Gaelic Week, Books from Scotland is excited to share three poems from Eòghan Stiùbhart’s debut poetry collection Beum-Sgèithe, whose work is at once traditional and modern and combines images of the natural world with subjects such as politics, culture, love and death. You can read them in both Gaelic and their English translation below.

 

Extract taken from Beum-Sgèithe
by Eoghan Stewart
published by Acair Books

 

Caoineag Bheag a’ Bhròin*

Cluinn a’ chaoineag air a’ ghaoith a-nochd san aonach àird
anns na coireachain aognaidh far nach fhaigh i tàmh
le fios gun tig, a dheòin no a dh’aindeòin, am bàs
a dh’fhàgas leannan gun ghràdh, màthair gun àl
        Cò tha siud? Cò tha siud? Cò ach caoineag bheag a’ bhròin?

’S ise thar nan linntean a’ sanasachd na fala a thaom
nuair a thuit na laoich ’s na cùisean-thruaigh san raon
’s iad mar an ceudna a’ faireachdainn faobhar an aoig
bha caoineag ann romhpa a’ caoidh crìoch an saoghail
        Cò tha siud? Cò tha siud? Cò ach caoineag bheag a’ bhròin?

An oidhche a bha sin, air slèibhtean corrach beinn a’ cheò
bha i a’ gul ’s a’ glaodhadh ’s a’ dòirteadh deòir
às leth cor Clann Dòmhnaill nach tuigeadh brìgh a sgeòil
cho bodhar ’s cho marbh ri Clach Eanruig a-measg an fheòir
        Cò tha siud? Cò tha siud? Cò ach caoineag bheag a’ bhròin?

Agus sna h-àrd-achaidhean ann an Eilean a’ Cheò
chuala na daoine gaoir a chuir gaoir nam feòil
’s thàinig an taibhsearachd o chùbaid MhicLeòid
gun tuiteadh na seòid am blàr a’ chatha fa dheòigh
Cò tha siud? Cò tha siud? Cò ach caoineag bheag a’ bhròin?

Nan laighe san achadh chèin thall, ’s iad leòinte
an do chuir iad a’ cheist len anail dheireannaich bheò?
An cuala iad i nan cluasan ’s iad a’ toirt suas an deò
no an robh an fhreagairt ga smaladh le fuaim ’s ceò?
        Cò tha siud? Cò tha siud? Cò ach caoineag bheag a’ bhròin?

 

Little Caoineag of Sorrow*

Who is there? Who is there? Who else but Little Caoineag of Sorrow

Hear the Caoineag on the lonely mountain tonight in the
desolate corrie where she finds no rest knowing that death
will come despite it all and leave a lover without love a mother
without her child

And down through the ages she telegraphed the blood that
would surge when and where the heroes and the zeroes likewise would
fall to death’s blade on the field having gone before them to
lament their world’s end

That night on the rocky slopes of the misty mountain she
wept and wailed and poured out her tears for the sake of
Clan Donald who did understand her tale as they lay as dead
and as deaf as Clach Eunraig in the grass

And in the highfields of the Isle of Skye the people heard the
wail that sent a shiver through their flesh and from MacLeod’s
pulpit they were foretold that the heroes would fall in the
battle one day

Lying there on that foreign field wounded did they ask that
question with their dying breath? Did their ears hear her as
they gave up the ghost or was the answer snuffed out by the
noise and the smoke?

 

*

 

còmhnaich dlùth rium

còmhnaich dlùth rium

’s tu an gaol a bha ann aig tùs mo shaoghail
’s tu an ròs fo bhlàth ’s tu an t-ubhal air a’ chraoibh
’s tu a’ chreag as àirde aig mullach beinn an t-sluaigh
’s tu a’ ghaoth a shèideas le buaidh on cheann a tuath

’s tu mo ghrian-maidne, ’s tu mo reul san àird an iar
’s tu mo ghealach làn, mo sholas ’s mo mhiann
’s tu mo rùn, mo luaidh, mo mhùirn ’s mo shunnd
’s tu mo leòn, mo leigheas, mo bhàrr ’s mo ghrunnd

’s tu an talamh aosmhor ’s mi cas-ruisgte air do raon
’s tu an tìr nuadh a gheallas dhomhsa saors’
’s tu am blàths aig baile gam thaladh air ais a-nall
’s tu na binnein gheala air na slèibhtean ud fada thall

’s tu cho èasgaidh, cho deònach, cho còir ’s cho gasta
’s tu cho dìcheallach cho daingeann a dh’aindeoin gach astar
’s tu an gràdh grad dearg ’s tu an gràdh buan bàn
’s tu an crònan ciùin ’s an ataireachd àrd

’s tu an t-aodann a chì mi nam dhùsgadh tràth
’s tu an t-aodann a chì mi anmoch aig deireadh là
’s tu an fhìrinn ghlan a labhras o do bheul blàth
’s tu na làmhan gam ghlèidheadh o chàs agus cràdh

’s tu gam dhìth

 

stay close to me

stay close to me

you are the love that was at my beginning
you are the rose in bloom and the apple on the tree
you are the highest rock at the top of the people’s mountain
you are the north wind blowing triumphantly
you are my morning sun and my star in the west
you are my full moon my light my desire
you are my love my love my love and my joy
you are my wound my cure my summit and sea floor
you are the ancient earth and I walk barefoot upon your field
you are the new land that promises me freedom
you are the warmth of home calling me back
you are the white peaks upon those far mountains
you are so willing so keen so kind and so splendid
you are so diligent so steadfast despite all distance
you are the swift red love and the enduring white love
you are the gentle lullaby and the ceaseless ocean roar
you are the face I see upon waking early
you are the face I see at the end of my day
you are the perfect truth spoken from your warm mouth
you are the hands that keep me from hardship and pain

and I need you

 

*

 

Deich bliadhna a dh’fhalbh

Sheas sinn feasgar Dàmhair sa Ghearran
ris a’ chuan, a’ cluinntinn na h-ataireachd
air a’ chladach fo Shorstal Bheag
sgàilean Mhealasbhail is Thathabhail dubh-dorch
ris an iarmailt òr-ghorm na ciaradh.
Smaoinich mi air a’ mhadainn òig ud
nuair a chunna sinn clamhan ag èirigh
o chùl a’ bhalla-crìch le rabaid na spuirean
a’ sgiathalaich ri taobh a’ chàir son mòmaid
mus do chuibhlich e os cionn Tràigh nan Srùban
agus chuir mi romham gum pòsainn thu
’s nach dealaicheadh sinn a-chaoidh.

Sheas sinn feasgar Gearrain san Dàmhair
air a’ chreig aig Cinn Mhara
Baile Dhùn nan Gall na shìneadh fodhainn
’s sgòthan glasa làn bhagairt silidh.
Smaoinich mise air na fògarraich thruagh
a’ feitheamh gu h-acrach ris a’ chladach
air luing nan daoine a bhiodh gan giùlan
nam mìltean mòra thar nan cuantan.
Ach thusa, bha thusa a’ cnuasachadh
air m’ fhaclan cearbach ceàrr a bha air
do chridhe coibhneil a shàthadh gu buan
agus chuir thu romhad nuair a ruigeadh tu an cuan
gun dealaicheadh sinn a-chaoidh.

 

Ten years gone

We stood an October afternoon in February beside the
sea, listening to the surge on the shore below Sorstal
Beag the shadows of Mealisval and Tataval dark-black
against the dimming blue-gold skies. I though about
that morning when we saw a buzzard rise from behind
the township wall with a rabbit in its talons flying beside
our car for moment before it wheeled over Tràigh nan
Srùban and I decided there and then that I would marry
you and we would never part.

We stood a February afternoon in October on the cliffs
at Kinvara, Donegal town stretched out below us and
the clouds grey and full of the threat of rain. I thought
about the poor exiles waiting hungrily by the shore on
the coffins ships that would bear them in thousands
over the seas. But you, you were chewing on my clumsy
wrong words that had pierced your heart forever and
you decided there and then that when we reached the
Sea that we would forever part.

 

Beum-Sgèithe by Eoghan Stewart is published by Acair Books, priced £12.95

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