An 18th century poem written by Irish poet Aindrias Mac Craith (1708-1795), who lived along the the River Maigue (Irish: An Mháigh, meaning “river of the plain”) in the Bruff – Croom area of Co. Limerick. This version arranged by Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh and Shane McGowan. It appears on Muireann’s solo debut album Daybreak: Fáinne an Lae, released in 2006. From Dingle in the Kerry Gaeltacht, Muireann has a musical family background. She is a singer and a flute player and a member of the group Danú.
Aindrias Mac Craith is widely acknowledged as the last great Gaelic poet of the 18th Century and his pen name An Mangaire Sugach (The Merry Pedlar) is well known in the annuals of Irish Literature.
From The merry pedlar – 13th Oct. 1945
From the accounts that have come down we learn that the Mangaire (Aindrias Mac Craith) was a wild rake of a man, fond of sport, good company and deep drinking, getting into more than one scrape with the clergy on account of his droch-iompar. It was after his banishment from Croom to Ballyneety that he wrote one of the loveliest of all his songs, lamenting his forced exile from “cois Maighe na gcaor” – “O Slan le Maigh” – “Goodbye to the Maigue.” In Ballyneety the poor Mangaire’s heart is broken. When he goes down the street the women appear at the doors surmising who he can be.
“Bid mna le cheile ag pleidhe da luadhadh,
Ca h-ait, cia h-e, ca taobh ‘nar ghluais.”
On one occasion he turned Protestant, but the local minister, having every good reason to doubt the sincerity of his “conversion,” would have nothing to do with him. The Mangaire then addressed a poem to Sean O Tuama, complaining that he was now neither Protestant nor Papist. But for all his waywardness he was a gifted singer. That poor wretch of a man, so often seen reeling from the tavern to the miserable hovel he called home, was one of the sweetest poets an age of song was to produce, a man whose poems will endure as long as the Irish language lives.
He was a real lyrist, not unlike Burns and in his songs he gives us an insight into his wild and vagrant life. He had a profound knowledge of the Irish language and his poetry is full of magic and melody. He belonged to that strange Hidden Ireland of the 18th century, that Ireland that flowered with such profusion of poetry under the blasting winter winds of oppression. If he was careless and intemperate, much of it was due to a hellish code of laws then being enacted for the utter degradation of the old race.
Rake that he was, he could often be found in the company of Sean Clarach, Sean O Tuama, Father Nicholas O’Donnell and those other poets of the Maigue, declaiming the hero-tales of Greece and Rome and discussing current European politics. Those remarkable men arose in an age when learning of every kind was banned in Ireland and sprang from a people dubbed as ignorant and illiterate by their oppressors. They were the last guardians of the thousand year old ure of the Gael and with their passing the Irish language, the repository of that ancient ure, faded and died in the rich plains of Limerick.
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The River Maigh does start in County Cork, but it is better known in County Limerick where it widens and gathers strength, until it reaches the Shannon Estuary, giving up some fine trout along the way.
The song Slán Le Máigh was composed by Aindrias Mac Craith (1708-1795), a famous poet who lived along the River in the Bruff – Croom area of Co. Limerick.
The song was composed in 1738 when Mac Craith was compelled to leave the parish of Croom by the Parish Priest. He was in an unsuitable and indiscreet relationship with a local girl in Croom, her family objected as he was known as a womaniser. It was suggested by the Priest that he should leave the area, mend his ways and settle down. I don’t know whether he took that advice..
A hundred farewells
From this place I'm in
Beside Maigue of the berries,
The branches, the stacks
The estates, the jewels,
The craftsmen, the crowds
The arts, the stories,
The good-humored warriors
Oh it is ill I am
Without a share, or right
Or company, or money
Without happiness, or jewels
Or sport, or vitality
Since I was sent into loneliness
To her happy freeman
To her love of kin, her gatherings
Her clergy, her scholars
To the friends of my heart
Not perverse or deceitful
Without flaw, without concealment
Without gluttony, without stinginess
Good-bye, one by one
To its beautiful women
To their fame, their sense
Their loveliness, their complexions
To all its women
To their rank, their visitations
Their messing, their discussions
Their minds and their talents
(Chorus)Can you provide a better translation?