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Mo-chean do theacht, a sgadáin

(My love for coming, herring!)

Anonymous .cc.
Meter: rannaigheact bheag

This is a praise poem directed, during Lent, to a herring. During Lent, Catholics were forbidden to eat meat -- but fish, seafood, and eggs were (and are) not considered meat for these purposes. So the poet has good reason to praise fish. But the poet goes farther, choosing herring above the mighty (and poet-praised) salmon and pike, and comparing his heroic and virtuous herring to everything beloved by the Irish -- fosterchildren, friends, heroes, and even Jesus. (It is worth remembering that early Christians used the sign of the fish to represent Jesus; the poet probably did.) Very cute.

Mo-chean do theacht, a sgadáin,
druid liom, a dhaltáin uasail;
do chéad beatha 's do shláinte!
do thuillis fáilte uamsa.

Dar anam h'athar, a sgadáin,
gidh maith bradáin na Bóinne
is duit labras an duain-se,
ó's tú is uaisle 's is óige.

A fhir is comhghlan colann,
nách déanann comann bréige,
cara mar thú ní bhfuaras; *
ná bíom suarach fá chéile.

Dá bhféachdaois uaisle Banbha **
cia is mó tarbha don triúr-sa, ***
iasg is uaisle ná an sgadán,
idir bradán is liúsa.

Is é ar bhféachain gach cósta
go crích bhóchna na Gréige,
iasg is uaisle ná an sgadán
ní bhfuair Conán Chinn-tsléibhe.

A sgadáin shéimh shúgaigh,
a chinn chumhdaigh an Charghais,
a mhic ghrádhaigh mo charad,
leam is fada go dtángais!

Gidh mór do thuit a-nuraidh
dod ghaol bunaidh fán méis-se,
ná cuimhnigh fíoch ná fala,
ó's tú cara na cléire.

A sgadáin shailltigh shuilbhir
nach bíonn go duilbhir dúinte,
leamsa do theacht ní hanait,
súil ar charaid an tsúil-se.

I dtús an Charghais chéasta,*****
a fhir le ndéantar comhól,
ortsa, go teacht na Cásga,
is mór mo ghrása 's is romhór.

[All] my love for coming, herring!
come with me, noble fosterson;
for a hundred blessings and for health!
for [you have] earned [this] welcome.

By my father's soul, herring,
the salmon of the Boyne was good,
but for laurel, the poem [is] yours;
for you are noble and pure.

(O men, [who] are pure flesh,
do not make false community)
A friend like you is not cold,*
nor is mean [to] a companion.

If [I] consider noble Banba, **
who is my bull [from] your three -- ***
a fish [as] noble as the herring,
between the salmon and the pike?

He is watching every coast
to the border of the Greeks' ocean --
a fish [as] noble as the herring
Conán of Ceann Sléibhe didn't find.****

Gentle, merry herring,
head keeping Lent,
beloved boy, my friend,
with you it is long till [thinness?]

[It] was great, last year, to reveal
the stock of [your] kin by my dish --
not remembering feud or grudge,
because of you, friend of clerics.

Salty, flashing-eyed herring,
you haven't been desired by people.
When coming with me, we don't wait -- my eye is an eye in friendship.

In you, the crucifixion of Lent -- *****
(Men with me, keep [drinking together?])
for this, till the coming of Easter,
my own love is great and is very great.

* cara mar thú ní bhfuaras/a friend like you is not cold: A friend like the herring, who, er, gives his all.

** Dá bhféachdaois uaisle Banbha/If [I] consider noble Banba: Banba was one of the three Tuatha Dé Danaan women (Eriu, Banba and Fodla) whom the Milesians met when they first came into Ireland. Ireland was named Eriu -- but Banba and Fodla are also commonly used by poets.

*** cia is mó tarbha don triúr-sa/who is my bull [from] your three persons?: "My bull" is an endearment or flattering term used towards lords, heroes, etc. The poet is asking who is the greatest among them.

**** ní bhfuair Conán Chinn-tsléibhe/Conán of Ceann Sléibhe didn't find: Conán must have been some kind of heroic wanderer, but nobody knows his tale. Ceann Sléibhe is probably Slea Head in County Kerry.

***** I dtús an Charghais chéasta/In you, the crucifixion of Lent: The herring dies for the good of others, as Christ was crucified for the poet and his listeners.

This poem can be found (in Irish only) in Measgra Dánta, vol. 1, edited by Tomás Ó Rathile.

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