Tag Archives: bealltainn

In Praise of May

This poem, translated by T. W. Rolleston, is attributed to Fionn Mac Cumhail:

May-Day! delightful day!
Bright colours play the vale along.
Now wakes at morning’s slender ray
Wild and gay the blackbird’s song.

Now comes the bird of dusty hue,
The loud cuckoo, the summer-lover;
Branchy trees are thick with leaves;
The bitter, evil time is over.

Swift horses gather nigh
Where half dry the river goes;
Tufted heather clothes the height;
Weak and white the bogdown blows.

Corncrake sings from eve to morn,
Deep in corn, a strenuous bard!
Sings the virgin waterfall,
White and tall, her one sweet word.

Loaded bees with puny power
Goodly flower-harvest win;
Cattle roam with muddy flanks;
Busy ants go out and in.

Through the wild harp of the wood
Making music roars the gale —
Now it settles without motion,
On the ocean sleeps the sail.

Men grow mighty in the May,
Proud and gay the maidens grow;
Fair is every wooded height;
Fair and bright the plain below.

A bright shaft has smit the streams,
With gold gleams the water-flag;
Leaps the fish, and on the hills
Ardour thrills the leaping stag.

Loudly carols the lark on high,
Small and shy, his tireless lay.
Singing in wildest, merriest mood,
Delicate-hued, delightful May.

From Eleanor Hull’s The Poem-Book of the Gael.

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Posted by on April 19, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Summer has Come

I could hardly post one without the other…

Summer has come, healthy and free,
Whence the brown wood is aslope;
The slender nimble deer leap.
And the path of seals is smooth.

The cuckoo sings sweet music.
Whence there is smooth restful sleep;
Gentle birds leap upon the hill.
And swift grey stags.

Heat has laid hold of the rest of the deer-
The lovely cry of curly packs!
The white extent of the strand smiles,
There the swift sea is.

A sound of playful breezes in the tops
Of a black oakwood is Drum Daill,
The noble hornless herd runs.
To whom Cuan-wood is a shelter.

Green bursts out on every herb.
The top of the green oakwood is bushy.
Summer has come, winter has gone,
Twisted hollies wound the hound.

The blackbird sings a loud strain.
To him the live wood is a heritage,
The sad angry sea is fallen asleep.
The speckled salmon leaps.

The sun smiles over every land, —
A parting for me from the brood of cares
Hounds bark, stags tryst.
Ravens flourish, summer has come !

Kuno Meyer, Selections from Ancient Irish Poetry, 1911, p52.

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Posted by on May 1, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Song of Summer

A wonderful Bealltainn to you all! Whether or not you’re celebrating just now, or will do at a later date, I hope you have a good one. And if you’re in the southern hemisphere, then I hope you’re having a good Samhainn instead (if you reverse your celebrations to match the seasons).

This is a wonderful poem translated by the prolific translator Kuno Meyer, and it is attributed to Fionn mac Cumhail himself. The Irish is available here!

Summer-time, season supreme!
Splendid is colour then.
Blackbirds sing a full lay
If there be a slender shaft of day.

The dust-coloured cuckoo calls aloud:
Welcome, splendid summer!
The bitterness of bad weather is past.
The boughs of the wood are a thicket.

Panic startles the heart of the deer.
The smooth sea runs apace —
Season when ocean sinks asleep.
Blossom covers the world.

Bees with puny strength carry
A goodly burden, the harvest of blossoms;
Up the mountain-side kine take with them mud,
The ant makes a rich meal.

The harp of the forest sounds music,
The sail gathers — perfect peace;
Colour has settled on every height.
Haze on the lake of full waters.

The corncrake, a strenuous bard, discourses.
The lofty cold waterfall sings
A welcome to the warm pool —
The talk of the rushes has come.

Light swallows dart aloft.
Loud melody encircles the hill,
The soft rich mast buds.
The stuttering quagmire prattles.

The peat-bog is as the raven’s coat,
The loud cuckoo bids welcome,
The speckled fish leaps —
Strong is the bound of the swift warrior.

Man flourishes, the maiden buds
In her fair strong pride.
Perfect each forest from top to ground.
Perfect each great stately plain.

Delightful is the season’s splendour,
Rough winter has gone:
Every fruitful wood shines white,
A joyous peace is summer.

A flock of birds settles
In the midst of meadows,
The green field rustles.
Wherein is a brawling white stream.

A wild longing is on you to race horses.
The ranked host is ranged around:
A bright shaft has been shot into the land.
So that the water-flag is gold beneath it.

A timorous, tiny, persistent little fellow
Sings at the top of his voice,
The lark sings clear tidings:
Surpassing summer-time of delicate hues!

Kuno Meyer, Selections from Ancient Irish Poetry, 1911, p53-54.

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Posted by on May 1, 2012 in Uncategorized


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