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Seasonal Quatrain: Bealtaine

This quatrain, one of four, is preserved in two separate manuscripts (Bodleian codex Rawlinson B. 512, folio 98b, 2, and the British Museum MS. Harleian 5280, folio 35b, 2), both dating to the sixteenth century. The quatrain has clearly been copied from the same source in both manuscripts, and based on the linguistic evidence, it appears the quatrain goes back to an original composition from around the eighth century. 

Atberim frib, lith saine,
ada buada belltaine:
coirm, mecoin, suabais serig,
ocus urgruth do tenid.
I tell to you, a special festival,
The glorious dues of May:
Ale, worts, sweet whey,
And fresh curds to the fire.

From Kuno Meyer, Anecdota Oxoniensia: Medieval and Modern Series (Part 8), 1894, p49.

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Posted by on April 19, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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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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