Summer Has Gone
The following poem is attributed to the legendary hero Finn macCumhaill,
a.k.a. Finn uá Baíscni (descendant of Baíscne). It is preserved only in a
gloss on the word rían ³sea² in the Middle Irish commentary on the late 6th
century Amra Choluim Chille. This version is based on the almost identical
texts to be found in two manuscripts transcribed in the first quarter of the
12th century: Lebor na hUidre and the Bodleian MS. The language of the poem
and the fact that it is included in the oldest copies of the commentary on
the Amra, point towards the 9th or 10th century as the date of composition.
the meter, 3¹3¹3¹3¹ (which means that each line consists of 3 syllables, and
the accent falls on the last syllable of each line), with rhyme between
between b and d, has several names, the most suitable of which seems to be
Cethramtu Rannaigechta Móire ³quarter of Rannaigecht Mór. The absence of
lenition in some of the words, dúib, sam etc., also indicate that the poem
was written before the 12th century.
The poem itself is an excellent example of Early Irish Poetry. It is
concise and vividly descriptive. The anonymous poet has achieved the
perfect blend of form and content. It is a spare, bleak description of a
spare, bleak season: especially when compared to the earlier paeon to
summer, Cétemain, which is more than 3 times as long with a 5 syllable
meter, which can barely contain its lush, luxuriant descriptions.
The profusion of alliteration uaim, is also typical of Early Irish
Poetry. My translation is an attempt to mimic the bleakness and brevity of
the form, while maintaining the content.
Scél lem dúib:
ro fáith sam:
Gáeth ard úar;
gair a rrith;
ro cleth cruth;
ro gab gnáth
Ro gab úacht
etti én;aigre ré;
é mo scél.
Here’s my story;
sad stag roars;
High cold wind;
low cold sun;
Rust red fern;
croaks and cries;
Birds don’t sing
songs of glory;
Ice wrapped wings;
That’s my story.