Everybody from Ireland probably learned this song in school.  It was used in Riverdance. (Bíonn dhá insint ar scéal agus dhá leagan déag ar amhrán – there are two tellings to every story, and twelve versions of every song!)  The poem was written by a famous Irish language poet, Antaine Ó Raifteirí.  Since it is Springtime, I thought it would be appropriate.  Because it is a poem (song), the Irish is not always easy.  It is also old, and in the poet’s dialect.  But we can handle it!  Let’s analyse it to death, shall we?

‘Cill’ is a churchyard, and is in a lot of place names.  The genitive case of it (the ‘of a’ form) is Cille, and so the name Colm Cille (pr. Kollum Killa), St. Columba, means ‘dove of the churchyard,’ and was really his nickname.

The real place, Cill Aodáin, is in Kiltimagh in Mayo.  Careful now, that ‘kil’ isn’t from Cill, it is Coillte Mach, or Maghu’s woods (he was a Fir Bolg chieftain, so they say).  Apparently Douglas Hyde mistranslated the name Cill Aodáin, and it was really Cill Liadain!  Songs and poetry were not usually written down in the 19th century, but were transmitted orally.  Raftairí was born near Cill Aodáin, in Lios Ard (Lisard in English), High fort (a lios (pr. liss) is a fairy fort, or a circular fort – ard is high).  (Notice that adjectives generally come after the noun in Irish).


Cill Aodáin (Cill Liadain) (Anois Teacht an Earraigh)
le Antaine Ó Reachtabhra (Raifteirí)  (1784-1835)


Anois teacht an earraigh  (now coming of the Spring)

beidh an lá ag dul chun síneadh, (the day will be going toward lengthening)

Is tar éis na féil Bríde  (and after the feast of Bridget)

ardóidh mé mo sheol.  (I shall raise my sail)

Ó chuir mé I mo cheann é (since I put it into my head)

ní chónóidh me choíche (I shall never stay put)

Go seasfaidh mé síos  (until I shall stand down)

i lár Chondae Mhaigh Eo. (in the center of County Mayo)


[Some grammar:  ‘teacht’ and ‘dul’ are ‘verbal nouns,’ coming and going.  ‘Ag dul’ is ‘at going,’ literally.  This is how –ing verbs in English are in Irish when there is action in it.  When it is just the concept, there is no ‘ag.’  ‘teacht an earraigh’ is ‘the coming of the spring.’  We saw ‘earrach’ a while back in this column, for ‘Spring.’  ‘Earraigh’ is the genitive case of ‘earrach.’  In noun phrases with the genitive, only one definite article is used (the last one) (‘an’ or sometimes ‘na’ is the definite article (‘the’)).  Irish has no indefinite article – you just use the noun.  The verbal noun can also function like an infinitive (to _, in English), as in ‘abair leis teacht’ – ‘tell him to come.’]


I gClár Chlainne Mhuiris (In Clare of Morris’ family)

            A bheas mé an chéad oíche,  (I will be the first night)

Is I mballa taobh thíos de (and in the Wall on the side below it)

            A thosós mé ag ól (I will begin to drink)

Go Coillte Mách rachad ( to Magh’s Woods I shall go)

            Go ndéanfad cuairt mhíosa ann (until I shall make a month’s visit there)

I bhfogas dhá mhíle (two miles close)

            Do Bhéal an Átha Mhóir (to the Mouth of the Big Ford)


Fágaim le huacht é (I swear)

go n-éiríonn mo chroí-se ( that my heart rises up)

Mar a éiríonn an ghaoth (as the wind rises up)

nó mar a scaipeann an ceo (or as the fog lifts)

Nuair a smaoiním ar Cheara  (when I think about (literally ‘on’) Ceara)

nó ar Ghaileang taobh thíos de (or about Gaileang on the lower side of it)

Ar Sceathach an Mhíle  (about Sceathach an Mhíle)

nó ar phlánaí Mhaigh Eo; (or about the plains of Mayo)


[Some grammar:  That little word ‘go’ can mean a bunch of things.  It is a helper word.  Here it means ‘that,’ introducing a relative clause.  It can introduce indirect speech.  It can be used for wishing (go n-éirí an bóthar leat; go raibh maith agat).  It can be used for certain adjectives (tá mé go maith; tá sí go deas; Éirinn go brách).  Busy little word!]


Cill Aodáin an baile (Cill Liadain is the town)

a bhfásann gach ní ann,  (where everything grows)

Tá sméara is subh craobh ann (there are blackberries and raspberries there)

is meas de gach sórt, (and every sort of fruit)

Is dá mbéinnse i mo sheasamh (and were I to be standing)

i gceartlár mo dhaoine (in the center of my people)

D'imeodh an aois díom  (age would depart from me)

is bheinn arís óg. (and I would be again young)


Bíonn cruithneacht is coirce,  (there is (always) wheat and oats)

fás eorna is lín ann, (growing barley and flax there)

Seagal i gcraobh ann, (rye in branch there)

arán plúir agus feoil, (flower-bread and meat)

Lucht déanta poitín (the folks who make moonshine)

gan licence á dhíol ann, (without a licence selling it there)

Móruaisle na tíre ann (the pride of the country)

ag imirt is ag ól. (playing and drinking)


[n.b. – more verbal nouns – imirt, ól]


Tá cur agus treabhadh (there is sowing and plowing)

is leasú gan aoileach (and fertilizing without manure)

Is iomaí sin ní ann (and it’s many the thing there)

nár labhair me go fóill, (of which I have not yet spoken)

Áitheanna is muilte (kilns and mills)

ag obair gan scíth ann, (working without rest there)

Deamhan caint ar phingin cíosa ((with) hardly any talk about a penny’s rent)

ná dada dá shórt. (or about nothing of that sort)


Of course, we haven’t begun to look at all the vocabulary and grammar in this poem!  I hope I’ve at least gotten you interested!  This song reminds me of the American song “The Big Rock Candy Mountain.”  Is glas iad na cnoic i bhfad uainn (ach is minic nach mbíonn féar orthu).


Seo daoibh dán Raifteirí eile, mar chríoch.


An Eaglais Ghallda

Fág uaim do eaglais ghallda
Is do chreideamh gan bonn gan bhrí
Mar gurb é is cloch bonn dóibh
Magairlí Anraí Rí.