Wednesday, 26 May 2010

The Sweet Sorrow – An Arthurian Ballad

Carmichael, of course, was not the only collector to contribute to the pages of The Highlander, for his friend and sometime mentor, John Francis Campbell or Iain Òg Ìle was a prolific writer and correspondent. It can be easily discerned that Campbell was an inverterate notetaker as his books are filled with marginalia – sometimes of rather a scathing nature – and he kept scrapbooks of newspaper clippings that took his interest. The following, rather long article, was printed in 1876 with a contribution from Carmichael and with another contributed from a North Uist schoolmaster. Two versions of the famous Arthurian ballad Am Bròn Binn (‘The Sweet Sorrow’) are given, one from South Uist and the other from North Uist, together with a prefatory note from Campbell himself reflecting the scholarly Gaelic interests and concerns of that time.

BRON BINN
SIR, - The following version of a current Gaelic ballad was sent to me by Mr Alexander Carmichael in January, 1876, while I was in the south of France. These, as appears, were collected, orally, in South Uist for me in 1865. In 1860 Mr Hector Maclean got me a version of one of these ballads in Islay. In 1872 I printed it at p. 208 Leabhar na Féinne. In that same year I discovered that ancient scribes has written “Arthurian” poetry and prose “in pure Irish,” translated, as was then surmised, from Welsh. The Mabiongian contains arthurian tales, taken from an ancient Welsh munuscript. These Welsh and Irish writings prove that Arthurian literature, which overspread all Europe of old, which occupies the Poet-Laureate now, and which purports to be ancient British history, was current long ago in Wales and in Ireland. The Gaelic ballads prove that fragments of Arthurian romance still are orally preserved, and greatly enjoyed in the Scotch Isles. In these days when the authenticity of Homer occupies the pen of Mr Gladstone, and the authenticity of Ossian in question, the authenticity of Celtic Arthur may possibly interest those readers of the The Highlander who are called MacArthur, and those of my clan who are MacAdams, and antiquarians. – I am, Sir, your obedient servant, J. F. CAMPBELL.
              Niddry Lodge, Kensington,
                    March 4, 1876.

BRON BINN


Bho Iain MacLeoid, craoitear, Iocar, Uist a Chinn a Deas 10 Sneaca (Jan.) 1865
                                                                                         ALEX. A. CARMICHAEL.

Bha bain draoigh ann uair agus bha toil aice cuir as do chuirstear (courtier) a bha aig Righ Breatunn ris an cante Sior Falaich, no Sior Folaich nan corn (Sior Falachaidh nan corn? which is rather suggestive of anti-teetotalism.) Thug a bhan draoigh eir Righ Breatunn bradar orra fhein agus fios aice gu’n tairgeadh Sior Falaich tighinn eir a toir agus mar so gum faigheadh i chur a dhi agus fhuair i sin – Seanachai


Chunnaig Righ Breatunn na shuain
An aona bhean a b’ fhearr anna fo ’n ghrein
Chunnaig Righ Breatunn na shuain
An aona bhean a b’ fhearr anna fo ’n ghrein


’S gu’m b’ fearr leis cuitean na cionn
Na comhradh fir (gin) mar e fein.

La’uir Sior Falaich gu fial
Theid mi fhein ga h-iarrai dhuit.


Mi fhe ’s mo ghille ’s mo chu
Na ’r truir a shireadh na mna.


Seac seacuinean us tri mios
Thug mi fein (sgith ri) siubhal cuain.


Mu ’n d’fuaradh cala no fonn
No ait an dianadh an long tamh.

Is teach gu iomal a chuain ghairbh
Chunnagas caisteal suingheal gorm


Uinneagaun gloin eir a stuaidh
Bu lionar an cuach us corn.


Am a dhaibh bhi teurnadh gu bhun
Thainig slauraith dhugh a nuas


Eagal cha do ghabh mi no fiamh
Ghabh mi orra nam ruith suas.

Chunnagas a bhean bhreid-gheal og
An cathair an oir is taigh.


Strol an t-sioda fo da bhonn
Bheannaich mi fher ga gnuis ghil.

A phleosgaich a thainig o’n chuan
’S fuara do bheannachadh oirnn.


Teann a nall do cheann air mo ghlun
’S gu’n seinninn duit ceol us cruit.

Cruit air uc na h-ighinn-ghill uir
Is guirme suil ’s is gile deud.


’S co binn ’s ga na sheinn i chruit
’S binne na sin guth a beuil.

Thuit easan na shioram shuain
An deigh bhi cuastachadh cuain ghairbh.


Thug i ’n claidh geur o chrios
Sgrid i dheth gu’n fhiost an ceann.


Sin agaibh derradh mo sgeoil.
’S mar a sheinneadh Bron Binn.

BRON BINN NO LAOI MHIC RIGH BREATUNN


This version was written down for me by a schoolmaster in North Uist, in 1866. No reciter’s name was given in the MS., but the schoolmaster told me that he wrote it down for me from the dictation of his own wife, who learnt the ballad from her mother, a woman who was famous for her old songs, stories, and proverbs.


La chai Astar na stuagh
Gu tulach nam buadh a shealg
Chunnacas a tighinn o’n mhaogh
Gruagach a ’b ailli cruth no ghrian.


Cruit an laimh na h-ighinn oig
Is milse pog ’s is gile gne
Cho binn s ga na sheinn i chruit
Bu bhinne ’n guth a leig i leo.

’S ann le fuaim a teudun binn
A thuit an Righ na shuain seimh
’S nuair a dhuisg e as a shuain
Thug e lamh gu luath air airm.


. . . .
Ma ’n nighinn a sheinn an ceol
Nach facas a beo no marbh.


Labhair fios Falaich (?Telegraph) gu fial
Theid mi fhien ga h-iarrai dhuit
Mi fhein ’s mo ghille ’s mo chu
Na ’n triuir a dh-iarrai na mne.


Dh falbh e le ghille ’s le chu
’S le luing bhriagh bhreid-gheal bhan
Bha e seac miosun air muir
Mu ’n fac e fearann no fonn
’S an leigeadh ann cuach us corn.

Bha Sior Gallo’aidh na bhun (in charge)
Bha slauraidh dhugh as a nuas
’S an d’ slaurai nach (do) gha crith
Thug i casan na ruith suas.

Chunnaig e nigheann mhin bhlath og
An eathair an or ’s an taigh
Slea-bhonn? (Strea-bhonn) sioda fo da bhonn
’S bheannaich mise ga gnuis ghil.


Na bhennaich Dia thu fhir
’S trom an cion thug thu thar tuinn (?cuain)
Ma tha fear na cloich so slan
Bha d’ ioir e cas no truas.


. . . .
Cuis is fhaide liom nach tig
’S comhrag dheanainn us gu luath


Ciamar a dheana tu sin
’S nach tu laoch is fear fo’n ghrein
’S nach dearg ann air an fhear
Ach a chlai geur glan fhein.


Duigemid bruithinn ’s trao’mid fearg
Suidhichmid cealg mu ’n fhear mhor
Goidemid a chlai bho ’n fhear
Sin mar a bheir sin dheth an ceann.


Chunnaig mi an deigh ti’inn o’n mhuir
Oganach air ghuin le airm
Bha spuir oir ma choise dheis
’S bu leoir a dheiseac ’s a dhealbh.


Bha spuir eile ma chois chli
Do dh’ airigiod righ no dh’ or feall
Thug mi lamh dh’ ionnsai an spuir
De ma thug cha bu mhath a chiall.


Thug esan glacadh air airm
’S b’ fear marbh dha bhi na niall
Fosadh! fosadh! oglaich mhoir
Mi beo agus (mi) am fochar m’ airm.


Innis dhomh beacai do sgeul
Co thu fein no gu do d’ ainm.


’S mi Bile Buadhach na(n) rath
Agam a bhios teach nan teud
An teagamh gu ’m bi mi nam righ
Mu ma ’m choineamh do bhi Greuig. (?)


’S ann agam a bhios a bhean
Is ailli leac ’s is gile deud
’S ann agam a bhios an long
Chuireas an tonn as a deigh.


’S ann agam a bhios an t-each
Is maith a bhuail cas air feur
’S ann agam a bhios an cu
Eir nach laidheadh tnu no tnu
Or, Eir nach laidheadh tnu na (seilg).


Gluaismid gu teach-eir-chloich
’S ann a gheo thu beac mo sgeul
Sin mar a mharcaich mi an t-each
Bu luaithe ’s bu ghasda ceum.


Mareac na fairge gu dian
Falaireac an druim a chuain
Chunnaig mi ath connachair triuir
Comhrag dlu mu cheann na mna.


Cuiri mi an corag na thosd
Cuiri mi an cosg orm fein
An triuir bhraithre mo sgeul trua
Corag cruai mu cheann na mne.

Sin an currai nach go ghabh fiamh
Cheud mhac a bh’ aig Righ Fraing
Liom a thuit dis mhacan Righ Greuig
’S iad fein a mharbh an treas fear.


Ma ’s ail leat mise thoirst leat
Treachaid leac chlann Righ Greuig
Sin mar a threachaid (eadh) an leac
O ’s i obair fir gu’n cheit.


Dianamid comhairle mne
Uaigh a threachaid ga deoin fein
Thug ise leum a sios ga ’n t-sloc
’S i bhean ghlic bu ghlaine snuagh


Leum an t-anam as a corp
Ochdan! a noc nach truagh.
Na ’m biodh agam’s a sin leigh
Chuirinn e gu feum ’s an uaigh (uair?)


’Dhiairainn d’ ath-bheothachadh as ur –
Cha ’n fhagainn mo run nan uaigh.
Eir sliabh slighe nam briara cearst
Far nach gabhar nearst thar truaigh


Eir a dheas laimh a Mhic De
Gu robh mi fein gu la-luain.
Sin agaibh deireadh mo sgeoil
’S mar a sheinn am Bron Binn.

References:
Campbell, J. F., ‘Am Bron Binn’, The Highlander, no. 148 (11 Mar. 1876), p. 3.
Carmina Gadelica, ii, pp. 87–105.
Gillies, William, ‘Arthur in Gaelic Tradition. Part I: Folktales and Ballads’, Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies, vol. 2 (Winter, 1981), pp. 47–72; ‘Arthur in Gaelic Tradition. Part II: Romances and Learned Lore’, Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies, vol. 3 (Summer, 1982), pp. 41–75.
Gowans, Linda, Am Bròn Binn: An Arthurian Ballad in Scottish Gaelic (Eastbourne: privately printed, 1992).
Image: King Arthur

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Stone whorls WHM 1992 13 2.4

Stone whorls WHM 1992 13 2.4
Stone whorls collected by Alexander Carmichael, held by West Highland Museum (ref. WHM 1992 13 2.4). [© carstenflieger.com]