Northwords Now Issue 35

The FREE literary magazine of the North

Duan na Fèinne

by Aonghas Pàdraig Caimbeul

Ge brith dè cho aosta ’s a tha an sgeul,
chan innis tìm fhèin i.

Bha mi eòlach air fear aig an robh sgeul
cho sean ’s gun creideadh tu
gun innseadh na cnuic fhèin
an duan.

Ach bha iad nan tost.

Dh’inns iad dìreach
mu chaoraich ’s mu fheur, ’s mun uisge

’s b’ fheudar dhan bhodach a sgeul innse
dha na h-ainmhidhean ’s dha na h-eòin

’s nuair nach do dh’èist iadsan,
dha na creagan fhèin.

B’ e sgeul na Fèinne a bh’ aige,
’s chan eil na thachair gu diofar.

B’ e na ruitheaman a b’ fhiach,
a bhiodh e caoin, a-muigh leis fhèin

gu socair air an t-sliabh. Ma dh’èisteas
tu gu faiceallach saoilidh tu gun cluinn thu fhathast

an duan. Ach cha chluinn, oir ’s e tha siud
ach crònan na gaoithe tron mhòintich.

Tha an seanchaidh
air falbh, ’s chan eil air fhàgail ach fear

a chuala an sgeul air leth-chluais
fad às, mar ghlòr nan eun.

 
The Fingalian Chant

No matter how old the tale,
time itself cannot tell it.

I knew a man whose story
was so old you could believe
the hills themselves
would speak it.

But they were silent.

They only told
of sheep and grass, and rain,

so the man told his story
to the beasts and to the birds

and when they didn’t listen,
to the rocks themselves.

The tale was a Fingalian one
and the narrative was irrelevant.

What mattered were the rhythms
which he sang, out there on his own

silently on the moor. If you listen
carefully you think you can still hear

the song. But you don’t, for what
you hear is the wind murmuring through the bog.

The master story-teller
has gone, and all that’s left is someone

who half-heard the story in the air
far off, like the speech of birds.