Candide

catholic by birth; scientist by choice; sinner by merit. gaidhlig-speaking neuroscience student at oxford. likes to question everything! @di_macd

Oran na Gaoithe [25/11/09]

I was trawling through the Gaidhlig tag and I stumbled across a Gaidhlig poem I had written when I was fifteen (you can tell I was an angsty teenager). There is an excellent translation by http://selchieproductions.tumblr.com/ below. I decided to reblog the post, because I’m honoured that someone would take the time to translate my ramblings. Also I’m ashamed to say I’d forgotten he had ever done this! 

On rereading, the poem comes across a typical angsty teenage garbage, but as an exercise in maintaining rhyme and rhythm in the original Gaelic, its still fairly good.

selchieproductions:

This is beautiful! As a poet myself, I really like this. 

candide94:

Cluinn! òran na gaoithe
gam dhùsgadh tràth bho shuain;
na dealanaich a’ rànaich
cur sgaradh sìorraidh bhuainn. 

Cluinn! an cuan a’ caoineadh
dhòmhs’ an daolag bheag;
thar raointean cadal drùidhteach
nam aonar ’s dòchas leagt’. 

Cà’ bheil thu, a ghràidh?
Cà’ bheil am flùran a’ fàs?
Cà’ bheil do ghàire bàidheil
Nach àicheadh riamh an gràs? 

Beò air talamh pàiteach,
guth binn an gàrradh uain’;
mo ghuailnean trom a’ bruadar
mu ubhal mhilis nach gabh a bhuainn. 

Cha leum leth-sgeul an rainn
gu bràth gu àird an dìthein ghrinn;
mo theanga danns s a gàire fann,
tha samhradh caochladh leinn. 

Seall! an seangan tùrsach,
pronn fo bhròig nan tàirn’,
fo sgàil na grèine gruamaich
is pòg oidhch’ na gràin. 

Tha na siantan glas gar sracadh
ann am pìosan beag bho chèil;
chaill mi reul ùr na machrach
s i geal fo gheilt an t-sèist.

 S e mo mhiann-sa nist bhith sàbhailt,
an caladh cruth mo chrìdh,
còmhla ribhs’ a ghrìogag dhàna,
gun farmad no strì.

Nach sir an Tì fhèin dhomh gràs?
Fàrdach chòir no tàmh?
Dh’iarrainn am bàs mur biodh e
An-còmhnaidh dùinte balbh. 

Ach bha mi dall mar pheacaire
fo dheachdaireachd a’ ghaoil,
a’ caoidh sa choire-bhreacain,
mo cheann ciontach air do chùl. 

Bha thusa tapaidh na mo chuimhn’,
blàth-ghàire air do bhilean,
s mi uair a’ coiseachd cianalach
air sliabh am fàsach fuar. 

Dìthreabh far nach mair an ròs
cho fada ris aphian
s mi tarraing cluas ri do thòsd,
brònach aig a’ chrìch.

 Beannachd ort mar sin a luaidh
aig deireadh an là a’ liathadh;
s deòir a’ tuiteam far do ghruaidh
tha mise ruith bhod riaghaltas…

And just so that my followers who don’t have a’ chainnt also can appreciate this, I’ve decided to translate/interpret it, hope this is okay?

Listen! The song of the wind
awakes me early from my slumber
the lightning is screaming;
it tears us eternally asunder

Listen! The great expanse is weeping
for me, an insignificant bug 
across the fields of deep sleep
On my own and left alone without hope

Where are you, o love?
And the flower, where does it grow?
Where is your smile of kindness,
that would never abandon grace?

Alive on grounds craving water
the melodious voice of your garden’s artificial green
my heavy shoulders dreaming
about the sweet apple that cannot be picked

Half stories cannot jump
to the height of a flawless flower;
though my tongue is aflutter my smile is faint
and with us the summer fades away

Look! the pensive ant
crushed under the shoe of a giant
under the shadow of a solemn sun
and the kiss of a vengeful night

The greyness of the elements
tear us apart into tiny pieces
I have lost the new star of the machair
she stands white under the guilt of the chorus

My one wish for now spells safety,
in a haven made of my heart
together with you and crystal poems
without jealousy or strife

O won’t the One offer me grace?
friendly shelter or indeed peace?
I would wish for death
if he wasn’t but eternally deaf, closed and silent

But I was blind, like a sinner
under the chains of love
sobbing in Corryvreckan
with my head of guilt behind you

You were happy left there in my memories
a flowery smile on your lips,
but I was walking with my laments
on the hills of a frozen desert

A deserted place where no rose would live
as long as the pain
and I carry an ear to your silence
mournful at the close

So blessings on you then my love,
at the closing of a day gone blue
and with tears falling on your cheeks
I run from your government

anidhorchaidhe:

Agallamh luachmhor gun teagamh! Somhairle talking about his poetry, politics, teaching experiences and conflicting feelings stirred up by the war. He speaks as if he’s drawing from some great infinite source beyond…

He has a beautiful voice. A voice like Gandalf.

When you listen to Sorley MacLean reading his poetry, it sends chills down your spine. His voice is almost like an incantation, echoing down the centuries.

Translation of Camhanaich by Sorley MacLean


DAWNING 


You were dawn on the mountain,

And daylight dancing over the water,

A sun on her elbow in the gold-stream

And a white rose breaking the horizon.


Glittering sails on a sunlit kyle

The blue depths and bronzed sky

Morning is young in your hair,

And in your cheeks, bright, beautiful.


My jewel of night and daybreak -

your face, your love and kindness,

Though the arrows of misfortune

Marr this morning of our youth.



NOTE: Both Sorley MacLean and Iain Crichton Smith have translated this poem too. This translation is my own, inadequate, work. I have deRassified and simplified the poem to make it more English-friendly. In Gaidhlig the first line “Bu tu camhanaich air a’ Chuilthionn” has an almost Biblical feel in the majesty MacLean sees in Eimhir, but the Cuilthionn means little to non-Highlanders, so I just generalized it to mountains. Gaelic words like ‘og-mhadainn’ have no real English equivalents either, so I just gave up and made up something similar. I hope you enjoy my translation.

Science and Gaidhlig

In this post, I want to explore the relationship between science and Gaidhlig - a minority language from Scotland - especially within the domains of education, culture and religion.

The fact of the matter is that Gaidhlig culture is pre-scientific. Remember up til the 1800s most scientific work was conducted through the medium of Latin – Principia Mathematica etc. So ‘English’ science only got started in the 19th century, by which time, of course, Gaidhlig had lost any form of political or educational power in Scotland. Therefore, famous Scottish scientists like Kelvin weren’t Gaels, and Gaidhlig never acquired a scientific vocabulary.

The Education Act in 1871 made English the official language of school, so there was never any need to create Gaidhlig scientific words. Before that there had indeed been Gaidhlig schools in the Highlands, but these were run by the Church, and so focussed on the classics and Hebrew. Even during the 20th century, the great high schools of the Highlands (Portree, Fort William) were notoriously bad for their science provision due to a simple lack of funds. Moreover, southern Hebrides islanders went to seminary for their high school education – these Catholic institutions didn’t have labs, so the kids never had a chance to do proper science. These impediments to gaining a scientific education meant that in the 20th century very very few Gaels ever became scientists, preferring to do classics, or Celtic, or English, so there is no work of original Gaidhlig science writing to be found.

Nonetheless, Derick Thompson did translate a biology textbook to Gaidhlig, saying it was only the shadow of our history that stopped us expressing these scientific concepts in Gaidhlig. And today, in the Glasgow Gaidhlig school, science is taught through the medium of Gaidhlig, as is maths. There is nothing stopping us speaking about science in Gaidhlig – we just have to make the effort. Many teachers say its just too hard – but its only hard for them, as they are unaccustomed to discussing, say, chemistry in Gaidhlig; children who have been doing it all their school career lap it up. In GME primary schools, science is often done in Gaidhlig and a 2009 report concluded that this had no detrimental effect on performance:

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/273488/0081708.pdf 

Incidentally, one of my aims in life is to produce a popular science book in Gaidhlig and maybe present (or help make) a Gaidhlig documentary on science, writing the material straight in Gaidhlig, not translating. This would be a first, I think!

There is an argument that there is no utilitarian value in teaching kids science in Gaidhlig. I did Maths up to age 8 in Gaidhlig, then the teacher gave up saying I’d be doing it in English the rest of my life anyway. She was pretty justified. In countries like Denmark, no advanced-level physics textbooks are written in Danish as it would be too small a print run – they are in English instead. If you want your papers read you have to write in English – it’s the universal language of science, as Latin was in Newton’s time. This doesn’t preclude teaching kids basic biology (life cycles, food webs etc) in Gaidhlig though – in fact, this would be beneficial as it would provide an outlet for using the Gaidhlig words for flora and fauna, seldom used in urban Gaeldom.

When talking about science and Gaidhlig we can’t ignore the religious side to things. The islands are often called Britain’s Bible Belt, and judging by some exchanges in the West Highland Free Press a few years ago, there are many Christians in Lewis, Skye and Uist who are committed young earth creationists. On the other hand, from my own experience, many Gaidhlig clergy are very close to nature, and in fishing and walking the isles, know the true age of the universe. Remember Lewisian Gneiss is the oldest rock in the world!

Island Gaels certainly are very close to nature, and there is a Gaidhlig taxonomy of all life-forms encountered in the isles. There is also a lot of folk-science - tide-tables, husbandry, crofting techniques, meteorology – showing that daft claims that the Celt is more prone to mysticism than the rational Saxon are just that: daft. On the other hand, we do have a myriad of pagan traditions, such as second sight, orbs floating in the sky, and the magic of going clockwise. On my own island Eriskay, at the end of the 19th century, lots of ‘scientists’ came to investigate the phenomenon of second sight, trying to see if they could utilize it to predict things. The Gaels believed in second sight, and told stories of it – this willingness to embrace the non-Churchlinked supernatural persists to this day, even in a priest I know, and stems I think from the fact we live in a place where it still gets dark!

Finally, the historical Gaidhlig atheism movement is not scientific at all – it is based on poetry and the emotions, a reaction against the cold bite of Calvinism. Sorley MacLean said that he hated the clinical penetrating mind of the scientist: maybe scientific literalism was too similar in tone to soul-crushing Calvinist literalism for MacLean’s liking. I do get the feeling sometimes that Gaels revere nature in a way that isn’t scientific, but more an acceptance that this is a harsh life and we just have to fear nature. In poetry, at least, Gaels seem to celebrate the musical imagination rather than the scientific one. Here is a translation of a poem by Donald MacAulay, an atheist poet from Lewis:


"The fleet is shattered,

The mercernaries of the emperor,

Slaughtered, both red and white.

 

Euclid’s paraphernalia

Circle, pyramid and sphere

Are sent flying

With all his might

Along Einstein’s curved paths

And bashed against table legs,

Illustrious fame unheeded;

Getting lost in the darkness below it

An apple (of Newton’s)

Gnawed to its seed.

 

No tame order will withstand

This giant –

Striving to be two years old.”


It’s seems to be about the victory of childlike imagination against science. Though the poet himself claims its about the infinite potential of the child beating the stifling rules of the community. The clear references to Newton and Einstein give him away, and we see how science is equated with the Lewis community: namely, Calvinism. For me at least, that’s quite depressing! Why would you see the wonder and beauty of science as similar to the whining Wee Frees?!

Camhanaich - Sorley MacLean (with translation!)


CAMHANAICH


"Bu tu camhanaich air a’ Chuilthionn,

's latha suilbhir air a' Chlàraich,

grian air a h-uilinn anns an òr-shruth,

agus ròs geal bristeadh fàire.


Làinnir sheòl air linne ghrianaich,

Gorm a’ chuain is iarmailt àr-bhuidh,

An òg-mhadainn ‘na do chuailean

‘s na do ghruaidhean soilleir àllainn.


Mo leug camhanaich is oidhche

T’ aodann ‘s do choibhneas gràdhach,

Ged tha bior glas an dòlais

Tro chliabh m’òg-mhaidne sàthte.”



DAWNING


You were dawn on the mountain,

And daylight dancing over the water,

A sun on her elbow in the gold-stream

And a white rose breaking the horizon.


Glitter of sails on a sunlit firth

The blue depths and bronzed sky

Morning is young in your hair,

And in your cheeks, bright, beautiful.


My jewel of night and daybreak -

your face, your love and kindness,

Though the arrows of misfortune

Marr this morning of our youth.



NOTE: Both Sorley MacLean and Iain Crichton Smith have translated this poem too. I borrowed one line from Smith “glitter of sails on a sunlit firth” but otherwise the translation is my own, inadequate, work. I have deRassified and simplified the poem to make it more English-friendly. In Gaidhlig the first line “Bu tu camhanaich air a’ Chuilthionn” has an almost Biblical feel in the majesty MacLean sees in Eimhir, but the Cuilthionn means little to non-Highlanders, so I just generalized it to mountains. Gaelic words like ‘og-mhadainn’ have no real English equivalents either, so I just gave up and made up something similar. I hope you enjoy my translation.

Oran na Gaoithe [25/11/09]

Cluinn! òran na gaoithe

gam dhùsgadh tràth bho shuain;

na dealanaich a’ rànaich

cur sgaradh sìorraidh bhuainn.

 

Cluinn! an cuan a’ caoineadh

dhòmhs’ an daolag bheag;

thar raointean cadal drùidhteach

nam aonar ’s dòchas leagt’.

 

Cà’ bheil thu, a ghràidh?

Cà’ bheil am flùran a’ fàs?

Cà’ bheil do ghàire bàidheil

Nach àicheadh riamh an gràs?

 

Beò air talamh pàiteach,

guth binn an gàrradh uain’;

mo ghuailnean trom a’ bruadar

mu ubhal mhilis nach gabh a bhuainn.

 

Cha leum leth-sgeul an rainn

gu bràth gu àird an dìthein ghrinn;

mo theanga danns s a gàire fann,

tha samhradh caochladh leinn.

 

Seall! an seangan tùrsach,

pronn fo bhròig nan tàirn’,

fo sgàil na grèine gruamaich

is pòg oidhch’ na gràin.

 

Tha na siantan glas gar sracadh

ann am pìosan beag bho chèil;

chaill mi reul ùr na machrach

s i geal fo gheilt an t-sèist.

 

‘S e mo mhiann-sa nist bhith sàbhailt,

an caladh cruth mo chrìdh,

còmhla ribhs’ a ghrìogag dhàna,

gun farmad no strì.

 

Nach sir an Tì fhèin dhomh gràs?

Fàrdach chòir no tàmh?

Dh’iarrainn am bàs mur biodh e

An-còmhnaidh dùinte balbh.

 

Ach bha mi dall mar pheacaire

fo dheachdaireachd a’ ghaoil,

a’ caoidh sa choire-bhreacain,

mo cheann ciontach air do chùl.

 

Bha thusa tapaidh na mo chuimhn’,

blàth-ghàire air do bhilean,

s mi uair a’ coiseachd cianalach

air sliabh am fàsach fuar.

 

Dìthreabh far nach mair an ròs

cho fada ris aphian

s mi tarraing cluas ri do thòsd,

brònach aig a’ chrìch.

 

Beannachd ort mar sin a luaidh

aig deireadh an là a’ liathadh;

s deòir a’ tuiteam far do ghruaidh

tha mise ruith bhod riaghaltas…