The defiant word, the cutting word, the cold word

While chasing down St. Patrick’s Rune the other day, I ran into the “Song of Amergin“.  In Gaelic that’s Amhairghin or “Birth of song” from Lebor Gabála Érenn’s 11th century “Book of Invasions”. It’s a druid incantation claiming the land of Ireland for the “Men of Míl” from the Tuatha Dé Danann, who were either a faery clan or gods.   The poem is said to have many forms in both Gaelic and Welsh. For more references, here is an essay, comparing the poem with other historical sources, including the Welsh bard Taliesin.

A popular version (several Gaelic and English versions at this URL):

I am a stag of seven tines,
I am a wide flood on a plain,
I am a wind on the deep waters,
I am a shining tear of the sun,
I am a hawk on a cliff,
I am fair among flowers,
I am a god who sets the head afire with smoke.
I am a battle waging spear,
I am a salmon in the pool,
I am a hill of poetry,
I am a ruthless boar,
I am a threatening noise of the sea,
I am a wave of the sea,
Who but I knows the secrets of the unhewn dolmen ?

In this version, the subject of each line leads into the next line:

1
I invoke the land of Ireland
Much-coursed be the fertile sea,
Fertile be the fruit-strewn mountain,
Fruit-strewn be the showery wood,
5
Showery be the river of water-falls,
Of water-falls be the lake of deep pools,
Deep-pooled be the hill-top well,
A well of tribes be the assembly,
An assembly of the kings be Tara,
10
Tara be the hill of the tribes,
The tribes of the sons of Mil,
Of Mil of the ships, the barks,
Let the lofty bark be Ireland
Lofty Ireland, darkly sung,
15
An incantation of great cunning;
The great cunning of the wives of Bres,
The wives of Bres of Buaigne;
The great lady Ireland,
Eremon hath conquered her,
20
Ir, Eber have invoked for her.
I invoke the land of Ireland.

I rather like this one:

I am the wind on the sea
I am the stormy wave
I am the sound of the ocean
I am the bull with seven horns
I am the hawk on the cliff face
I am the sun’s tear
I am the beautiful flower
I am the boar on the rampage
I am the salmon in the pool
I am the lake on the plain
I am the defiant word
I am the spear charging into battle
I am the god who put fire in your head
Who made the trails through stone mountains
Who knows the age of the moon
Who knows where the setting sun rests
Who took the cattle from the house of the warcrow
Who pleases the warcrow’s cattle
What bull, what god created the mountain skyline
The cutting word, the cold word

Sung in gaelic by Lisa Gerrard, lyrics below the embedded video:

Am gaeth i m-muir
Am tond trethan
Am fuaim mara
Am dam secht ndirend
Am séig i n-aill
Am dér gréne
Am cain lubai
Am torc ar gail
Am he i l-lind
Am loch i m-maig
Am brí a ndai
Am bri i fodb fras feochtu
Am dé delbas do chind codnu
Coiche nod gleith clochur slébe
Cia on co tagair aesa éscai
Cia du i l-laig fuiniud gréne
Cia beir buar o thig tethrach
Cia buar tethrach tibi
Cia dám, cia dé delbas faebru a ndind ailsiu
Cáinte im gai, cainte gaithe

Middle photo : the Atlantic Ocean looking south towards Boston.

Top photo : Mount Rushmore, the four presidents carved into the mountain at the Black Hills, South Dakota. Our landtaking legends, our leaders carved into the land, the land  carved out by their words. And the words of the incantation are : “This land is your land, this land is my land, from California to the New York Island, from the redwood forest, to the gulf stream water, this land was made for you and me. “* Instead of becoming the land, personifying the land to claim power, the land is at our feet for our disposal.

*compare “from Dan to Beersheba”

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Posted in Poetry. 1 Comment »

One Response to “The defiant word, the cutting word, the cold word”

  1. kseverny Says:

    wow. that first poem made me smile


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