Amhran Mhuinse is a celebrated song from the West of Ireland which was supposedly composed spontaneously by an old woman anticipating her funeral. Anticipating one’s wake and funeral is an old Irish pleasure. Life being harsh, it cheers up an old soul to think of how he or she will be laid out and missed. This precedes the Christian influence. Burial and grieving are causes of great poetry in Ireland from before the time of St Patrick,and it was especially important to give a loved one a good send off. That’s why the Irish potato famine caused such humiliation in addition to trauma. Things got so bad, no one could be buried properly. This is sung often in the Irish. I tried to capture voice and authenticity of tone more than literal translation.. Hope I succeeded.
Amhran Mhuinse (Translation of the song of Muinis)
If I were three leagues out at sea or on mountains in ill weather,
Without any living thing near me but the green fern and the heather,
The snow blowin down on me , and the same wind snatchin it away,
were I to talk to my Taimín dear, I would not fear the long night’s stay.
Dear Virgin Mary, what will I do? This winter is coming on cold.
And, dear Virgin. what will this house become and all that it may hold?
Wasn’t it too young, my darling, you diedt, during a grand Spring,
when the cuckoos played their sweetest tunes for every leafy thing?
If I have my children home with me the night that I will go,
They’ll wake me in true style three nights and three day’s to show.
There will be clay pipes to smoke and kegs of ale and stout
And there’ll be three mountain crones to keen me when I’m laid out.
Oh cut my coffin out for me, from the choicest brightest stand
And if Seán Hynes is in Muínis, be it made by his own hand.
Let my cap and my ribbon be inside, placed stylishly on my hair
And Big Paudeen will row me on to Muínis , yes, on from here.
I would go west to Inse Ghainimh, let the flag wave beneath that star
Oh, do not bury me in Leitir Calaidh, for it’s not where my people are,
But bring me west to Muínis, where my name is carved in the stone
and the light will be on the dunes, and I’ll not lie alone.