A Translation of an Old Irish Song

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.

Bridget, maybe try smoking some pot.

I gave my student's the assignment of reading and modeling a poem on Wanda Coleman's "Wanda, Why Aren't you Dead?" This is a good example of talented students at Binghamton.

Bridget, sometimes you mouth words to yourself a second time, directly after you’ve spoken it the first time.

Bridget, you need to stop texting me. Why are you texting me?

Bridget, there are a lot of natural remedies to anxiety.
It’s not fair.
Bridget, why not try this lavender?
It’s not fair.
Bridget, I know it’s not fair.

Bridget, you are going to work yourself to death, why are you hardwired for chaos?

Bridget, count.
1 2 3 4 5
Bridget, count.
6 7 8 9

Bridget, they don’t remember it.
Bridget, “I’m sorry” doesn’t have to be the first words out of your mouth every time you see them.
They don’t remember it.

Bridget, you’re spiraling.
Bridget, you’re spiraling.
No. No. No. No. No. No.
If you say no fast enough, it doesn’t sound like a word.
Bridget. Bridget. Bridget.

Bridget, there’s going to be this one day where a gorgeous boy is going to sweep you off your feet.
He’s going to make you feel safe.
He’s going to love you.
He is going to remind you of the sun.
To quote Cristina Yang, he is not the sun.
You are.
He cannot replace the love you can give to yourself.
You are building and building yourself up, not for him. For you.
He is not the answer.
You are.
Please remember that. Please be the sun.

Bridget, when are you going to get your tattoo?
Why are you so scared of permanence?

Bridget, you’re staring off into the distance again.

Bridget, you can’t drink coffee.
Bridget, you can’t drink tea.
Bridget, what can you drink?
Caffeine makes you anxious?
Bridget, calm down.
I smoke cigarettes to calm down.
I know you hate those.
Maybe try smoking some pot.


Bridget Shanley studies Psychology and English Literature at Binghamton University, but she really has a passion for doing nothing and eating cereal. She hates the sound of Styrofoam and the negative impact it has on the planet. You can ask her about TED Talks, why banana bubble tea is her favorite, or her recent music obsession. You can get in contact with her here.



I should have been writing today, but I spent my afternoon on the Susquehanna river near the exchange street bridge in Binghamton, missing strikes and feeding the fish. It's mostly rocks there (rock bottom dam), and I climb down a steep hill through old silver maples and even older Sycamores, with bind weed attempting to trip me up and send me head first down to the rocks. Getting down to the river is an accomplishment in its own right.

I read about soapy water drawing out night crawlers. As a kid, my dad and I would go out on a humid summer night with a flash light and catch them as they surfaced in the wet grass. Sometimes they'd be mating, and so they'd glisten with worm sperm. We'd catch enough to fill our coffee can for the fishing trip. I guess I would have been a disgrace to the boys in "A River Runs Through It," but what the hell? Being out in the yard with my father under a full moon catching night crawlers is a happy memory. The cicadas were always so shrill. Elizabeth, New jersey in the 1960's was full of worms, due to everyone still having gardens. Of course the bottom of the sky would throb red from oil refineries, and the hot, muggy air often had a sulfur smell, but the few stars we could see were known to my father. He also knew where the planets were positioned. He'd point them out to me and tell me stories about catching fish when he was a young kid in Chester, New Jersey. He worked as a machinist, not a college educated man. He was a former prize fighter and farm boy. My dad had fallen in love with my mother and left the farm for good, but he knew how to catch night crawlers, how to grow vegetables, how to hit a speed bag, and how to tell stories.

There are not as many crawlers it seems as when I was a kid, but I put a water slide in my yard, where the grass was dead, and I soaped it down A bunch of kids who were over caught crawlers in broad day light. They were ecstatic. Their parents were not so thrilled, but what the hell? I was the only parent to belly flop on the water slide, and the only one to be as happy as the kids about the worms.

So today, I stole the dish soap from the kitchen and went out in the yard and saved myself about four dollars (the price of night crawlers at my local gas station). Sure enough, they came up out of the ground right away. The only thing about soaped crawlers is they get kind of drunk and mushy off the soap, but I was having no luck digging them out, or finding them at night, so why not?

I fished and prayed, caught only one Fall fish. Had two small mouth bass shake the hooks. Did catch a tree limb and a large clam (not expecting that in the river). Ran out of worms, and started hunting for Cray fish. This proved more fun than fishing. I found some wonderful fossils, and an old rail spike. I collected interesting rocks, and because of the lack of rain, I recovered hooks I'd lost earlier in the year (not my lures though). I even caught some crayfish (two to be exact). I didn't break my neck. I was virtually all alone on the river except for some young fisherman who eventually sidled up and asked if I'd caught anything. We talked about the cray fish. We talked about how we needed rain. We discussed his success with Walleyes and my general lack of success with walleyes. He hadn't caught anything at rock river dam in a month. I point to scattered cans of Keystone beer and said: "assholes come here at night, drink, and litter and probably fish the hole out." He nodded in agreement It's the kind of exchange I enjoy. I wished him luck, gave him my spot which is a deep drop off with some decent fishing, and climbed back up the steep hill to my car.

My heart is not good. I have three stents. Some days it goes a little funky after the climb. Maybe two years from now, I won't be able to revisit my childhood and belly flop on a soaped water slide, or catch crawlers and crayfish. So seize the day! Carpe Diem. I don't think this is what the courtly poets meant, but it works for me.


Joe Weil

is the founder and editor-in-chief of Shrew.