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Aisling an Bháis - Raftery's vision of death


Aisling an Bháis - Vision of Death

This poem is by Ireland's most famous poet. It is a haunting eschatological poem with a personification of Death which speaks to our poet. The poet then responds. The full merit and effect of this poem can only be judged by reading it aloud in the original Irish, imagining while doing so that you are back in Raftery's time and hearing the blind poet himself declaiming these lines at the fireside in a country cottage consisting of the family who had given him hospitality for the night and the neighbors who have gathered in for the unexpected entertainment of music, song, dancing and poetry , what in Irish we call a 'céilí' ... Criostoir O'Flynn

le Antaine Ó Raifteirí (1784-1835)

1. Aisling shuantais a facthas aréir dom,
trí mo shuan is gan aorm ach néal beag,
Ní beag suarach buartha baolack,
gur airigh mé suas liom an créatúr faobhrach.

2. Bhí ábhar na huaighe anuas ina éadan
agus scáile na hóiche ag dul trína chréachta,
Bhí a easnacha loma mar bheadh meatháin chréithir
's go rachadh a shrón trí shnáthaid céimbric.

3. Bhí ceann dubh catach air mar thurtán sléibhe
is a ghuaille fuara crua géara,
A dhá chois fada mar thairnín cléithe
is ba ní gan fháil samhail dá mhéara.

4. Bhí a dhreach is a ghnúisgan snua gan aon rud,
a chnámhatrua trua gan earra gan éadach,
Chuirfeadh a bhreathnú criothnúar chéadta,
bhísleá aige fostaithe is ag dul im éadan.

5. Ó! níorbh fhiú is níor chlú liom claonadh,
ach chuir mé ceist as ucht Mhic Dé air:
"Pé ar bith cuan ar ghluais tú aréir as,
druid uaim suas agus labhair más féidir."

Agus a deir an Bás

6. Léimse Eabhrais, Laidin os Grégis,
Fraincis, Spáinnis is trí shórt Béarla,
Ach labhróidh mé leatsa go blasta i nGaeilge,
an teanga a bheir tú i bhfoirm véarsa.

7. Is mise an Bás a leagann na céadta,
Hanibal, Poimpé agus Iúlius Caesar,
Bhí mé san Traoi le linn Banrion Hélen
's is liom 'thit Hector a leagadh Gréagaigh.

8. Fionn Mac Cumhaill agus maithe na Féinne,
agus Conchubhar a bhí ina rí ar Éirinn,
Cúchulainn agus Goll a charnadh céadta,
thug mé liom iad i leaba a chéile.

9. Faolán, Oscar agus Diarmaid tréitheach,
agus Oisín a mhair i ndiaidh na Féinne,
Is i mo chath a thit na tréinfhir
's Clann Uisnigh a thug ó Chonchubhar Deirdre.

10. Níl gar ag caint ná ag déanamh scéil air
ach is liom ar fad a thit na Caesars,
Gach a dtáinig ó Ádhamh is ó Éabha,
iad féin is a ndream is a ndéithe bréige,

11. Heircealas, Aiciléas agus Poiliféamas,
agus Tíofón a d'ardaíodh leis na sléibhte,
Neiptiún, Iúpatar, Iúno is Vénus
agus Oirféas a sheinneadh go binn ar théada.

Agus a déir Raifiterí:

12. A phlá gan aird, gan bhláth, gan éitir,
gan lúth, gan láimh, gan gníomh, gan éifeach,
An domhan ar ar fad ní chuirfeadh i gcéill dom,
go gcuirfeá an cluiche ar leath an mhéid sin.

Freagrá an Bás:

13. Ná bí dána ach creid a ndéarfad,
mar is ní do shaol nach bhfuair tú léas air.
Chomh fada 's tá 'an lá agat déan an féar leis,
an aithrí mhall bíonn sí baolach.

14. Ná mealltar thú le maoin an tsaoil seo,
rachaidh clocha 'gus fóid go fóill agus cré ort,
Do chluasa 'chloiseadh gach ní dá ndéartaí
beidh dúnta bodhar gan mheabhair gan éisteach...

by Criostoir O'Flynn

Last night I had a vision fearsome,
while I slept and that but lightly,
Unclear at first, it menaced nearer,
then came this dreadful thing beside me.

The grave-soil clung about its features
its wounds like shadows darkly gleaming,
Like a sieve, the bare bones of that creature
and its nose would slide through a cambic needle.

A tangle of hair like the mountain grass
its shoulders sharp were hard and cold,
For a hurdle's nails its legs might pass,
for its fingers no likeness can be told.

No color tinted that tortured face,
no clothes concealed the skeleton bones,
Hundreds at that sight would shake,
it brandished a spear as it came up close.

Oh, little use to try evasion,
but in God's name I made appeal:
"Wherever you came from to awake me,
move back, and if you're able, speak!"

And Death speaks:

I speak Latin, Greek and Hebrew,
three kinds of English, Spanish and French,
But to you I'll speak in Irish fluently,
the language in which you make your verse.

I am Death who slays by the hundreds,
Hannibal, Pompey, Caesar I slew,
When Troy in Helen's day was burning
it was I felled Hector who Greeks o'erthrew.

Finn McCool and the Chiefs of the Fianna,
great Conor who was Ireland's King,
Cúchulainn and Goll who slaughtered fiercely,
all in due course felt my fatal sting.

Faolán, Oscar and the valiant Diarmaid,
Oisín who long the Fianna outlived,
It was by my sword fell all those heroes
and the three who took Deirdre from Conor the king.

It's of little use to tell the story
of all the Caesars who fell to my blow,
Everyone who since Adam and Eve existed,
their armies and false gods 'twas I laid low.

Achilles, Hercules, and Polyphemus,
Typhon who could great mountains throw,
Neptune, Jupiter, Juno and Venus
and Orpheus whose skill on strings you know.

And Raftery says:

You miserable, ugly, decrepit creature,
so weak and worn, so woefully wasted,
Nothing could make me now believe you,
that you could vanquish half those great ones.

Death answers:

Don't speak so boldly, believe my story,
your life is not your own to keep.
Make hay now in the day's bright glory,
late repentance you're not sure to meet.

Don't let this world's wealth deceive you,
earth, sods and stone will make your mound,
Your ears that every tale we're hearing
will be closed up deaf to every sound...


The background music on this page is called Lament for Owen Christie and was composed and copywrited by Jim Stewart. Owen Christie (Christy) was one of some 16,000 Irish immigrants destined for Saint John, New Brunswick, during the Famine year of 1847. About 2,000 died on the voyage over or shortly thereafter. Owen died on Partridge Island in Saint John Harbour, site of a quarantine station. God rest their souls ...... Jim Stewart

Courtesy of Jack & Vivian, IrishPage.com April 2007
From Blind Raftery by Criostoir O'Flynn, Cló Iar-Chonnachta, Connemara Ireland, 1998
Cf. Bertrand Library, Bucknell Univ. Lewisburg, Pa. 17837
This is simply poetry so there is no music.
Replay background music
Lament for Owen Christie
composed by Jim Stewart, St. John New Brunswick, Canada.

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