An Raibh Tú ag an gCarraig? - Were You at the Rock?


People at a Mass Rock in Penal Times
Fonn Mall (Slow Air)

This song speaks of Penal Days when the Mass was celebrated in secret at remote gatherings. The "Carraig" was the "Mass rock" used as a meeting-place and altar. According to native Irish "sean nos" singers, the words appear as a love song, "Were you at the Rock and did you see my Valentine?" (meaning either the priest or the Host). However, it was a code addressed to a disguised priest or congregant, so the enemy would not grasp the true meaning even if he spoke Irish. Death was the penalty for those caught at Mass. In Penal Times, a price of 30 pounds was offered for the head of a priest or hedge-school master, the same as for that of a wolf.

Traidisiúnta

An raibh tú ag an gCarraig?
nó a' bhfaca tú féin mó grá
nó a' bhfaca tú gile,
finne agus scéimh na mná?

Nó a' bhfaca tú t-úll
ba chumhra is ba mhilse bláth?
nó a' bhfaca tú mo Vailintín
Nó a' bhfuil sí á cloí mar táim.

Ó bhí mé ag an gCarraig,
is chonaic mé mé féin dó grá
Ó chonaic mé gile
finne agus scéimh na mná

Ó chonaic mé an t-ull
ba chumhra is ba mhilse bláth
Agus chonaic mé do Vailintín
agus ní sí á cloí mar 'láir.

Traditional

Were You at the Rock?
Or did you yourself see my love,
Or did you see a brightness,
the fairness and the beauty of the woman?

Or did you see the apple,
the sweetest and most fragrant blossom?
Or did you see my Valentine?
Is she being subdued as they are saying?

O, I was at the rock
And I myself saw your love
O, I saw a brightness,
the fairness and the beauty of the woman

O, I did see the apple
the sweetest and most fragrant blossom
and I saw your Valentine
she is not being subdued as they are saying.


At first glance, "An Raibh Tú ag an gCarraig" appears to be a series of questions and answers about a young woman, but in reality it contains a coded message. A traditional air from the 1796 collection of "Ancient Irish Music" of Edward Bunting. The coded message is uncoded below.

[English metaphoric translation]

Were you at the Mass?
Did you see the Virgin Mary?
Did you take communion?
And say the rosary?

Did you see the chalice?
Did you see the sacrifice of the Mass?
Did you practice the faith?
Are we being persecuted as they are saying?

I was at the Mass;
I saw the Virgin Mary
I received communion,
and said the rosary

I saw the chalice,
and saw the sacrifice of the Mass
And I practiced the faith;
we are not being subdued as they are saying.


Courtesy of Jack & Vivian, IrishPage.com August 2006
Replay background music: Ag an gCarraig


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