One More Irish Lesson: Séarlas Óg.

For our final Gaeilge lesson, we’ll put together a bunch of Irish words (most of which we haven’t heard before), into a poem. This is a traditional song with a long history, but I haven’t found a recording of the Jacobite version that appears in Chapter 25 of Irish Firebrands.

The dancers exited the improvised stage to approving applause. The musicians followed them, except for John Sweeney, who slid his ‘bones’ into a pocket and adjusted his microphone for singing. Then Medb announced, “Everybody get out their programmes and get ready to sing, Séarlas Óg.”

Lana looked at the paper. The song was printed in Gaeilge, with an English interpretation by Medb. “I can’t sing that! I’ll have to sing the translation.”

Frank said, “We just sing the chorus. It’s really only two lines.” He winked. “Good practice for your pronunciation.”

The rustle of papers subsided, and then John sang, sean-nós:

A Shéarlais Oig, a mhic Rí Shéamais
’Sé mo mhór-chreach do thriall as Éirinn
Gan tuinnte bróig’ ort, stoca nó leinidh
Ach do chascairt leis na Gallaibh.

Lana read the English translation:

(O young Charles, King James’s son
Alas your distress upon leaving Ireland
You’ve left the country naked and barefoot…
Routed by the strangers.)

The audience joined the chorus in Gaeilge:

Óró, sé do bheatha ’bhaile,
Óró, sé do bheatha ’bhaile,
Óró, sé do bheatha ’bhaile…
Anois ar theacht an tsamhraidh.

(Hurrah, you are welcome home,
Hurrah, you are welcome home,
Hurrah, you are welcome home…
Now that summer’s coming.)

John resumed singing, unaccompanied:

Tá Séarlas Óg a’ traill ar sáile
Béidh siad leisean, Franncaigh ’s Spáinnigh
Oglaigh armtha leis mar gharda…
’S bainfidh siad rinnce as éiricigh!

(Bonnie Prince Charlie will come over the sea
The French and the Spanish will be with him.
Armed warriors as a guard about him…
They’ll make the heretics dance!)

Frank pointed to the chorus and raised his eyebrows in challenge, so this time Lana sang along:

Óró, sé do bheatha ’bhaile,
Óró, sé do bheatha ’bhaile,
Óró, sé do bheatha ’bhaile…
Anois ar theacht an tsamhraidh.

John’s strong bass took over the tale, once again:

Sé mo léan géar nach bhfeicim
Mur mbéinn beo ina dhiaidh ach seachtain
Séarlas Óg agus míle gaiscidheach…
Ag fógairt fáin ar Ghallaibh.

(What a pity if I don’t see it,
Although living for a week only, after
Young Prince Charles and a thousand heroes…
Scatter all the strangers.)

Now clapping and stamping to accompany their singing, the audience finished triumphantly:

Óró, sé do bheatha ’bhaile,
Óró, sé do bheatha ’bhaile,
Óró, sé do bheatha ’bhaile…
Anois ar theacht an tsamhraidh.

©2012-2014, Christine Plouvier. All Rights Reserved.

The version that was rewritten by Patrick Pearse in the early 1900s referred to Gráinne Mhaol (Grace O’Malley, queen of the Clew Bay pirates). It became a popular revolutionary song, and that’s the version you hear in these videos:

To hear the spoken verses of the Jacobite version, go to Séarlas Óg, on the Irish Vocabulary page sub-menu, above. I’ve also included music, so you can get in some singing practice – like Lana did!

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