Translation of “Mo dháimh” (“My love of kind”) by Caitlín Maude

This is my first translation of an Irish poem. I do not have the text, so I listened to a recording (available on CD from Gael Linn and on iTunes) many, many times until I thought I understood most of it. There are still gaps in my understanding though. The Irish text below my translation is my interpretation and thus approximate. The italicised words are the most unsure guesses. Any comment from Irish speakers would be very welcome indeed.

One great advantage to working off a recording is you can hear the poet’s intended intonation. For me, the intonation and pace make this poem. I love the rush of the passages about the poet’s physical condition and her childhood (or at least her post-natal state) and the contrast with the slow, concentrated punctuation of “cloch clár marmair” and “níor dhúirt mé altú roimh bia”.

I still haven’t worked out why the poem is entitled “My love of kind” or “My kindred spirit”. I think Maude, in her illness (she died at 41 of cancer), is not ashamed that her love for other people has been taken away by the bog – maybe. One thing is certain: however surreal her depiction of it, her vision of the past is crystal-clear, not boggy; what is more, it is gone, long gone, and never to return.

My love of kind

A pitted bogland takes my love of kind
There’s no shame in it
I am sick, sick, sorrow-sick
A rock-hard cross, your linens, your scutter and your sheen
I am sick
Flat stone marble, I am clean
I’m a triangle, an isosceles triangle, thirty-six, twenty-four, thirty-six
Trim me down, I am full to brim
This is the protection of my membranes
Though it does not keep me whole or safe
LSD, I am wealthy
Wealthy free
Even though I cannot sit down or stand on feet
The sight of my eyes, a six and a six
Seventy-two point two or the like, my heartbeat’s speed
No hint of cancer, fever-free
And still I am sick
Oh doctor, I can’t process their tale
A sore I was on the back of the world
A smile sat on my mouth
They baptised me, put a bib on me and all
But I drowned down under sobbing and ‘neath soil
I buckled in the bogholes, places where the babes sink deep
I didn’t say grace before meals
The rushes don’t court the grass just there
The prawns lie midst the sand
The water doesn’t fill my hand
In time of frolics or fun, I won’t be there
In shine of daylight
They please me, and please not
These little live things
Cosiness, heat
I’ll be there not

Mo dháimh

Le criathrach atá mo dháimh
Ní díol náire é
Tá mé tinn, tinn, tuirseach tinn
Cruas na croise, bhur línéadach, bhur mbuinneach agus bhur snas
Tá mé tinn
Cloch clár marmair, tá mé glan.
Is triantán mé, triantán comhchosach, 36-24-36,
Tánaigh mé, tá mé lán go scéimh
Tá siad mo dhíonach na scannán
Cé nach iad mo fabhraigh mo chuid fhéin
LSD, tá mé saibhir, saibhir saor
Cé nach bhfuil mé in ann suígh síos ná seasamh suas
Radharch mo shúl, 6+6, 72.6 nó mar sin luas mo chroí
Gan iteann ailse ná galair buí
agus fós tá mé tinn
A dhoctúir, ní thuigim a scéal.
Ba smál mé trath ar dhroim an tsaoil
Bhí meangadh ar mo bhéal
Bhaistiodh mé, chuir siad bibe faoi mo lár
Ach bhí báigh agam le caoineadh is fé láib
ba feacach me sna caochphoill, áit a bhfuil an puiteach naí
Ní dúirt mé altú roimh bia
Ní dhéanann luachair suirí le féar
Tá an ribe róibéis ar lár
Níor líon an t-uisce mo lámh
Tráith súgradh nó spóirt, ní bheidh mé ann
Cén lá chaoi solas
Is áin liom, agus ní h-áin
Na rudaí beo seo, teolaíocht, teas
Ní bheidh mé ann

Caitlín Maude (Casla, Co. Galway, 1941 – Dublin, 1982)

Translation by Ian Mac Eochagáin

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3 thoughts on “Translation of “Mo dháimh” (“My love of kind”) by Caitlín Maude

  1. Seo é an dán mar a chloisimse é:
    Mo Dháimh

    Le criathrach atá mo dháimh

    Ní díol náire é

    Tá mé tinn, tinn, tuirseach tinn

    Cruas na croise, bhur línéadach, bhur nglaineacht agus bhur snas

    Tá mé tinn

    Cloch, clár, marmar, tá mé glan.

    Is triantán mé, triantán comhchosach,

    36-24-36,

    Tárrthaigh mé, tá mé lán de scéimh

    Tá siad do mo dhíol as na scannán

    Cé nach iad mo chuid fabhraí mo chuid fhéin

    £SD, tá mé saibhir, saibhir saor

    Cé nach bhfuil mé in ann suí síos ná seasamh suas

    Radharc mo shúl, 6 móide 6,

    72.6 nó mar sin luas mo chroí

    Gan eiteann ailse ná galar buí

    agus fós tá mé tinn

    A dhoctúir, ní thuigim an scéal.

    Ba smál mé tráth ar dhroim an tsaoil

    Bhí meangadh ar mo bhéal

    Bhaist siad mé, chuir siad bibe faoi mo lár

    Ach bhí bá agam le caonach agus le láib

    ba pheacach mé sna caochphoill, áit a bhfuil an puiteach mín

    Ní dúirt mé altú roimh bia

    Ní dhéanann luachair suirí le féar

    Tá an ribe róibéis ar lár

    Níor líon an t-uisce mo láimh

    Tráth súgradh nó spóirt, ní bheidh mé ann

    Gí lách é an solas

    Is áin liom, agus ní háin

    Na rudaí beo seo, teolaíocht, teas

    Ní bheidh mé ann

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