Caoineadh Cill Cáis / / The Keening of Kilcash

I am sorry that this post took so long! The semester at UMass became busy, and I became lazy.

Here’s another Irish song. The song is a nationalistic song sung in memory of a Viscountess of Kilcash. I like the song, honoring the Viscountess Margaret Butler by likening her to Kilcash itself. The word ‘caoineadh’ (or ‘caoine’ as it’s sometimes spelled) is a favorite word of mine, because it’s one of the only Irish words that made its way into English in the English word “keen” and “keening”. This song is a remarkably tender song, and even without knowing the backstory, through the lyrics the listener can easily feel that unique sort of Irish nostalgia so common in their songs. Here is a version by the Wolfe Tones that I like, even though their Irish pronunciation is rather lacking in my opinion.

Here are the Irish lyrics:

Cad a dhéanfaimid feasta gan adhmad?

Tá deireadh na gcoillte ar lár;

níl trácht ar Chill Cháis ná ar a teaghlach

is ní bainfear a cling go bráth.

An áit úd a gcónaíodh an deighbhean

fuair gradam is meidhir thar mhnáibh,

bhíodh iarlaí ag tarraingt tar toinn ann

is an t-aifreann binn á rá.

 

Ní chluinim fuaim lachan ná gé ann,

ná fiolar ag éamh sois cuain,

ná fiú na mbeacha chun saothair

thabharfadh mil agus céir don tslua.

Níl ceol binn milis na n-éan ann

le hamharc an lae a dhul uainn,

ná an chuaichín i mbarra na ngéag ann,

ós í chuirfeadh an saol chun suain.

 

Tá ceo ag titim ar chraobha ann

ná glanann le gréin ná lá,

tá smúid ag titim ón spéir ann

is a cuid uisce go léir ag trá.

Níl coll, níl cuileann, níl caor ann,

ach clocha is maolchlocháin,

páirc an chomhair gan chraobh ann

is d’ imigh an géim chun fáin.

 

Anois mar bharr ar gach míghreanní,

chuaigh prionsa na nGael thar sáil

anonn le hainnir na míne

fuair gradam sa bhFrainc is sa Spáinn.

Anois tá a cuallacht á caoineadh,

gheibbeadh airgead buí agus bán;

‘s í ná tógladh sillbh na ndaoine,

ach cara na bhfíorbhochtán.

 

Aicim ar Mhuire is ar Iosa

go dtaga sí arís chughainn slán,

go mbeidh rincí fada ag gabháil timpeall,

ceol veidhlín is tinte cnámh;

go dtógtar an baile seo ár sinsear

Cill Chais bhreá arís go hard,

is go bráth nó go dtiocfaidh an díle

ná feictear é arís ar lár.

 

And here are the English lyrics:

 

What will we do from now on without lumber?

The end of the woods is at hand

There is no talk of Kilcash nor its household

And its bell will not be rung any longer

That place where the good lady lived

Most honorable and mirthful of women

Earls used to come over the waves there

And a sonorous mass was said

 

I don’t hear the sound of ducks or geese there

Nor the eagles crying over the bay

Nor any longer the bees at their work

Taking honey and wax to the people

The sweet melodious song of the birds sounds out no more

As the sunset comes to us

Nor the little cuckoo in the tree branches

From which it puts the world to rest

 

Fog is a-falling on the boughs there

Which neither sun nor day can clean

Mist is a-falling from the sky there

And its clear water is ebbing

Neither hazel, nor holly, nor berry there

Except stones and bare pebbles

The fields of our neighbors without branches there

And all the game has gone away

 

Now to add to the same

The prince of the Gaels has set sail

Away with the maiden of sweetness

Who is the most honored in France and Spain

Now her company is keening her

Who would give golden money, and white;

She who would never take land from the people

But was a friend of the truly poor

 

I beseech Mary and Jesus

That she returns once more safely to us

That we’ll have long dancing in circles

The music of violins giving heat to our limbs

That this home of our ancestors

Good Kilcash will take wing once again,

And until doomsday or the flood comes back

We will not see it again laid low

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