Casadh an tSúgáin

Hello all!

I know it’s been a horribly long time since I’ve last spoken to you, and I am planning a post updating my life and why I’ve taken so long to start posting again. The short answer is, my summer is packed with jobs. Here is a peace offering, in the form of a traditional Irish song called Casadh an tSúgáin (the twisting of the rope). The song is about a man who falls in love with a girl (probably a classic personification of Ireland) on a lonely strand of a beach, and yet she rejects him. He then reminisces about when he was young, lusting after other women. Finally, he returns to his present state, lamenting the fact that he ever left his own home. The final line “‘s chuir an t-seanbhean amach ag casadh an tsúgáinín mé” probably refers to the girls mother, who forced the speaker to tie the girl’s wedding rope, which he followed as he wound it up, eventually walking it right out the door.

I believe this song is a true Irish song, a song of the diaspora, a song of the millions of Irish like my grandparents who fled Ireland to come to America, Canada, Australia, and Patagonia only to have their hopes of riches and freedom dashed. Some longed for their old home in Ireland, figuring that even if they had to go back to their old chains that at least they would have their own Gaelic friends, and they’d be able to see their old girl Ireland again before they died. Tragically, many millions were never able to return to the warm fecundity of Waterford, or the green hills of Connacht, instead they were stuck in the gray smoke-filled metal-mountains of New York City, Chicago, and Boston, and the baking sun of Sidney, and the harsh winters of the Newfoundland coast. This hypothesis is only strengthened for me, by the fact that the 2017 movie “Brooklyn”, which is a story about Irish immigration to New York in the early 20th century features a rendition of the song sung by Iarla Ó Lionaird.

In a broader sense, I think that one of the final lines of the song, “fé chlócaíbh dearga i bhfad ó mo cháirdibh gael?”
“(what drove me to this land) under red cloaks, far from my Gaelic friends” 
means a lot more than just Irish immigrants separated from their Irish friends. This line is so powerful because everyone knows the feeling of being separated from those friends who you grew up with, the lifelong friends, the friends you made mischief with, the friends who you roamed around the forests and fields with, who understand you better than you understand yourself. These are the friends who made you who you are, and with whom you share a common culture, a common consciousness. When life moves along, and this group of friends grows separate from one another, cloistered into their own lives and sometimes moving far away from each other, an intense feeling of regret and nostalgia accompanies it. I think this song is about Ireland, yes, but it has a much more universally human meaning, which is what gives it its power. Here is a full version sung by Iarla in his band The Gloaming.

Casadh an tSúgáin

Do casadh cailín deas orm in uaigneas na dtrá,
Ar lúb na coille glaise uair bheag roim lá.
Sin an fhreagar’ ó a thug sí liom go ciúin agus go tláth:
“Tá an saol ‘na gcodladh, ’s bogaimís an súisín bán!”

‘S má bhíonn tú liom bí liom, a stóirín mo chroí,
‘S má bhíonn tú liom bí liom os comhair a’ tí,
Má bhíonn tú liom, ‘s gur liom gach órlach de do chroí,
‘Sé mo mhíle chnoc nach liom Dé Domhnaigh tú mar mhnaoi!

Ó do bhíos-sa sheal im’ bhuachaill éadrom mhear ghroí,
‘S do bhíos-sa sheal agus d’imireoinn cárta le mnaoi
Ó do bhíosa seal agus d’imireoinn cúig le nó thrí-
Chun gur dhein a bhean seo leongó liúngó dhom chroí.


‘S a Dhia na bhFeart, cad do chas i ndúthaigh seo mé?
Fé chlócaíbh dearga i bhfad ó mo cháirdibh gael?
Ó do chuas isteach mar a raibh mo shearc agus dian-ghrá mo chléibh,
‘S chuir an t-seanbhean amach ag casadh an tsúgáinín mé.



The Twisting of the Rope

A nice girl met me in the loneliness of the beach
On the bend of the green forest in the wee hours of the morning
These are the words that she said to me, quiet and wan:
“The world is in bed, so let us prepare a white blanket!”

And if you’re with me, be with me, love of my heart,
And if you’re with me, be with me at my house’s threshold,
If you’re with me, every inch of your heart will be with me,
It gives me a thousand regrets that you won’t be with me Sunday as my wife

Oh awhile ago I was a hearty, quick, light little boy
And awhile ago I was, and I would play cards with women
Oh awhile ago I was, and I’d play five or three
Until his woman did make my heart go thump-thump


And oh God of miracles, what drove me to this land,
In red cloaks, far from my Gaelic friends?
Oh, I went into where my love was, my lifelong love,
And her old woman put me out, twisting the rope



  • sugarloaf
    September 8, 2019 - 10:46 am | Permalink

    Thank you very much for this helpful translation and your post, which was very insightful – by far the best on the web, as far as my searches can tell. Particularly useful for me as I am reading Brooklyn now, and came across the song there.

  • Ganesh
    February 10, 2020 - 12:10 pm | Permalink

    really loved your thoughts on this song. Thank you very much for writing the meaning of this song. i have heard this song first in the movie ‘Brooklyn’, then i heard the full version by The Gloaming on YouTube. Even though I don’t understand the lyrics, the music, the language and the singing have left a deep impression upon me. Now, I truly miss my hometown and all my childhood friends.

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