Alasdair à gleanna garradh – Alasdair of Glengarry
Probably the most famous poem of the Scottish Gaelic Poet Sìleas na Ceapach, (c. 1660-1729). Daughter of the Chief of the MacDonalds, Sìleas married Alexander Gordon of Camdell, and moved from Invernesshire in the Western Highlands to Banffshire in the East. She was the Gaelic poet of the 1715 Jacobite rising, and writes here with heartfelt elegance of her kinsman Alexander, Chief of the MacDonalds of Glengarry, following his death in 1721. Famous for its large number of nature comparisons, the poem’s pathos probably stems from the loss of Sìleas’ husband and daughter prior to this period. The tune comes from the singing of William Matheson, but also appears in the Angus Fraser MS (1816). According to Mr. Matheson, this tune was a popular mold for Gaelic poetry from the 18th century, being the only extant tune that fits poems of this meter. This is probably the oldest poem to use the tune. Mr. Fraser asserts “other bards both before and after Sìleas day used the air exclusively in heroic or battle songs.”
Alasdair à Gleanna Garadh
Alasdair a Gleanna Garadh
Thug thu’n diugh gal air mo shùilean;
‘S beag iongnadh mi bhith trom-chreuchdach,
Gur tric gar reubadh as ùr sinn.
‘S deachdair dhomh-sa bhith gun osnaich
Meud an dosgaich air mo chàirdibh;
Gur tric an t-eug oirnn ag gearradh,
Taghadh nan darag is àirde.
Chaill sinn ionann agus còmhla
Sir Domhnull a mhac ‘s a bhràthair.
Ciod am fàth dhuinn bhith ‘gar gearan?
dh’fhan Mac Mhic Ailean ‘s a’ bhlàr uainn.
Chaill sinn darag làidir liathghlas
Bha cumail dion air a chàirdibh,
Capull-coille bhàrr na giùsaich,
seabhag sùlghorm, lùthmhor, làidir.
Bu tu ceann air céill ‘s air comhairl’
Anns gach gnothuch am bi cùram,
Aghaidh shoilleir, sholta, thlachdmhor,
Cridhe fial farsaing man chùinneadh.
Bu tu rogha nan sàr-ghaisgeach,
Ar guala thaice, ‘s tu a b’fhiùghail;
Leomhann smiorail, fearail, feumail,
Ceann feachda chaill Seumas Stiùbhart.
Guidheam d’anam a bhith sàbhailt
Bhon a chàradh anns an ùir thu;
Guidheam sonas air na dh’fhàg thu
Ann ad àros ‘s ann ad dhùthaich:
Guidheam do mhac bhith nad àite
Ann an saibhreas ‘s ann an cùram:
Alasdair a Gleanna Garadh,
Thug thu’n diugh gal air mo shùilean.
Alastair of Glengarry
Alexander of Glengarry, today you have brought weeping to my eyes; Small wonder that I should be sore wounded, Often are we plundered a-new. It would be hard for me to be without sorrow Equal to the calamity that has come upon my kin; Death is frequently cutting off from us, the best and tallest of the oaks.
We lost in the same way and together Sir Donald, his son and his brother. What reason for us to complain? Clan Ranald remained on the battlefield; We have lost a strong, grey oak which protected its people, A woodcock from the pine wood, a hawk, blue-eyed, muscular, powerful.
You were leader in wisdom and counsel In all matters of responsibility; A bright, pleasant, handsome face, Heart generous and liberal with money. You were the choicest of the warriors, Our shoulder for support, and most worty; A lion courageous, manly and effective, Leader whom James Stewart has lost.
I pray your soul be safe Now that you have been buried in the soil.
I pray happiness for those you have left
In your home and in your land. I pray your son be in your place, In wealth and responsibility.
Alexander of Glengarry today you have brought weeping to my eyes.