This conversation is a real slow burn, and we LOVED recording it. You're in for a treat.
Here is the translation Kate mentions, a version of Donal Og that's startling and strange in the ways that only really great translations can be. (He said, knowing very little about translations, really). (Though I'll correct myself and say that it's probably true that really bad translations can be startling and strange too...)
It is late last night the dog was speaking of you;
the snipe was speaking of you in her deep marsh.
It is you are the lonely bird through the woods;
and that you may be without a mate until you find me.
You promised me, and you said a lie to me,
that you would be before me where the sheep are flocked;
I gave a whistle and three hundred cries to you,
and I found nothing there but a bleating lamb.
You promised me a thing that was hard for you,
a ship of gold under a silver mast;
twelve towns with a market in all of them,
and a fine white court by the side of the sea.
You promised me a thing that is not possible,
that you would give me gloves of the skin of a fish;
that you would give me shoes of the skin of a bird;
and a suit of the dearest silk in Ireland.
When I go by myself to the Well of Loneliness,
I sit down and I go through my trouble;
when I see the world and do not see my boy,
he that has an amber shade in his hair.
It was on that Sunday I gave my love to you;
the Sunday that is last before Easter Sunday
and myself on my knees reading the Passion;
and my two eyes giving love to you for ever.
My mother has said to me not to be talking with you today,
or tomorrow, or on the Sunday;
it was a bad time she took for telling me that;
it was shutting the door after the house was robbed.
My heart is as black as the blackness of the sloe,
or as the black coal that is on the smith's forge;
or as the sole of a shoe left in white halls;
it was you put that darkness over my life.
You have taken the east from me, you have taken the west from me;
you have taken what is before me and what is behind me;
you have taken the moon, you have taken the sun from me;
and my fear is great that you have taken God from me!
(Shades of St Patrick's prayer in that last verse...)
So what do I ACTUALLY know about translation? Mostly what I remember from many long, wonderful (as in full of wonder), beery conversations with my pal, Ian Lavery. Poet, academic, punctuation pedant and a very, very funny man. Anyway, when he was doing his PhD on Northern Irish poetry I would regularly perform my friendly duty by insisting he come drinking with me when he should have been working. So it was Ian who witnessed me - two bottles of white wine to the wind and heading for a few pints - walking into the road and smashing the windscreen of an oncoming car with my head. All the classic accident shit went down - a local lad leaned over me shouting 'How many fingers can you see pal, how many FINGERS?' My shoe came off (just the one.) And I apparently garbled half remembered lines from Seamus Heaney's 'Station Island' all the way to the hospital. And yes, I do realize that makes me sound like a complete wanker.
Anyway, so, when Kate mentioned Donal Og I thought of Ian because he knows his translations. And because he's from Carrickfergus, and first turned me on to Louis MacNeice, also from Carrickfergus. Who worked at the BBC in London for many years and was friends with (seriously) Andy Irvine (check out this interview with Andy if you don't believe me):
So thinking of friendship, and distance, and love, as Kate was singing Donal Og, and then and then...the song was over, and we talked some more about other things. And then Kate mentioned her children, and bringing them the see where she studied geology in Melbourne, and THAT'S when I sort of made my tangled, inarticulate attempt to say that...what...everything is everything. Music, songs, friendship, love, food, cars, biscuits, concertinas. All of it. Or, as the great Scottish songwriter Michael Marra might have said...The World is Phul o' A Number o' Things...
Which isn't a million miles away from this:
If you're of a melancholy turn of mind, you need songs like these. I wrote to Kate the day after we finished recording to say thanks, and what a lovely way to spend an evening. And it's true.
Thanks Kate (and Ciaran O'Grady) for the chance to listen.
The New Graces (Kate Burke, Melanie Horsnell and Robyn Martin) have recently tracked and mastered their debut album at Sydney’s Rancom Street Studios, working with producer Garth Porter (Sherbet, Lee Kernaghan) and legendary engineer Ted Howard (Gurrumul, Paul Kelly & The Stormwater Boys). The album is due for release in early 2020. (Website coming soon)
To buy Kate's music go here:
To learn more about QuasiTrad go here:
And finally, as aways.
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Till next time.
Darren & Dom