Meter: rannaigheact bheag
This is a praise poem directed, during Lent, to a herring. During Lent, Catholics
were forbidden to eat meat -- but fish, seafood, and eggs were (and are) not
considered meat for these purposes. So the poet has good reason to praise fish.
But the poet goes farther, choosing herring above the mighty (and poet-praised)
salmon and pike, and comparing his heroic and virtuous herring to everything
beloved by the Irish -- fosterchildren, friends, heroes, and even Jesus. (It
is worth remembering that early Christians used the sign of the fish to represent
Jesus; the poet probably did.)
Mo-chean do theacht, a sgadáin,
Dar anam h'athar, a sgadáin,
A fhir is comhghlan colann,
Dá bhféachdaois uaisle Banbha **
Is é ar bhféachain gach cósta
A sgadáin shéimh shúgaigh,
Gidh mór do thuit a-nuraidh
A sgadáin shailltigh shuilbhir
I dtús an Charghais chéasta,*****
[All] my love for coming, herring!
By my father's soul, herring,
(O men, [who] are pure flesh,
If [I] consider noble Banba, **
He is watching every coast
Gentle, merry herring,
[It] was great, last year, to reveal
Salty, flashing-eyed herring,
In you, the crucifixion of Lent -- *****
* cara mar thú ní bhfuaras/a friend like you is not cold: A friend like the herring, who, er, gives his all.
** Dá bhféachdaois uaisle Banbha/If [I] consider noble Banba: Banba was one of the three Tuatha Dé Danaan women (Eriu, Banba and Fodla) whom the Milesians met when they first came into Ireland. Ireland was named Eriu -- but Banba and Fodla are also commonly used by poets.
*** cia is mó tarbha don triúr-sa/who is my bull [from] your three persons?: "My bull" is an endearment or flattering term used towards lords, heroes, etc. The poet is asking who is the greatest among them.
**** ní bhfuair Conán Chinn-tsléibhe/Conán of Ceann Sléibhe didn't find: Conán must have been some kind of heroic wanderer, but nobody knows his tale. Ceann Sléibhe is probably Slea Head in County Kerry.
***** I dtús an Charghais chéasta/In you, the crucifixion of Lent: The herring dies for the good of others, as Christ was crucified for the poet and his listeners.
This poem can be found (in Irish only) in Measgra Dánta, vol. 1, edited by Tomás Ó Rathile.