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A little Patrick Pearse for St. Paddy's Day!
Posted By: Bill Ames
Date: Friday, 6 October 2006, at 6:31 a.m.
by Patrick Henry Pearse
Sine mé ná an Chailleach Bhéarra
Mór mo ghlóir:
Mé a rug Cú Chulainn cróga.
Mór mo náir:
Mo chlann féin a dhíol a máthair.
Uaigní mé ná an Chailleach Bhéarra.
I AM IRELAND
I am Ireland:
I am older than the Old Woman of Beare.
Great my glory:
I that bore Cuchulainn the valiant.
Great my shame:
My own children that sold their mother.
I am Ireland:
I am lonelier than the Old Woman of Beare.
Pearse's poem refers to an earlier Irish poetic tradition, the stories of the Hag of Beare. The 'Hag of Beare' is the speaker of what Pearse classed as a dramatic lyric, the ninth-century lament of a woman who had "seven periods of youth one after the other, so that every man who had lived with her came to die of old age, and her grandsons and great-grandsons were tribes and races" (Porter 128).
She is frequently identified with the earth goddess of Celtic mythology whose power waned with the coming of Christianity.
The poem as first printed in An Barr Buadh on March 30, 1912, had two extra stanzas after the third:
Great my pain:
Enemies ever torturing me.
Great my sorrow:
Dead the people in whom I put hope.
In all subsequent publications the two verses are excised. Pearse translated this poem himself (See Raymond J. Porter, P. H. Pearse, New York: Twayne, 1973, especially pages 127-129).
The 'Hag of Beare' is rendered as 'Clooth-na-Bare' by Yeats, who speculated that she might be the Mother of the Gods. See "The Hosting of the Sidhe," the first poem in The Wind Among the Reeds.
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