Siúl a Rúin

Much and all as it might be a good idea to post every day, I am wondering whether it might be more interesting for you if I hold back until I’m really intrigued by something. It’s been busy here but the kind of business that isn’t stimulating for my muse.

The idea of this was to record somehow the poetic landscape behind the actual poems. This evening and at odd times during the week I have been chasing down words from an old song a friend of my grandmother – and very many others – used to sing.  It was a favourite of mine as a child but then there were a lot of very fancified versions and I lost patience. The last time I heard it sung was about two years ago in Downpatrick’s St Patrick’s Centre. A girl from Dingle sang it. Her version was so stylised that I recognised it only by the words of the chorus.

I thought that it was time to return it to its passionate, kind simplicity and I thought that I’d learn it again because I have my suspicions it might be a Munster tune and there just  might be one good trad song that isn’t from Co Down.

There are reams written about it within the threads of the mudcat forums. Siúl a Rún (Go, my love) is macaronic – actually most of it is in English. Things are so much more fluid with oral transmission. I imagine someone somewhere having heard the spare tune, having grasped the tender sentiment in the Irish chorus and having a passionate lyric themselves that they wanted to share about the heartbreak of war – had spliced all of those things together to make what we think of that song today (or permutations and combinations thereof).

I’d include a version but I haven’t found the right one. But the chorus as I remember Grandma’s friend singing it was (in English)  

‘Go, beloved, go safely, go quietly / move to the door and leaving me / May God keep you.’ 

And, in the way small children size up adults for their parental-potential, I thought that she must have made a very good mother to wish her loved one such safe passage to the world beyond. Another professional singer afterwards said that she suspected the original Irish version was a love song of the lullaby-for-children variety.

What I am thinking about is not translation but transmission – and what happens when you have a piece of art, a melody, a framework that may be 400 years old and how people inhabit it, refresh it, give it permission to move on to an entirely new way of being – when the underlying bone structure is there.

In a way that chorus is a love song for a poem – Go, my love:  be well.

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