Monthly Archives: July 2007

Translator = Traitor, Part 17 Zillion

Geez. If you can’t believe Carmina Gadelica….

It’s been a long time since I looked at Carmina Gadelica, a book of hymns, prayers, and sayings from the (Catholic) Scottish highlands and the (Protestant and Catholic) Hebrides. I’m reasonably sure that none of the reprints I’ve seen have included the Scottish Gaelic. Apparently the original edition (now handily digitized on did. This makes it a lot more useful, but it also reveals certain… interesting… translation choices.

For example, our dear Mr. Carmichael likes to call things “rune”. “Rune Before Prayer”, for example. But what word here is being translated as “rune”?

Rann. Which is not only a lot older word than those punk Viking settlements, but also simply means “stave, stanza” or “quatrain”.

Then we have “Rune of the Muthairn”. What word is he translating as “rune” now?

Duan. Which is another perfectly normal word for “poem”, although the connotation is a more lyric one than just “rann”.

*roll eyes*

You get other interesting choices, too. In “Bless, O Chief of Generous Chiefs”, the prayer for protection includes every “brownie” in the English. In the Gaelic it’s “gruagach”, a very interesting word. Literally it means something like “hairy” or “long-haired”. Depending on the circumstances, it can mean a beautiful longhaired girl, a powerful longhaired old wizard, or a really big and bad-tempered brownie type. The prayer is not against happy little housefairies, in other words. 🙂 The prayer also asks for assistance against other Scottish monsters probably better known today: the glaistig, bean-nighe, fuath, and other bonechilling critters. (“Greann”, translated as “siren” here, apparently means “grim and surly” by connotation, though it’s literally something more like “bristly and hairy”. This is highly ironic, as in modern Irish, the word spelled “greann” means “fun”. “Uruisg” is another word for a brownie, although it usually has a more friendly connotation than here.) There’s nothing wrong about the translation, but it’s a lot more interesting (for those of us who like monster lore, anyway) to know the specifics.

The other rather unamusing thing is that, now that I know more about general European Catholic customs, these straaaaange exotic sayings seem even less exotic and weird than they did in comparison to normal Old English healing prayers and poems. The Rune… er… Verse Before Prayer, for instance, is just a folk version of the invitatory psalm/prayer said before praying the Hours, which has bled onto praying the Rosary and other popular prayers in many countries. It’s a bit more complicated than “Lord, open my lips”, but… *roll eyes* …ooh, biggie dealie. There is also a very elaborate explanation that some people sing it, some people say it; just as some people like to pray in a quiet small room, and some people like to pray out loud outside, where nobody can hear them. Ah, soooooo different from the way ordinary mortals everywhere pray!

There’s a fine line between talking up your subject with enthusiasm and making it sound special, and talking about your subject as if it has no connection to normal human beings and near-universal European customs. I do sympathize with the love of purple prose, but…. this is exactly the sort of thing which leads to people deciding that the Scottish country people were all secretly pagans, or Gnostics, or what-have-you. This has been aided, of course, by people circulating versions without all those nasty hymns to Jesus. *roll eyes again*

So yes, this book is full of litanies and prayers and hymns and poems. Some sayings and prayers probably cross the line to superstition, and some are difficult to understand; they may represent customs or genres that don’t really exist anymore. But on the whole, it shows us the very sane, lively, and simple Christian faith life of the Hebrides people, as displayed in their oral literature.

Carmina Gadelica is a fascinating collection. But clearly, it’s important to have the side-by-side translation version if you want to do any serious thinking about it.

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Love and Whisky is full of any number of good things. One is the (sadly unindexed) book Popular Songs of Ireland by our old friend Thomas Crofton Croker. This very interesting book is divvied up into chapters on various song topics, and includes a good number of lyrics for songs you may only know as tunes. “St. Patrick’s Day in the Morning” is more than just a name!

Anyway, this wonderful book has a wonderful song in it called “Love and Whisky”. It goes to the tune of “Bobbin Joan”. I’ve seen this tune name before in old books, so I figured it would be easy to Google. Not so! Apparently, the Scottish players call it “Bob and Joan” or “Bob and Joan’s”, and the Irish?

That well-known tune “The Butterfly”!

So yes, if you want to sing a slip jig, here goes! You’ll have to munge the scansion a bit to fit the current version of the tune, but mostly, you’ll just need a lot of breath control. 🙂

Love and whisky both,
Rejoice an honest fellow,
Unripe joys of life
Love and whisky mellow.
Both the head and heart
Set in palpitation;
(From) both I’ve often found
A mighty sweet sensation.

Love and whisky’s joys,
Let us gaily twist ’em,
In the thread of life,
Faith, we can’t resist ’em.
(Repeat to fit tune?)

But love’s jealous pang,
In heartache oft we find it;
Whisky, in its turn,
A headache leaves behind it.
Thus, of love or drink,
We curse th’enchanted cup, sir;
All its charms forswear,
Then take another sup, sir.


Love and whisky can
To anything persuade us;
No other power we fear
That ever can invade us.
Should others dare intrude,
They’ll find our lads so frisky,
By none can be subdued,
Excepting love and whisky.

REF 2:
May the smiles of love
Cheer our lads so clever;
And, with whisky, boys,
We’ll drink King George for ever.

(Repeat to fit tune?)

I think this is a good solid song. The “King George” refrain may, of course, be modified to suit current tastes also; but since this was a favorite of the Irish Volunteers…. “No other power we fear” might work better as “Fear no other power”; “Should others dare intrude” might work as “And should others intrude”.


Apparently there are a good few other old songs to the tune if you Google around (“Bobbing Joan” is another name), but a couple of those three hundred year old ones are incredibly bawdy! (And no, not just talking about the old days. Even in today’s jaded times. Even that chick at the Renfair who thinks it’s so cute to sing certain limericks in public to all comers wouldn’t sing these. Hooboy.)

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Blessed Elisabetta Hesselblad: Action Saint!

The Vatican’s looking into whether it can accept a rather unusual miracle. They usually like the healing stuff, because miraculous healing unexplainable by science is a pretty straightforward thing to investigate and prove. You just hire a bunch of House, M.D. type doctors and let them do it. Easy.

However, you do sometimes get the more action-oriented miracles. For example, there was the saint who was called upon for intercession by a Chilean submarine guy, who provided him with supernatural strength to close a hatch despite verifiably huge amounts of water and pressure. Again, something verifiably mysterious.

Now we get a sister in Mexico of the reformed-type Bridgettines, who called upon the foundress of the reformed version in the face of a thug’s gun. The gun did not fire. Is this a miracle, or just bad gun maintenance? Who do you get to sit on the panel of investigation? (Maybe Lawdog….)

Anyway, I happen to have a copy of Blessed Elisabetta Hesselblad’s biography. (Parish used book sales rock. You never know what you’ll get.) Blessed Elisabetta mostly did things like bring back super-cool habits and sisters to Scandinavia. But she was a Swedish nurse before that, after she immigrated to the US and worked in a New York hospital.

She ended up locked in the morgue on Halloween night.

And then she heard someone moving inside the drawers

So she opened it and became the first martyr to zombie odium fidei!

Just kidding… Seriously, though, she started praying for the dead folks, and found some poor guy actually was still warm — because he was still alive! She saved his life by being there.

So yeah, I’m sure she would be a good saint to go to, on these unexpected little occasions that make life interesting. Like when a Mexican thug has a gun pointed at your head.


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And This Belongs to the Reds!

You get to hear Marty Brennaman, one of the Cincinnati Reds radio guys, make his first few famous calls —  like Hank Aaron tieing Babe Ruth’s record, in Riverfront Stadium.

Courtesy of Catbird in the Nosebleed Seats, whom I just was introduced to by Irish Elk.

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The Return of Isis!

No, not the Egyptian goddess, silly. The show.

Zephyrs that lift you on high. A science teacher with a magical amulet which once belonged to Hatshepsut, Queen and Pharaoh of the Two Egypts. You know, Mighty Isis!

It’s out on DVD! With scripts, and commentary track, and even a Spanish language track! Yay!

I know, it wasn’t all that great of a show. Even as a kid, I knew it didn’t live up to what I wanted it to be. But there was real beauty and intrigue in the basic fantasy premise, even if the restrictions of the network prevented any real drama. (Originally, the “science teacher” was supposed to be a forensic anthropologist on a state of California CSI team. Now _that_ would have been drama! Okay, so probably my parents wouldn’t have let me watch Quincy-lite, but still….) For nostalgia alone, this would be well worth it, but all the added material will really be interesting for those of us who were fans. (And there’s no boring Shazam show to sit through beforehand.)


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Harry Potter [Here Be Spoileriffic Comments]

If you want spoiler comments, please look in the comment box. If not, don’t.

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My Fandom Is Educational!

Eleven-year-old Texan fan of Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century foils criminal.

With some help from his nine-year-old sister as Watson, of course. (Always bring a writer along. She’ll have a Sharpie. Even if it’s pink.)

It just goes to show you — that cartoon wasn’t lying about eyes and brains! 🙂

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