Meáchan Rudaí/ The Shape of Things a poem by Liam Ó Muirthile set to music by The Gloaming

The Gloaming are something of a traditional Irish music supergroup, infused with something of a post-classical/Indie sensibility. They comprise  fiddler Martin Hayes, guitarist Dennis Cahill, veteran Sean Nos singer,  Iarla Ó Lionáird, fiddler Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh, and pianist and producer Thomas Bartlett ,  who has worked with The National inter alia.

The late Liam Ó Muirthile was a multitalented poet and journalist. I recall he had a column on words for the Irish Times, and also for The Oldie (is it still going? A quick Duck Duck Go reveals it is)

One of the most vivid recollections I have of my father’s death and funeral is the sheer weight of carrying his coffin, especially lowering it into the earth of Magheragallon (there was also a shower that didn’t allow us to linger long by the grave’s mouth that day). By coincidence, I came across this song and poem shortly after encountering this sign fulminating against false measures. Ó Muirthile’s prose poem is a catalogue of weights and measures of a life.  First, listen (either via YouTube or Spotify) to The Gloaming’s setting:

 

 

Here are the words in Irish. “Fitzgerald’s Park” is a public park in Cork City:

Mo mheáchan i do bhaclainn sa phictiúr dínn beirt i Fitzgerald’s Park, agus mise in aois a trí
Ár meáchan araon, Ár gcómheáchan
Meáchan do hata anuas ar do gháirí
Mo mheáchan is tú dom iompar ar feadh naoi mí
Meáchan suí agus luí agus éirí
Do mheáchan féin nár ardaíos riamh ó thalamh ach chun tú a chur i dtalamh
Do mheáchan beo, Do mheáchan marbh
Meáchan na bhfocal ag éirí is ag titim eadrainn mar a bheadh sciatháin scuaine ealaí
Trom-mheáchan urnaí
Cleitemheáchan daidh-didil-dí
Meáchanlár fáinne fí na gcuimhní

Meáchan cheol do ghutha ón tuath sa chathair
Meáchan do bheoldatha ag luí ar do liopaí ag aeráil ghutaí
Meáchan do chumhrachta i seomra na hiarbhreithe
Meáchan do thuirse máthartha á rá liom bheith amuigh go cneasta

Meáchan do ghaolta, Meáchan muinteartha
Meáchan sinseartha, Meáchan comharsan
Meáchan seanchais, Meáchan an tsaoil mhóir
Meáchan sagart, Meáchan bráithre
Meáchan óil, Meáchan staire
Meáchan do ghrinn, Meáchan na ndaoine a thug na cosa leo Meáchan an tsaoil eile, Meáchan do chreidimh
Meáchan duairc do chuid sceoin, Meáchan do náire

Ár meáchan araon ag bualadh le chéile sa chathair chun lóin
Meáchan m’fhoighne ag fanacht leat ag doras séipéil
Meáchan d’fhoighnese ag fanacht liom chun teacht isteach
Meáchan do chuid paidreoireachta, Meáchan chrosa an tsaoil
Meáchan do ghoile, Meáchan do chuid moille i mbun bia
Meáchan aerach an chailín á thabhairt do na boinn chuig rincí
Meáchan an bhosca cheoil ar do ghuailní
Meáchan do dhá ghlúin ag coimeád tionlacan le rincí
Do mheáchan coirp agus tú ag luí os cionn cláir trí oíche agus trí lá

Meáchan an sceimhle i do shúile agus iad ag glaoch ort ón taobh thall
Meáchan an diúltaithe dul ann
Meáchan an ancaire agus é ag greamú go docht ionat ón mbruach thall
Meáchan na rún nach raibh aon cheilt orthu níos mó
Meáchan an ghrá gan rá a d’fhuascail glaoch an bháis ionat
Meáchan an mhearbhaill a d’fhág do cheann ina roithleagán ró Meáchan na beatha ag dul as
Meáchan mo chuairt dheireanach ort

Meáchan mhuintir na tuaithe ag triall ar an dtigh cathrach
Meáchan a monabhair
Meáchan do chomhrá linn féin ón dtaobh thall
Meáchan na rudaí a bhíodh á rá agat led bheo agus a bhí fós led mharbh
Fós do mheáchan teanga
Meáchan an cheatha nár lig dúinn seasamh fada a dhéanamh ag béal na huaighe

Éadroime d’anama a luigh orainn ar nós braillín síoda i do leaba tar éis tú a adhlacadh
Tar éis tú a adhlacadh
Tar éis

Ok, Gabriel Rosenstock’s English translation via Genius.com:

The weight of me in your arms. A photo of the two of us in Fitzgerald’s Park. Three years of age I was. The weight of the pair of us. Our weight together. The weight of your hat shading your laughter. My weight as you bore me for nine months. The weight of sitting, getting up, lying down. Your weight that I never lifted from the ground – before burying you in the ground. Your living weight. Your dead weight. The weight of words rising and falling between us, the wingbeat of swans. The heavy weight of prayers. The feather weight of lilting. The middle weight of memory, ancient spiral.

  

The weight of your relations. The weight of intimacy. The weight of ancestry. The weight of neighbours. The weight of tribal lore. The weight of the great world. The weight of priests. The weight of brothers. The weight of drink. The weight of history. The weight of humour. The weight of those who got away. The weight of the otherworld. The weight of your faith. The sorrowful weight of your fear. The weight of your shame.

The weight of the two of us as we met for lunch in the city. The weight of my patience waiting for you at the chapel door. The weight of your patience waiting for me to enter. The weight of your praying. The weight of the crosses of the world. The weight of your appetite. The weight of your lingering over food. The airy weight of a girl stepping it out at a dance. The weight of the accordion on your shoulders. The weight of your two knees keeping time with the dances.

 

The weight of the terror in your eyes as they called to you from the other side. The weight of your refusal to go. The weight of the anchor from yonder as it took a firm hold of you. The weight of secrets that had nowhere now to hide. The weight of unspoken love that death’s call freed in you. The weight of confusion that had your head in a merry-go-round. The weight of life draining away. The weight of my last visit.

 

The weight of your corpse as we waked you three nights and three days

The weight of country folk making their way to the city. The weight of their murmurings. The weight of your conversation with us from beyond. The weight of things you said when alive and continued to say in death. The weight of your language, still. The weight of the shower that didn’t allow us to stand very long at the mouth of the grave.

The lightness of your soul that covered us like the silk sheet on your bed after we buried you.
After we buried you. After.

 

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