An Mhaighdean Mhara

A beautiful and heart-wrenching story. Aoife Ní Fhearraigh’s interpretation is just lovely, too. Here’s a bit of background taken from this video clip.

The story of a man marrying a mermaid is common in the oral tradition in Ireland and Northwestern Europe. This version come from the singing of Áine Uí Laoi, Dobhair Láir, Gaoth Dobhair, Co. Dhún na nGall, who learned it from Síle Mhicí Uí Ghallchóir. Síle called the song “Amhrán Thoraí” and knew many more verses to it. The song is a conversation between the Mermaid and her daughter, Máire. The mermaid must leave her family and return to the sea now that she has found her magic cloak or seal skin in some versions.

An Mhaighdean Mhara

Is cosúil gur mheath tú nó gur thréig tú an greann
Tá an sneachta go frasach fá bhéal na trá
Do chúl buí daite is do bhéílín sámh
Siúd chugaibh Mary Chinidh is í i ndiaidh an Éirne shnámh

A mháithrín mhilis duirt Máire bhán
Fá bhruach an chladaigh is fá bhéal na trá
Maighdean mhara mo mháithrín ard
Siúd chugaibh Mary Chinidh is í i ndiaidh an Éirne shnámh

Tá mise tuirseach agus beidh go lá
Mo Mháire bhruinneall is mo Phádraig bán
Ar bharr na dtonnta is fá bhéal na trá
Siúd chugaibh Mary Chinidh is í i ndiaidh an Éirne shnámh

Tá an oíche seo dorcha is tá an ghaoth i ndroch aird
Tá an tseisreach na seasamh is na spéarthaí go hard
Ach ar bharr na dtonnta is fá bhéal na trá
Siúd chugaibh Mary Chinidh is í i ndiaidh an Éirne shnámh

ENGLISH TRANSLATION:

It seems that you have faded away and abandoned the love of life
The snow is spread about at the mouth of the sea
Your yellow flowing hair and little gentle mouth
We give you Mary Chinidh to swim forever in the Erne

My dear mother, said blonde Mary
By the edge of the shore and the mouth of the sea
A mermaid is my noble mother
We give you Mary Chinidh to swim forever in the Erne

I am tired and will be forever
My fair Mary and my blond Patrick
On top of the waves and by the mouth of the sea
We give you Mary Chinidh to swim forever in the Erne

The night is dark and the wind is high
The Plough can be seen high in the sky
But on top of the waves and by the mouth of the sea
We give you Mary Chinidh to swim forever in the Erne

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