“Sibhse ghabhas tríomsa, cuiridh uaibh gach dóchas” – Dante’s Divine Comedy as Gaeilge

“Sibhse ghabhas tríomsa, cuiridh uaibh gach dóchas” – Dante’s Divine Comedy as Gaeilge

Recently I acquired a copy of Padráig de Brún’s translation into Irish of “Inferno”. de Brún translated the whole Divine Comedy. The fly jacket of my copy states that “it is hoped to publish the remaining two volumes … in the future”

My thanks to Seán Mac Labhrai for getting me this book. de Brún was one of those polymathic clergymen who are now oft-forgotten. Born in Grangemockler, Co Tipperary, near the Kilkenny border and a place I drive through every day on the way to work, de Brún also wrote the well known poem “Tháinig long ó Valparaiso” (or rather translated Oliver St John Gogarty’s “The Ship”, a translation which improved on the original), known to to generations of Irish school children. Or at least it was known.

Anyhow, while had I world enough and time typing out Monsignor de Brún’s translation canto by canto would be a pleasure, it may not be possible. So I will give a taster which includes the best known line of the Inferno, if not the whole Comedy – abandon all hope ye who enter here.

This comes at the beginning of Canto 3 – a sort of invocation inscribed on the entrance to the “città dolente” of the underworld. In the original, the lines are :

Per me si va ne la città dolente,
per me si va ne l’etterno dolore,
per me si va tra la perduta gente.

Giustizia mosse il mio alto fattore;
fecemi la divina podestate,
la somma sapïenza e ’l primo amore.

Dinanzi a me non fuor cose create
se non etterne, e io etterno duro.
Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate’.

de Brún:

“Is tríom a trialltar ar an gcathair mhairgneach
Is tríom a trialltar ar an dólás síoraí
Is tríom a trialltar ar an gcine damanta.

An Ceart a chuir mo Dhúileamh tréan ag gníomhú;
Do rinne an tAthair mór lena uile-chomhact mé
‘S an Eagna is aoirde réim is toil an Phríomh-ghrá.

Éinní dár cruthaíodh riamh ní raibh ann romhamsa
Ach rudaí síorai; is buan go síoraíocht siar mé:
Síbhse ghabgas tríoma, cuiridh uaibh gach dóchas”

From the Columbia Digital Dante page linked to above, here are the English translations, firstly of Mandelbaum:




and of Longfellow:

THROUGH me the way is to the city dolent;
Through me the way is to eternal dole;
Through me the way among the people lost.

Justice incited my sublime Creator;
Created me divine Omnipotence,
The highest Wisdom and the primal Love.

Before me there were no created things,’03
Only eterne, and I eternal last.
All hope abandon, ye who enter in !”

Rather poignantly, my copy is ex libris St Malachy’s College Library, 36 Antrim Road, Belfast and seems never to have been taken out :

Finally an amusing aside from this 2016 review by Tim Parks of a life of Dante
. After the article proper, we have these two letters:

Vol. 38 No. 15 · 28 July 2016

Tim Parks begins his piece on Dante by asking how the Divine Comedy would have fared these days, when if you ‘put real people in a work of fiction … you immediately face libel and privacy issues’ (LRB, 14 July). That reminded me of the time when in a pleasant Chester-le-Street bookshop (no longer in existence) I was offered a paperback translation of Inferno which assured me that it was a work of fiction containing no reference to actual persons living or dead. Some time later I bought Ciaran Carson’s translation of Inferno on the basis of a killer sales pitch that it was ‘the first ever version by an Irish poet’.

George Schlesinger

Vol. 38 No. 17 · 8 September 2016

George Schlesinger fell for an over enthusiastic sales pitch (Letters, 28 July). Ciaran Carson’s translation of Dante’s Inferno wasn’t ‘the first ever version by an Irish poet’. The Irish cleric and poet Henry Boyd published his version in 1785 (and then added the Purgatorio and the Paradiso some years later).

Peter Jackson

Of course, between Boyd and Carson, there was de Brún.


The “lazy and indifferent” heron of “Monday or Tuesday”, Virginia Woolf

The only short story collection that she had selected in her lifetime, “Monday or Tuesday” is a 1921 collection in which she pursued the approach to writing set out in Modern Fiction:

Look within and life, it seems, is very far from being “like this”. Examine for a moment an ordinary mind on an ordinary day. The mind receives a myriad impressions–trivial, fantastic, evanescent, or engraved with the sharpness of steel. From all sides they come, an incessant shower of innumerable atoms; and as they fall, as they shape themselves into the life of Monday or Tuesday, the accent falls differently from of old; the moment of importance came not here but there; so that, if a writer were a free man and not a slave, if he could write what he chose, not what he must, if he could base his work upon his own feeling and not upon convention, there would be no plot, no comedy, no tragedy, no love interest or catastrophe in the accepted style, and perhaps not a single button sewn on as the Bond Street tailors would have it. Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end. Is it not the task of the novelist to convey this varying, this unknown and uncircumscribed spirit, whatever aberration or complexity it may display, with as little mixture of the alien and external as possible? We are not pleading merely for courage and sincerity; we are suggesting that the proper stuff of fiction is a little other than custom would have us believe it.

I’ve often felt, of late, this aversion to the supposedly well-made story, the contrivances that feel all too literary. My own sense is that in recent decades the literary world has become much more conformist and predictable than the “convention” Woolf decried.

The title story, or rather piece, would perhaps be classed as “flash fiction” today, except it is a mysterious, in its own way “indifferent” piece of prose. As well as the meaning of “the life of Monday or Tuesday” from the passage above, I can’t help reading the title as alluding to the indifference of the heron, and indeed the Universe, to such human-made concerns as the day of the week. Anyway, here is “Monday or Tuesday”:

Lazy and indifferent, shaking space easily from his wings, knowing his way, the heron passes over the church beneath the sky. White and distant, absorbed in itself, endlessly the sky covers and uncovers, moves and remains. A lake? Blot the shores of it out! A mountain? Oh, perfect—the sun gold on its slopes. Down that falls. Ferns then, or white feathers, for ever and ever——

Desiring truth, awaiting it, laboriously distilling a few words, for ever desiring—(a cry starts to the left, another to the right. Wheels strike divergently. Omnibuses conglomerate in conflict)—for ever desiring—(the clock asseverates with twelve distinct strokes that it is midday; light sheds gold scales; children swarm)—for ever desiring truth. Red is the dome; coins hang on the trees; smoke trails from the chimneys; bark, shout, cry “Iron for sale”—and truth?

Radiating to a point men’s feet and women’s feet, black or gold-encrusted—(This foggy weather—Sugar? No, thank you—The commonwealth of the future)—the firelight darting and making the room red, save for the black figures and their bright eyes, while outside a van discharges, Miss Thingummy drinks tea at her desk, and plate-glass preserves fur coats——

Flaunted, leaf-light, drifting at corners, blown across the wheels, silver-splashed, home or not home, gathered, scattered, squandered in separate scales, swept up, down, torn, sunk, assembled—and truth?

Now to recollect by the fireside on the white square of marble. From ivory depths words rising shed their blackness, blossom and penetrate. Fallen the book; in the flame, in the smoke, in the momentary sparks—or now voyaging, the marble square pendant, minarets beneath and the Indian seas, while space rushes blue and stars glint—truth? content with closeness?

Lazy and indifferent the heron returns; the sky veils her stars; then bares them.

Henri Nouwen on the powerlessness of God

From “Bread For the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith”, Henri Nouwen:

In and through Jesus we come to know God as a powerless God, who becomes dependent on us. But it is precisely in this powerlessness that God’s power reveals itself. This is not the power that controls, dictates, and commands. It is the power that heals, reconciles, and unites. It is the power of the Spirit. When Jesus appeared people wanted to be close to him and touch him because “power came out of him” (Luke 6:19). It is this power of the divine Spirit that Jesus wants to give us. The Spirit indeed empowers us and allows us to be healing presences. When we are filled with that Spirit, we cannot be other than healers.

St Carthage and the miracle of the ever flowing barrel of beer

“Bóthar na Naomh and the Black Lane: Roadway of the Saints” is a booklet produced by the Whitechurch Historial Group. It describes itself as a “map and compendium” completed “to explore the historical routes Bóthar Na Naomh, and the Black Lane, and extend to include various interesting historical sites which lay between Lismore and Dungarvan.”These routes are associated with St Declan’s Way, from Ardmore (where St Declan brought Christianity before St Patrick did) to Cashel (last year, with some friends, I did this backwards from Cashel to The Vee)

Anyway, the booklet has much of great interest, but I was naturally most struck by this passage featuring the founder of Lismore, St Carthage:

At this location in Kilcloher it is regarded as being the site where St Carthage produced his miracle, whereby, the hosts of Carthage and his travelling monks were unable to provide much hospitality due their limited resources to this large group of unexpected visitors who came to stay; as they had only a few loaves of bread, fish and a barrell of beer. But, Carthage with this Barrel of Beer, performed the miracle of the ever flowing barrel of beer for the duration of the monks stay at Kilcloher church and onastic settlement, and after a few days of rest and reparation, the monks with St Carthage continued down the Bóthar Na Naomh towards their destination of Lios Mhór (Roundhill), following the encouragement from the Kilcloher monks.

from “Small, Silent, Still” – Fr Paul D Scalia

Full piece here. An interesting interview with Fr Scalia – son of late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia – here

 We require that God be as we want Him: big, loud, efficient. Big and obvious, so that we can see Him and not have to walk by faith. Loud, so that we can hear Him and not be taxed by silence.  Efficient, lest we have to endure any waiting.  Our worship and culture follow suit.  Indeed, few things are more obvious than our culture’s addiction to spectacles, noise, and instant gratification.

In contrast, our Lord gives us two parables about the Kingdom of God: the seed sown in the ground and the mustard seed. (Mk 4:26-34)  These hit us where we live.  They require us to detach from the big, loud, and efficient and to accustom ourselves to the hidden, silent, and slow.

The Kingdom has, first, a silent and hidden growth.  It is like that seed scattered on the land that sprouts and grows of its own accord, and the sower knows not how.  The growth is unheard and unseen, beyond our reach and control.  It requires faith that He is indeed at work and trust that, in Romano Guardini’s words, “The silent forces are the strong forces.”

This Kingdom grows at its own pace, not the sower’s.  It calls for patience.  We cannot command it or set its schedule.  Indeed, our schedule must yield to its pace.  Further, the Kingdom is small – like that smallest of seeds that when sown, “springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”  We prefer something more certain, something big and clearly powerful.  But here we must trust in the fruitfulness of what appears entirely insufficient.


“I Heard My Father Call My Name”

From Susan J Stabile’s blog, a reflection on what I would also have called “the finding of Jesus in the Temple”:


In the typical translation, Jesus response to his parents’ when they tell him they have been looking for him with great anxiety is “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

Louis Savary, in his book The New Spiritual Exercises, offers a different translation.  Savary reports that among the Aramaic- speaking people in Palestine, the phrase Jesus used would more accurately have been understood as “I heard my Father call my name, and how could I not respond.”



“I heard my father call my name” … I do wonder if Margaret Craven was aware of this when she called her novel of an Anglican priest’s life and death among the First Peoples of remote British Columbia “I Heard the Owl Call My Name”?

i heard the owl call my name margaret craven 001

Creo en Dios!

Today’s Gospel is the familiar passage in Luke that we often refer to as Finding Jesus in the Temple.  Twelve-year old Jesus and his family have been in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.  When the group from Nazareth begins to return home, Jesus is not among them.  When Mary and Joseph retrace their steps, the ultimately find him in the temple with the teachers.

In the typical translation, Jesus response to his parents’ when they tell him they have been looking for him with great anxiety is “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

Louis Savary, in his book The New Spiritual Exercises, offers a different translation.  Savary reports that among the Aramaic- speaking people in Palestine, the phrase Jesus used would more accurately have been understood as “I heard my Father call my name, and how could I not respond.”   Savary goes on…

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No green to be seen 2: “Dead From the Neck Down” in Wales

In September 2016 I posted “No green to be seen: a biodiversity desert on Slievenamon” about the void that was a conifer plantation on Slievenamon. David Elias, at his blog Dispatches from the Undergrowth,  has an evocative, sobering piece on a similar experience. I was particularly struck at how he, too, had experienced this at an affective level as disturbing, indeed unbearable.

“A culture is no better than its woods” indeed.

It is 8.30 on a peerless sunny morning in late April, the sort of morning I had waiting for all through a long cold winter here in North Wales. I am sitting in a conifer plantation that looks like a Bridget Riley painting in brown (an unlikely thought). The trees are forty foot […]

via Dead from the Neck Down — dispatches from the undergrowth