Oran an t-Saighdear


Le Alasdair Mac Iain Bhain.
(From Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, Volume 7, 1877-78). Translation by Iain MacLeod, courtesy of Murdo Grant of Fortrose and Lewiston.

Tobair an Dualchais recording here, sung by Kate MacDonald (mother of Rhona Lightfoot) of South Uist in 1956. It is recorded there as Ged Nach Eil Mi Ach Òg 'S Beag M' Aighear ri Ceòl.

Oran an t-Saighdear The Soldier's Song
Na 'm biodh duine na m' choir
A dh-eisdeadh ri m' ghloir,
Cha'n 'eil mo cheann sgeoil
       Gun reusan;
Tha m' aigne cho mor
Air a lionadh le bron,
'S cha'n 'eil mi an doigh
       Ach eigneach
Ged nach eil mi ach og
'S beag m' aighir ri ceol
Rinn an t-ardan 'sa' phrois
       Mo threigsinn;
'Dhol do 'n arm le mo dheoin -
'S mi chaidh iomral 'sa' cheo,
'Se mo bhargan nach d' chord
       Na dheigh rium!
If anyone was near me
who would listen to my speech,
(he, or she would find that) the substance of my story
is not without reason;
my mind is so greatly
filled with sorrow,
and my condition
is simply one of extreme difficulty—
Although I am still young
I have little pleasure in music,
self-esteem and pride have
deserted me
by enlisting voluntarily in the army—
I have gone astray in the mist,
the bargain which I made is one which I have certainly regretted
afterwards
Fhir a shiubhlas mu thuath
Thoir an t-soiridh so bhuam
Far nach d' fhag mi fear fuath
       Na m' dheigh ann;
Masa math leat bhi buan,
'N uair a chluinneas tu 'n duan
Thoir an aire - cum cluais -
       A's eisd rium:
Gur h-e lughad mo dhuais,
'S an t-sentry cho cruaidh
Chuir m' inntinn cho luath
       Troimhe-cheile;
Thug e 'n dreach dhe mo shnuadh
'S dh' fhag e tana mo ghruaidh,
'S chaill mi trian de na fhuair
       Mi 'leursainn.
Will anyone of you who is travelling to the north
give this blessing from me
to a place where I did not leave one enemy
behind me there;
if you wish to have a long life,
when you hear the poem
give heed to it—pay close attention to it—
and listen to me:
it is the paltriness of my wage,
and sentry duty being such a hardship
that has so quickly
disturbed my mind;
it has taken the healthy colour from my complexion
and it has left my cheek thin
and I have lost a third of the eyesight
that I had.
'N uair a thoisich an t-ol,
'Sa laimhsich mi 'n t-or
Bha moran mu'n bhord
       Ga m' eisdeachd;
Bha danns' ann - bha ceol -
'Cur na bainnse air doigh,
'S e mo chall-sa bha mor
       'Na dheigh sin.
Fhuair mi bann agus coir,
Le gealltannas mor,
Air nighean Righ Deors'
       Mar cheile;
'S na 'n creidinn an gloir
Cha b' eagal ri m' bheo
Dhomh an airgead, no 'n or,
       No 'n eideadh!
When the drinking started,
and I handled the gold
there were many around the table
listening to me;
there was dancing—there was music-
arranging the “wedding”,
and my loss was great
thereafter
I got a bond and a right,
with great promises,
to King George’s daughter (i.e. his gun)
as a wife;
and if I were to believe their talk
I would have no reason to fear for the rest of my iife
any shortage of silver, or gold
or clothes!
'S iomadh oidhche fhliuch, fhuar,
'Bha mi marcachd a' chuain
Bho na fhuair mi 'n dath ruadh s'
       Air m' eideadh;
Thug mi turus da uair
Gu Righ Lochlainn nan cuach,
'S ann d'a Rioghachd bu chruaidh
       An sgeula;
Cha robh dad 'san robh luach
Eadar luingeas a's shluagh
Nach do ghlac sinn an cluain
       A cheile;
Chuir sinn gaiseadh 'na Sguaib,
'S chuir sinn aitreabh 'na gual,
'S thug sinn creach leinn le ruaig
       Beum-sgeithe!
Many a cold, wet night,
I have been riding the main
since I got this red colour
on my clothes;
I made the journey twice
to visit the King of Denmark of the drinking cups,
and, for his country,
the story was a hard one;
there was very little of any value
between ships and people
that we did not take
altogether;
we destroyed his crops,
we burnt his palace,
and we took away booty as a result
of our attack!
Ann am Portugal thall,
Cha b'e m' fhortan a bh'ann,
'N uair a nochd sinn co 'n lann
       Bu gheire
'N uair a ghlac sinn 'sa' champ
Siol altrum na Fraing',
Cha robh 'n tuasaid ud mall
       Mu'n d' gheill iad
Luaidhe ghlas 'dol na deann
Measg ghlac agus ghleann,
Gun aon fhacal comannd
       Ga eisdeachd;
'S lionar marcaich' each seang
A bha 'charcais gun cheann -
Caoin air ascaoin 'se bh'ann
       'S cha reite.
Over there in Portugal,
not an occasion of good fortune for me,
when we showed them whose blade.
was the sharpest;
when we trapped in their camp
the sons of France,
the struggle till they surrendered
was not a short one—
swiftly flying grey lead
among hollows and valleys,
with no one paying attention
to any word of command;
many a rider of a slim horse
was a headless corpse—
a confused tumult it was
and not an orderly battle.
'S iomadh glaic agus gleann
Eadar 'Ghearmailt 'san Fhraing,
Sasuinn - Alba gun taing -
       Agus Eirinn
Far 'n do leig mi mo cheann,
Sgath ghlac agus ghleann,
Far nach freagradh dhomh mall
       'Bhi 'g eiridh;
Fuaim feadan thri bann -
Fear ga spreigeadh 'sa' champ,
Ged a's beag a bha shannt
       Orm eisdeachd;
B' fhearr liom geum aig mart seang
'Dol gu eadradh 'sa' ghleann
'S bean ga leigeadh am faing
       'S a' Cheitein.
In many a valley and hollow,
in places including Germany and France,
England—Scotland without any pleasure—
and Ireland
I have laid my head,
a waste of valleys and hollows,
where it would not be safe to be late
in getting up;
the sound of a full set of pipes—
played by a soldier in the camp,
although I had little inclination
to listen to it;
I would prefer the lowing of a slim cow
on its way to be milked in the glen
where a woman would milk it in a fold
in the month of May.
'S iomadh fardach a's frog
Anns do ghabh mi tra-noin,
Bho na fhuair mi chiad chot'
       Agus leine;
Agus clar agus bord
Air na charadh dhomh lon -
'S tric a' phaigh mi an t-or
       'Na eirig -
Cha'n 'eil cearn' 'san Roinn Eorp
Eadar traigh no tir-mor
Nach 'eil larach mo bhroig
       'S mo cheum ann,
'Siubhal fasaichean feoir
Agus ard-bheannan ceò
Cur mo naimhdean air fogar
       Na 'n eiginn!
Many‘s the building and spot
in which I ate my midday meal,
since I received the first (military) coat
and shirt;
and many the board and table
on which food was placed for me—
Many’s the time I paid gold for it
in payment.
There isn’t a part of Europe
including coastland and interior territory
which doesn’t bear the trace of my shoe
and step on it,
as I travelled over grassy deserts
and misty mountain tops,
routing my enemies
in their desperation!
'S ged bha m' fhuil anns na blair
'Cur mo naimhdean mu lar,
'S ann a fhuair mi 'n cruaidh chas
       Na dheigh sin;
Gu'n robh uair mar a bha
Mu'n do chuireadh am blar;
Gu'n robh cuan de m' fhuil blath
       Fo m' leine;
Cha do shocraich mo shail
'N uair a chuir iad mi 'n Spainnt -
Teas as fuachd ann am pairt
       A cheile;
Mar ri sluagh air bheag baigh
Nach gabh truas ri fear cais
Ged a bhuail air am bas
       Na 'eiginn.
And although I shed blood in the field of battle
subduing my foes,
my real hardships
came after that;
there was an occasion
before the battle was fought,
when there was an ocean of my warm blood
under my shirt;
my step did not slacken
when I was sent to Spain—
Heat and cold swiftly succeeding
one another;
Among a people of little kindliness
who do not pity a man in a poor state
even if death should strike him
in his distress.
'S fhad' o 'n chuala tu chainnt
Mar a theirear 'san rann:
Cha dean aireachas mall
       Bonn feuma.

'S mise dh' fhainich 'san am
Chaidh mo tharruing 'san rang
Nach robh cairdeas aig ceann
       Ri 'cheile;
Cha'n fhain'chear 'san Fhraing
Co-dhiu 's Gaidheal no Gall
'N uair a thig e le 'pheann
       Mar chleireach;
'S 'nuair a gheibh e 'n comannd
Tha e coma dhe m' chall;
'S och tha mis' air mo shnaim
       Bho 'n cheud la!
It’s a long time since you heard the saying
as it is put in the verse:
Late repentance doesn't do
a bit of good;
I realised
when I entered the ranks
that there was no kindness
to be found there;
you will not know in France
whether he (the officer) is a Highlander or a Lowlander
when he comes with his pen
like a clerk;
And when he receives the order
he doesn’t care what I will suffer;
and, och, I am in bondage
since the first day!