- Feb 2018
Bean an tSeanduine - Sean Nós 2
‘Bean an tSeanduine’ features all of the conventions of the malmariée genre we have previously encountered in ‘An Seanduine Cam’. Also, it is a good example of the speaker blaming her parents for her plight, which is another regular feature of this song type.
As well as being one of the finest examples of the genre, it is perhaps the most well-known and commonly sung, owing in large part to the simplicity and catchiness of its monosyllable end-rhymes.
As well as Ó Tuama, Meidhbhín Ní Úrdail has written about the common features of the chanson de la malmariée. Her article ‘The Representation of the Feminine: Some evidence from Irish language sources’ in Eighteenth-Century Ireland/Iris an Dá Chultúr is a rich source of information on the topic. In ‘Bean an tSeanduine’, we have a fine example of what Ní Úrdail calls the description of ‘the plight of a beautiful young woman, trapped in an unhappy marriage to an impotent elderly spouse who is ignorant of her mental and physical frustration’. However, when we consider the particular humour of this song, we can identify how it serves to empower the female speaker.
‘Bean an tSeanduine’ differs from ‘An Seanduine Cam’ in that there is no third-person narrator. Like ‘An Seanduine Cam’, the humour of the song relies on a ridiculing of the old man, although here the young woman herself is his detractor. Each of his brags meet a witty riposte. When he claims wealth, she calls him a miser, and when he wonders what would become of his if he died during the night, she jokes that death is an immanent danger. When mockery of this kind is voiced by the female speaker, it serves to empower her, and inspire in the listener a sense of sympathy and respect.