- Feb 2018
An Seanduine Cam - Corn Uí Riada 2016
The song’s first two verses are spoken by a third-person narrator. In its humorous exaggeration, the first verse caricatures recognized conventions of arranged marriage. This narrative consciously situates itself in a genre whose familiarity to the listener is a necessary part of the humour. It addresses the economic incentives which were the major precipitating factors of marriage arrangements in rural Ireland during the eighteenth century. It also invokes the misery which such marriages often visited upon young women.
In his essay ‘Love in Irish Folksong’, Seán Ó Tuama identifies among typical features of the malmariée genre that ‘a young woman speaks (in the first person) of her anguish,’ that ‘the description of the husband can be unbelievably grotesque and ribald: he is humped, crippled; he coughs, grunts, whines at night; most of all, he is cold as lead, important, and completely fails to satisfy her desires’, and that ‘she discloses that she is going to leave him for a young man’ (149). ‘An Seanduine Cam’ provides clear examples of all of these traits.
Moreover, because these tendencies find expression in a debate form, and are redoubled in response to the unfeeling man, the resistant character of the put-upon young woman is strongly emphasized.