4 Matching Annotations
  1. Feb 2018
    1. Máire Ní Mhongáin

      As Ciarán Ó Con Cheanainn writes in Leabhar Mór na nAmhrán, the oldest written version of this song dates to 1814, and is found in MS Egerton 117 in the British Library. Oral lore in Conneamara has it that Máire Ní Mhongáin’s three sons joined the British Army, and that Peadar deserted soon after joining, and emigrated to America. It seems probable that their involvement was in the French Revolutionary Wars or the Napoleonic Wars, the major conflicts fought by the British Army in the final decade of the eighteenth century and the first decade of the nineteenth respectively.

      Máire Ní Mhongáin seems to have resonated among Irish emigrant communities in the United States. My evidence for this is that Micheál Ó Gallchobhair of Erris, County Mayo, collected songs from Erris emigrants living in Chicago in the 1930s, over a century after the occasion of ‘Amhrán Mháire Ní Mhongáin’s’ composition. It features in his collection, which you access via the following link: http://www.jstor.org.ucc.idm.oclc.org/stable/20642542?seq=2#page_scan_tab_contents

      The virulent cursing of departed sons by the mother, named Máre, produces the effect of striking g contrasts with John Millington Synge’s bereaves mother, Old Maurya, in Riders to the Sea.

      My Irish Studies blog features an in-depth account of typical features of the caoineadh genre to which Amhrán Mháire Ní Mhongáin belongs. You can access it via the following link: johnwoodssirishstudies.wordpress.com/2018/01/03/carraig-aonair-an-eighteenth-century-west-cork-poem/

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

  2. Feb 2017