Matt Johnson

 

Shivna

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Introduction

Lots of people have been looking for a translation of the Riverdance scene Shivna to English, apparently without much luck. The main problem is that the Irish used is archaic -- it really is Middle Irish as opposed to modern Irish, and so it's a bear to translate. Just looking over it, it looks like the lenition rules vary somewhat, and the interesting typographical {changes, errors} in the Riverdance lyrics complicate matters.

I hasten to add that there is really no original work here, other than perhaps some Google searches and writing this web page.

You may actually be somewhat surprised to read the translation -- it is not likely to be what you would expect!

Some points of reference:

  • Fer Benn is a proper name meaning variously Man of the Peaks or Antlered Man.
  • In the full story of the Frenzy, Suibhne has regained his sense by this time. However, he is pursued by a mill-hag who asks him to tell stories of his madness -- he is still under the curse of Ronan Finn, and so his torture continues. During the verse, he wills the hag leave him in peace: "O hag ... wilt thou go on a steed?"
  • The verse is a combination of Suibhne eulogizing the countryside and recalling his hardships and sorrows.

There are four versions of Suibne in the woods here.

  • The first version is that used by Riverdance in their scene Shivna.
  • The second version is from Early Irish Lyrics, C8 to C12 edited by Gerard Murphy, titled therein as Suibne in the woods.
  • The third version is the Buile Shuibhne edited by J. G. O'Keeffe, as rendered by the CELT Project.
  • The fourth version is the translation provided in the O'Keeffe edition -- The Frenzy of Suibhne.

Translation of Shivna / Suibhne / Suibne in the woods
Riverdance A bennáin, a búiredáin Buile Shuibhne (#964) The Frenzy of Suibhne (#40)
A Bhennáin, a bhúireadáin;
A bhéicedáin bhinn,
Is binn linn in cúicherán
Do ní tí 'sin ghlinn.
A bennáin, a búiredáin,
a béicedáin binn,
is binn linn in cúicherán
do-ní tú 'sin glinn.
A bhennáin, a bhúiredháin,
a bhéiceadháin binn,
is binn linn an cúicherán
dogní tú 'san ghlinn.
O little stag, thou little bleating one;
O melodious little clamourer,
sweet to us is the music
thou makest in the glen.
A Bhennáin, a bhúireadáin;
A bhéicedáin bhinn,
Is binn linn in cúicherán
Do ní tí 'sin ghlinn.
A bennáin, a búiredáin,
a béicedáin binn,
is binn linn in cúicherán
do-ní tú 'sin glinn.
A bhennáin, a bhúiredháin,
a bhéiceadháin binn,
is binn linn an cúicherán
dogní tú 'san ghlinn.
O little stag, thou little bleating one;
O melodious little clamourer,
sweet to us is the music
thou makest in the glen.
A dhragnéin, a dhelgnacháin,
(dil, dol, doh, roh day)
A mhinéin na chonaire
(dil, dol, doh, ray)
A dhriséoc, a dhruimnechóc
(dil, dol, doh, roh day)
A chaillech, a chuirrechennach
in raga for ech?
A draignéin, a delgnacháin,

A minéin na conaire,

A driséoc, a druimnechóc,

A chaillech, a chuirr-chennach,
in raga for ech?
A dhroighnéin, a dhealgnacháin,

A mhínén na conaire,

A dhriseóg, a dhruimnechóg,

A chailleach, a chuirrchennach,
an ragha for each?
O little blackthorn, little thorny one,

O minen of the pathway,

O briar, little arched one,

O hag, O round-headed one,
wilt thou go on a steed?
A Bhennáin, a bhúireadáin;
A bhéicedáin bhinn,
Is binn linn in cúicherán
Do ní tí 'sin ghlinn.
A bennáin, a búiredáin,
a béicedáin binn,
is binn linn in cúicherán
do-ní tú 'sin glinn.
A bhennáin, a bhúiredháin,
a bhéiceadháin binn,
is binn linn an cúicherán
dogní tú 'san ghlinn.
O little stag, thou little bleating one;
O melodious little clamourer,
sweet to us is the music
thou makest in the glen.
Is mé Suibhne sirthechán;
lúath reithim thar gleann;
Nochan é m'ainm dligthechán;
mó is ainm dam Fer Benn.
Is mé Suibne sirthechán;
lúath reithim tar glenn;
nochan é m' ainm dligthechán;
mó is ainm dam Fer Benn.
As mé Suibhni sirtheachán,
luath reithim tar glenn,
nocha n-é mh'ainm dlightheachán,
mó is ainm damh Fer Benn.
I am Suibhne, a poor suppliant,
swiftly do I race across the glen;
that is not my lawful name,
rather is it Fer Benn.
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Discussion: © 2003 Matt Johnson
Verse, Translation: © respective authors and publishers