Filíocht do Samhain, Là na Marbh / Irish poems, verses for Samhain + All Souls Day


Cathal Ó Searcaigh

“Samhain 1994”


Anocht agus mé ag meabhrú go mór fá mo chroí

Gan de sholas ag lasadh an tí ach fannsholas gríosaí

Smaointím airsean a dtug mé gean dó fadó agus gnaoi.

A Dhia, dá mba fharraige an dorchadas a bhí eadrainn

Dhéanfainn long den leabaidh seo anois agus threabhfainn

Tonnta tréana na cumhaí anonn go cé a chléibhe…

Tá sé ar shiúl is cha philleann sé chugam go brách

Ach mar a bhuanaíonn an t-éan san ubh, an crann sa dearcán;

Go lá a bhrátha, mairfidh i m’anamsa, gin dá ghrá.


.     .     .


Cathal Ó Searcaigh

(born 1956, Gort an Choirce, County Donegal, Ireland)

“November* 1994”

Editor’s note:  the word Samhain is, in contemporary Irish,

also synonymous with the word for November.


Tonight as I search the depths of my heart,

in the dark of the house and the last ember-light,

I’m thinking of one I loved long ago.


And if the darkness between us became like the sea,

I’d make a boat of this bed, plunge its bow

through the waves that barge the heart’s quay.


Although he is gone and won’t ever be back,

I’ll guard in my soul the last spark of his love,

like the bird in the egg and the tree in the nut.




Translation from Irish:  Nigel McLoughlin


.     .     .


Rody Gorman

“Mo Mharana”


D’fhág mé an suíochán

Ina gcaitheadh is a gcognaíodh sé féin

Gan bhogadh tamall fada,

Mar a bhfuair sé bás

Thall i gcois an tinteáin.


Shuigh mé go ndearna mé mo mharana

Sa deireadh. Cheap mé dán

Agus fuair mé réidh leis.


.     .     .


Rody Gorman (born 1960, Dublin, Ireland)



I avoided the chair

in which he’d spent and chewed away,

and didn’t move for a long time,

he’d died

over there by the fireplace.


In the end, I sat

in contemplation. I composed a poem

and had done with it.




Translation from Irish:  Michael S. Begnal


“Samhain 1994” and “Mo Mharana” © Cathal Ó Searcaigh, Rody Gorman
.     .     .


“All Hallow’s” 

(Irish-American poem – Author unknown)


The voices of the dead…

Are you with me, grandfather?

Do you hear me, spirits of the past?

Is the night hurrying because of you?


The answers are not in unhoped for words

but the images of night:

the cloak, the stillborn wind ripping brown leaves,

rain on the sidewalk, clay earth

becoming mud, mute stars,

the tree sighing as it dies,

the ending of the day, the halo of dawn,

the night-touch, the wolves’ howl,

the heart, the soul, of the dark.


Because we know, we know you well.

The voices of the dead carry my heart,

whispering, wind-voiced.

What do they know but Time?

Timelessness is not theirs;

they surpass it, as they surpass the images of night.

My time is coming.

I must leave, as we all must, as the dead have,

wandering in their cities of different light,

strange and still, touching each other

as they pass, tenderly,

with the fingertips, as they pass,

walking home.


.     .     .


Irish lyric tenor John McCormack (1884-1945) was one of the earliest singing voices to be put on “phonograph record”.  Pianist and composer Charles Marshall (1857-1927) wrote the music and words for the following sentimental popular song, “I Hear You Calling Me”, which was recorded by both men (John’s voice, Charles at the piano) in 1908.  The song’s tender theme is entirely appropriate for All Souls Day.


“I Hear You Calling Me”


I hear you calling me –

You called me when the moon had veiled her light,

before I went from you into the night…

I came,

do you remember?

back to  you

for one last kiss

beneath the kind star’s light.


I hear you calling me –

And oh, the ringing gladness of your voice,

that warmth that made my longing heart rejoice.

You spoke,

do you remember?

and my heart

still hears

the distant music of your voice.


I hear you calling me –

Though years have stretched their weary length between

and on your grave the mossy grass is green.

I stand –

do you behold me listening here?


Hearing your voice through all the years between

–  I hear you calling me…
.     .     .


Thomas Moore (born Dublin, 1779, died 1852)

Editor’s note:  Moore was a great collector of Irish Traditional poems and songs,
told or sung to him by people who were illiterate.  Some of these verses he ‘tweaked’, making them rather more sophisticated than the folk originals – but the presence of Death remains, as in the earlier anonymous oral versions.


“Oh, ye Dead!”

(Irish Traditional)


Oh, ye Dead! oh, ye Dead! whom we know by the light you give

From your cold gleaming eyes, though you move like men who live,

Why leave you thus your graves,

In far off fields and waves,

Where the worm and the sea-bird only know your bed,

To haunt this spot where all

Those eyes that wept your fall,

And the hearts that wail’d you, like your own, lie dead?


It is true, it is true, we are shadows cold and wan;

And the fair and the brave whom we loved on earth are gone;

But still thus even in death,

So sweet the living breath

Of the fields and the flowers in our youth we wander’d o’er,

That ere, condemn’d, we go

To freeze ‘mid *Hecla’s snow,

We would taste it a while, and think we live once more!



* Hecla refers to Mount Hecla, the active volcano in Iceland (not Ireland).  Stories grew up around reports – possibly by mediaeval sailors – of the mystical strangeness of Hecla.

.     .     .

“The Unquiet Grave”

(Traditional – Ireland, Scotland, England)


The wind doth blow today, my Love,

A few small drops of rain

I never had but one true Love

In cold clay she is laid.


I’ll do as much for my true Love

As any young man may

I’ll sit and mourn all on her grave

A twelve-month and a day.


The twelve-month and the day being gone

A voice spoke from the deep:

Who is it sits all on my grave

And will not let me sleep?


”Tis I, ’tis I, thine own true Love

Who sits upon your grave

For I crave one kiss from your sweet lips

And that is all I seek.


You crave one kiss from my clay cold lips

But my breath is earthly strong,

Had you one kiss from my clay cold lips

Your time would not be long.


My time be long, my time be short,

Tomorrow or today,

May God in Heaven have all my soul

– But I’ll kiss your lips of clay!


See down in yonder garden green,

Love, where we used to walk

The sweetest flower that ever grew

Is withered to the stalk.

The stalk is withered dry, my Love,

And will our hearts decay

So make yourself content, my Love,

Till death calls you away…


“Quick! we have but a second!”

(Irish Traditional)


Quick! we have but a second,

Fill round the cup while you may;

For Time – the churl – hath beckon’d,

And we must away, away!

Grasp the pleasure that’s flying,

For oh, not Orpheus’ strain

Could keep sweet hours from dying,

Or charm them to life again.


Then, quick! we have but a second,

Fill round the cup while you may.

For Time – the churl – hath beckon’d,

And we must away, away!


See the glass, how it flushes,

Like some young (maiden’s) lip,

And half meets thine, and blushes

That thou shouldst delay to sip.

Shame, oh shame unto thee,

If ever thou see’st that day,

When a cup or lip shall woo thee,

And turn untouch’d away!


Then, quick! we have but a second,

Fill round, fill round while you may,

For Time – the churl – hath beckon’d,

And we must away, away!