Bith’s Boat and Others

I’ve been playing around with writing some poems (in English) using traditional Gaelic forms/meters. Here are a few including a humorous rain prayer. Far from perfect but hopefully amusing. Robin Skelton’s Samhain and Other Poems in Irish Metres of the Eighth to the Sixteenth Centuries is a great source for learning about these meters.

First a cosmological one.

Bith’s Boat: A Breccbairdne

from the beginning

the waters lapping

quick the craft gliding:

the dream is sighted.

always waters moving

the dark sea pierced alight,

above, rowers sitting,

quick oars pulling aright

toward unknown shorelines.

the unmade lands wait called

from deep vision’s guiding,

they drift through seaweed called.

In the eyes of boatsmen

a shore yet emerging,

shuttled across ocean

forward from the beginning….

Breicbairdne is 5 syllables in first stanza, then 6 syllables, with 2 syllable end words (yeah, I cheated a bit).


Rannaigecht of the Shades

The cobwebs guard these old doors,

ghosted footsteps sound these boards,

spiders furrow shafts alight,

ligatures of sorrow moored

long ago, the faintest weave

of past lives shuddering give

motion to whirring ethers,

my breath stirring their wills brave.

Whispering now their dark redes

awakened by my spilt blood,

these wights, wronged in hoary ages

tell me tales before the flood.

April 4, 2015

In rannaigecht the lines have 7 syllables and end in monosyllabic words,

with consonance in end words of lines 1, 2 and 4.


An Indo-European Rain Hymn: A Casbairdne

Cow-eyed goddess, beautiful,

held stalled in cavernous

hall, She shining, delightful,

and milk full, by sonorous

dragon, greedy, unyielding.

Hid by clinging thicketed

boscage, the lair concealing

rain. Dare young hero arrayed

in valor burst unannounced

and pounce on winged brazened

malice and pierce, bellicose?

The wyrm now toast, unloosened

its grip, its reign defeated

in death, its mane deflated:

Milk flies from the cavity

and waters rise, boisterous!

A casbairdne has 7 syllables per line, which end in 3 syllable words. End words of 1 and 3 have internal rhymes in lines 2 and 4.