An Spailpín Fánach on this year’s Irish exam Part I

June 7, 2017

An Spailpín Fánach on this year’s Irish exam? Part I

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Our expert An Spailpín Fánach analysis continues in Part 2

An Spailpín Fánach is one of five poems assigned for students to study in preparation for Irish Paper 2.

 

You can find the English translation of An Spailpín Fánach, plus our summary of it, below.

An Spailpín Fánach                                                The Wandering Farmhand

 

Go deo deo arís ní raghad go Caiseal,
Ag díol ná ag reic mo shláinte,
Ná ar mharagadh na saoire im shuí cois balla,
Im scaoinse ar leataoibh sráide,

Bodairí na tíre ag teacht ar a gcapaill,
Dá fhiafraí an bhfuilim hírálta,
"Ó téanam chun siúil tá an cúrsa fada"
Seo ar siúl an Spailpín Fánach.

Never again will I go to Cashel,
Selling and trading my health,
Nor to the hiring-fair, sitting by the wall,
A lounger on the roadside,

The bucks of the country coming on their horses,
Asking if I’m hired,
"Oh, let’s go, the journey is long"
Off goes the Spailpín Fánach.

Im Spailpín Fánach fágadh mise,
Ag seasadh ar mo shláinte,
Ag siúl an drúchta go moch ar maidin,
‘S ag bailiú galair ráithe,

Ní fheicfear corrán im’ láimh chun bainte,
Súiste ná feac beag rainne,
Ach bratacha na bhFranncach os cionn mo leapan,
Is píce agam chun sáite.

I was left as a Spailpín Fánach,
Depending on my health,
Walking the dew early in the morning,
Catching all the illnesses going around,

You’ll not see a hook in my hand for harvesting,
A flail or a short spade,
But the flag of France over my bed,
And the pike for stabbing.

Mó chúig céad slán chun dúiche m’athar,
‘Gus chun an oileáin ghrámhair,
Is chun buachaill na Cúlach os díobh nár mhiste,
In aimsir chasta an ghárda,

Ach anois ó táimse im chadhan bhocht dhealbh,
Imeasc na ndúichí fáin seo,
‘Sé mo chumha croí mar fuair mé an ghairm,
Bheith riamh im Spailpín Fánach.

Five hundred farewells to the land of my father,
And to the dear island,
And to the boys of Cualach because they never
feared in the troubled times on defense,

But now that I am poor, miserable and alone,
In these foreign lands,
I’m heart-broken because I got the call
to be a Spailpín Fánach.

Is ró-bhreá is cuimhin liom mo dhaoine bheith sealad,
Thiar ag droichead Gháile,
Fé bhuaí, fé chaoraí, fé laoi bheaga gheala,
Agus capaill ann le h-áireamh,

Acht b’é toil Chríost é gur cuireadh sinn asta,
‘S go ndeaghamhar i leath ár sláinte,
‘S gurbh é bhris mo chroí i ngach tír dá rachainn,
"Call here, you Spailpín Fánach."

I well remember my people were at one time,
Over at the bridge at Gáil,
With cattle, with sheep, with little white calves,
And plenty of horses,

But it was the will of God that we were evicted,
And we were left with only our health,
And what broke my heart everywhere I went,
"Call here, you Spailpín Fánach."

The life of an itinerant farm worker in Ireland up into the 20th century was extremely harsh. Hard physical labour, low wages and maltreatment by landowners had to be endured by these men and women. Even the word ‘Spailpín’ came to mean a person of low or poor character. This is a lament of a man who had to become a Spailpín because of his family’s eviction. To avoid this terrible life, he joined the French army to fight overseas.

Looking for more? Check out our An Spailpín Fánach revision guide by an Irish teacher!

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