Augusta Gregory (1852-1932) was and remains one of the most influential figures in the history of Irish literature. Playwright, essayist and translator, she was also one of the founders of the Abbey theatre. Amongst her translations is The Kiltartan Poetry Book, a selection of poems rendered into her synthetic ‘Kiltartanese’ dialect, an idiom which can be somewhat tiresome over the longer stretches of her mythological books, but which adds considerably to her versions of the poems, which read as prose-poetry in their own right.
Her version of the 17th century song ‘Donal Óg’ (‘The Grief of a Girl’s Heart’) is well known from its inclusion in John Heuston’s film adaptation of Joyce’s The Dead, so I have opted for the less well-known ‘Oisin’s Vision’.
I SAW the household of Finn; it was not the household of a soft race;
I had a vision of that man yesterday.
I saw the household of the High King, he with the brown sweet-voiced son;
I never saw a better man.
I saw the household of Finn; no one saw it as I saw it;
I saw Finn with the sword, Mac an Luin. Och! it was sorrowful to see it.
I cannot tell out every harm that is on my head;
free us from our trouble for ever; I have seen the household of Finn.