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Metadata for text 177
No. words in text146796
Title An Lasair, Anthology of 18th Century Gaelic Verse
Author N/A (Edited work)
Editor Black, Ronald
Date Of Edition 2001
Date Of Language 18th c.
Publisher Birlinn
Place Published Edinburgh
Volume N/A
Location National, academic, and local libraries
Geographical Origins Various
Register Literature, Verse
Alternative Author Name N/A
Manuscript Or Edition Ed.
Size And Condition 21.5cm x 14cm
Short Title An Lasair
Reference Details Academic and public libraries
Number Of Pages xlii, 533
Gaelic Text By N/A
Illustrator N/A
Social Context This volume is an anthology of Gaelic poetry from the eighteenth century, arranged in a roughly chronological order. The editor has set out ‘to present a varied selection of poems on different topics … to convey the kaleidoscope of eighteenth-century life’ (p. [ix]); he has supplied a fuller than usual selection of satirical poems, on the grounds that these had been unduly neglected by most earlier anthologists (ibid.). Ronald Black has also edited other anthologies and collections of poetry, including An Tuil : Anthology of 20th Century Scottish Gaelic Verse, published in 1999; Smuaintean fo Éiseabhal, the poetry of Dòmhnall Aonghais Bhàin, published in 2000 (Text 3); and Eilein na h-Òige : the Poems of Fr. Allan McDonald, published in 2002 (Text 73).
Contents This volume opens with a bilingual Clàr-Innse/Contents (p. v-vii), which lists the 63 poems in this volume by title in the order that they appear in the book. This is followed by the editor’s Preface (p. ix) and a list of Abbreviations (p. x).

There follows a general Introduction (pp. xi-xlii) to the poetry of the eighteenth century and to the literary criticism that it has received in the past. Noteworthy within this is the editor’s development of John MacInnes’s idea of a panegyric code underlying much of Gaelic poetry (set out in MacInnes 1978), which Black sees as a rhetorical system consisting of sets of motival images.

An Lasair (pp. 1-361) contains 63 poems with translations. The translations are by the editor, and Gaelic and English are given on facing pages. This is followed (p. 362) by a list of eighteen important collections of Gaelic poetry, the earliest being the Eigg Collection (1776) and the latest the Menzies Collection (1870).

A copious set of notes (pp. 363-525) provides much information on the poets, the subject-matter of the poems and the meaning of specific words and passages. This is followed by The Panegyric Code (p. 525-27), containing a classified list of the motifs which embody the panegyric code in Gaelic poetry, and a Glossarial Index (pp. 528-33), listing unusual Gaelic words and meanings, with page references to their occurrence within the texts.
Sources The editor makes the following statement about sources: ‘The texts that follow are not intended to be definitive, as I have not consulted every possible source for every poem’ (p. 1). The editor’s source for each poem is given in the Notes. The bibliographical details for these sources are given in the list entitled ‘Collections’ (p. 362).
Language This volume contains a wide range of poetry from the whole of the eighteenth century, including poems by well-known authors such as Sìleas na Ceapaich (two poems), Iain Ruadh Stiùbhart (three poems), Mac Mhaighstir Alastair (four poems), Rob Donn (three poems), Donnchadh Bàn (two poems), and Uilleam Ross (two poems), and some by less well-known authors, including Eachann MacLeòid, Anna Chaimbeul, Seòras MacCoinnich, and Donnchadh MacAoidh, each of whom is represented by one poem. There are also a number of anonymous poems. The poems are diverse in subject-matter and were composed in a variety of metrical forms and types. There are a large number of praise poems (both eulogy and elegy) and poems relating to contemporary issues, e.g. to the Jacobite cause. There are a number of satires and poems of a satirical nature, a handful of nature poems and religious poems, some love poems, and some light-hearted poems that are more difficult to categorise but which shed light on social practices of the time.

The praise poems include Òran do dh’Ailean Dearg by Niall MacMhuirich (pp. 50-55), Òran do Raghnall Mac Mhic Ailein by Iain Dubh mac Iain mhic Ailein (pp. 72-77), Sìleas na Ceapaich’s Alastair à Gleanna Garadh (pp. 100-05), and Lachlann Mac a’ Phearsain’s Cumha do Thighearna Chluainidh (pp. 258-63), which contains the following lines: ‘Gum b’ fhearail, smiorail, anamant’ e, \ Bu lasair ’fhearg nuair dhùisgeadh i, \ Bu bheò ’na fheòil ’s ’na mheanmna e, \ Bu bhealach far am brùchdadh e; \ Mar thuinn ri carraig fhairgeach e, \ Mar fhaoilleach is stoirm ga dùblachadh, \ Mar thein’ am fraoch nan garbhlaichean \ ’S mar easaibh gharbh an ùr-uisge’ (p. 260).

There are a number of love songs in this volume, including Chunnaic Mi ’n t-Òg Uasal (pp. 10-13), an excerpt from Moladh Mòraig by Mac Mhaighstir Alastair (pp. 126-33), Is Trom Leam an Àirigh by Rob Donn (pp. 142-45), Ailein Duinn by Anna Chaimbeul (pp. 278-81), and An t-Òran Eile by Uilleam Ros (pp. 316-19). A number of these poems contain echoes of the panegyric code. Many of them are polished and eloquent. In Tha mo Chridhe mar Chuaintean by Sgàire MacAmhlaigh (pp. 4-9), the following lines occur: ‘Càit an do ghineadh fo fhlathas \ Na dh’fhiosraich riamh mathas na mnà \ Nach tug dùrachd dhi diamhair \ Agus ùmhlachd dhi ’m fianaisibh chàich? \ Mar ghréin misge nan reultan \ Gheug sholais thar cheud fhuair bàrr — \ Gur e gathan na gréine sa \ Shrac mo chridhe ’s a reub e gu bàs’ (p. 4).

A number of the poems deal with, or touch on, contemporary issues. Examples include Gort am Bràigh Athaill (pp. 203), Clann Chatain an t-Sròil (pp. 164-73), An t-Éideadh Gàidhealach (pp. 186-91), Cumha do Thighearna Chluainidh (pp. 258-63) and Òran do na Fògarraich by John MacCodrum (pp. 286-93). Some of these, including Òran nam Fineachan by Iain Dubh mac Iain mhic Ailein (pp. 38-47), contain elements of praise. Some are metaphorical, such as An Taisbean by Eachann MacLeòid (pp. 192-201), while others are more direct in their language, e.g.: Blàr na h-Òlaind by Alastair MacFhionghain (pp. 354-61). This poem contains the following matter-of-fact account: ‘Bhrùchd na naimhdean len trom làdach \ Air muin chàich a’ bàrcadh teine. \ Nuair fhuair Sasannaich droch càradh \ Phill iad on àraich ’nar coinne. \ Ghlaodh Eabarcrombaidh ri chuid àrmann: \ “Greasaibh na Gàidhil mu’n coinne \ ’S tionnda’idh iad an ruaig mar b’ àbhaist, \ An dream àrdanach neo-fhoilleil.”’ (p. 356).

This volume contains a few poems of a religious nature, namely Laoidh MhicEalair by Dàibhidh MacEalair (pp. 134-43), An Teàrnadh Mìorbhaileach (pp. 150-61), Dùghall Bochanan’s Am Bruadar (pp. 246-53), and Beachd Gràis air an t-Saoghal by Bean Torra Dhamh (pp. 308-17). There are also a number of nature poems, most notably an extract from Moladh Beinn Dòbhrain by Donnchadh Bàn (pp. 266-79) and An t-Earrach by Eóghann MacLachlainn (pp. 340-51). Uilleam Ros’s Moladh Gheàrrloch (pp. 304-09), a song in praise of place might also be included among nature poems: ‘Beir mo shoraidh thìr a’ mhonaidh \ ’S nam beann corrach àrda, \ Frìth nan gaisgeach ’s nan sonn gasta, \ Tìr Chlann Eachainn Gheàrrloch; \ Gur uallach eangach an damh breangach \ Suas troimh ghleannan fàsaich, \ Bidh cuach sa bhadan seinn a leadain \ Moch sa mhadainn Mhàighe’ (p. 304). Two are about ships and sailing: Moladh na Luinge by Coinneach MacCoinnich (pp. 298-303) and Birlinn Chlann Raghnaill by Mac Mhaighstir Alastair (pp. 202-17).

There are a good number of satirical poems in this volume, some of which are quite graphic in their language. Examples include An Litir gun Chéir Oirr’ by Mac Mhaighstir Alastair (pp. 162-65), Spìocairean Ruspainn by Rob Donn (pp. 234-38), Aoir nan Tàilleirean by John MacCodrum (pp. 254-59), and Òran don Ollamh MacIain by Seumas Mac an t-Saoir (pp. 292-99). All four poems from An Leobhar Liath are reprinted in this volume. Their satire is of a sexual nature: An Oba Nodha by Seòras MacCoinnich (pp. 18-21), Dòmhnallan Dubh (pp. 78-81), An Seudagan (pp. 264-67) and the anonymous Eachann an Slaoightear (pp. 352-53). Mac Mhaighstir Alastair’s Acarsaid nan Con ’s nan Gillean (pp. 190-93) is a searing satire against the sexual mores of an unknown woman. It begins: ‘Siud i ’chulaidh, ’s cha b’i ’n ulaidh, \ Gu bhith cullainn garbh orra — \ Cullainn a’ bhuilg bhuidhe bhoicinn, \ Leag am bod a’ mhealg aiste! \\ Mìle marbhphaisg air an trustair, \ Guitear nam ball feardha, \ An t-ospadal an tric na bhàsaich \ Màgan de bhrill mheardha’ (p. 190).

There are a few light-hearted poems that are more difficult to categorise, but which shed light on social practices of the time. These include Sgian Dubh an Sprogain Chaim (pp. 12-19) and Òran do Chaora by Donnchadh Bàn (pp. 222-33), which includes a reference to the custom of thigging (faoighe): ‘Cia leis a nìtear dhomh còta \ O nach beò a’ chaora cheannfhionn? \\ H-uile bean a th’ anns an dùthaich \ Tha mi ’n dùil an dùrachd mhath dhomh. \\ ’S théid mi dh’iarraidh na faoigh’-chlòimhe \ Air mnathan còire an fhearainn’ (p. 226).
Orthography The orthography of this volume has been standardised. The editor explains (p. 1) that he follows the Gaelic Orthographic Conventions (GOC) ‘with variations’. These variations include the use of apostrophes with ’nam, ’nad, etc., and of the copula forms s, se and sann. Both grave and acute accents are used. Black justifies these variations from GOC on the grounds that they ‘show semantic or phonological distinctions’. Where no such distinctions are at stake, ‘I adhere strictly to GOC recommendations’.
Edition This is the first edition of the present volume. Since most of the poems published in this volume are taken from earlier printed collections, editors should in most cases excerpt from earlier sources rather than the present volume. The source drawn on for each poem is given in Notes on the Poems (pp. 363-525). Alternatively, where an author represented in this volume has been edited in a modern scholarly edition which is itself included in the present corpus of texts, this edition should be used for excerpting, as in the case of John MacCodrum (Text 165).
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