Mná na hÉireann

Mná na hÉireann

Hi all,

for a number of reasons I got interested in the poem Mná na hÉireann attributed to Ulster poet Peadar Ó Doirnín (1704-1796) and set to an air by Seán Ó Riada that I love playing on my flute in the key of D dorian/C major.

The verses are available here and there on the internet (e.g, https://thesession.org/tunes/3890, https://tunearch.org/wiki/Annotation:Mn%C3%A1_na_h%C3%89ireann, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mn%C3%A1_na_h%C3%89ireann) together with a few translations in English, but I must confess that I struggle to figure out what the poem actually is about and if the overall feeling of the text is serious or tragicomic.

Wikipedia hints at a political meaning and places this song into a genre of songs where Ireland is represented by a woman demanding Irishmen to defend her, or pondering why they fail to.

Seosaimhín Ní Bheaglaoich, accompanied by Steve Cooney, sings a lovely version here https://www.rte.ie/archives/2020/1208/1183105-mna-na-heireann/ and then adds: "In it is expressed the total confusion of a young man who has the admiration of all the women of Ireland and he can’t cope - an fear bocht!".

Below is the full poem from Wikipedia - though only the first, second and last verses are usually sang.

Tá bean in Éirinn a phronnfadh séad domh is mo sháith le n-ól
Is tá bean in Éirinn is ba bhinne léithe mo ráfla ceoil
Ná seinm théad; atá bean in éirinn is níorbh fhearr léi beo
Mise ag léimnigh nó leagtha i gcré is mo thárr faoi fhód

Tá bean in Éirinn a bheadh ag éad liom mur’ bhfaighfinn ach póg
Ó bhean ar aonach, nach ait an scéala, is mo dháimh féin leo;
Tá bean ab fhearr liom nó cath is céad dhíobh nach bhfagham go deo
Is tá cailín spéiriúil ag fear gan Bhéarla, dubhghránna cróin.

Tá bean i Laighnibh is nios mhiste léithe bheith límh liom ar bord,
Is tá bean i bhFearnmhaigh a ghéabhadh bhéarsai is is sárbhinne glór,
Bhí bean ar thaobh cnoic i gCarraig Éamoinn a níodh gáire ag ól
Is tráth bhí ina maighdin ní mise d’éignigh dá chois ó chomhar.

Tá bean a leafgfadh, nífead is d’fhuaifeadh cáimric is sról,
Is tá bean a dhéanfadh de dh’olainn gréas is thairnfeadh an bhró
Tá bean is b’fhearr leí ag cruinniú déirce nó cráite re cró
Is tá bean ‘na ndéidh uile a luífeadh lé fear is a máthair faoi fhód

Tá bean a déarnadh an iomad tréanais is grá Dia mór,
Is tá bean nach mbéarfadh a mionna ar aon mhodh is nach n-ardódh glór;
Ach thaisbeáuin saorbhean a ghlacfadh lé fear go cráifeach cóir
Nach mairfeadh a ghléas is nach mbainfeadh léithe i gcás ar domhan.

Tá bean a déarfadh dá siulfainn léi go bhfaighinn an t-ór,
Is tá bean ‘na léine is fearr a méin ná táinte bó
Le bean a bhuairfeadh Baile an Mhaoir is clár Thír Eoghain,
Is ní fheicim leigheas ar mo ghalar féin ach scaird a dh’ól

Any comment, especially from Irish-speaking people, would be much appreciated.

Thanks a lot
Sergio

Re: Mná na hÉireann

I’ve always played it in A dorian.

It’s such an odd tune, how the final cadence resolves to G.

Re: Mná na hÉireann

Hi Richard, A dorian/G indeed is also the key in which the Chieftains recorded it as a slow air, which was made popular by Kubrick’s movie Barry Lyndon. However, the song has been recorded in different keys by several singers.

I like playing it in D Dorian/C as I like the warmth of the bottom octave and the "smoky" quality of the cross fingered C natural in the first phrase. It is also a good exercise for strengthening the tone of my low C natural on my new eight-key flute.

As to the key(s), I tend to think it either 1) entirely in C major, though starting on the ii7 chord and oscillating between ii7 and V chord in the first part of the tune, and then touching the IV and the I (where it resolves) throughout the tune; or 2) first part in D Dorian, second part in C major.

There was a discussion on a similar case, recently: Star Above the Garter in G resolving to D, https://thesession.org/discussions/45380 (where we had different points of view, though!).

Re: Mná na hÉireann

Gmajor but with a non-I chord start viz: ii.

Re: Mná na hÉireann

What is "Surprise?" referring to, Kenny.
I don’t want to assume anything.

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Re: Mná na hÉireann

A surprise to me that Kate Bush should have recorded it, and in Irish Gaelic too. And with a set of Uilleann pipes in the final pic, tho’ didn’t hear them on the track. Nicely done. Did you actually watch the video, AB? Oops, now I’ve given the game away?

Re: Mná na hÉireann

And the track from RTE posted by Sergio is sublime!

Re: Mná na hÉireann

Thanks AB: sorry for doubting you. I’m the ignorant one then, as I didn’t know about Kate Bush doing Irish Gaelic.

Re: Mná na hÉireann

No problem, Trish. Actually your question is fair so I’m not intending to keep you from asking.
I looked up some more information & found this recently on RTÉ Radio 1.
"Working With Kate Bush"
BROADCAST • 09:00 • 25th Aug 2020

"Donal Lunny joined Ryan for a chat about recording the 1996 compilation album "Common Ground"
which featured Kate Bush singing on one of the tracks "Mna na hEireann" "
https://www.rte.ie/radio/radioplayer/html5/#/radio1/21824187

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