29 August 2013

Poetry Thursday - Storm at Sea by Rumann

"Storm at Sea" by JMW Turner (via)
Simon Winchester's book Atlantic mentions the Gaelic poet Rumann, son of Colman, "who is said to have enjoyed a standing among the Irish equal to that of Virgil to the Romans or Homer to the Greeks" and whose best-known short poem, "Storm at Sea", was written in about 700. He gives one of its eight stanzas, translated in the 1950s by Frank O'Connor -

When the wind is from the west
All the waves that cannot rest
To the east must thunder on
Where the bright tree of the sun
Is rooted in the ocean's breast.

I'd love to read the entire poem, but it's not the easiest thing to track down on the internet; perhaps the Poetry Library has a copy somewhere. Anpthine mor a Maig Lir (or Anbthine mor a muig Lir) may be the original - any Gaelic scholars out there who can tell me whether it is?

Here's a nice little story about Rumann -

"The mediaeval poet Rumann mac Colmain came to the Vikings of Dublin seeking aid for his people, who were dying of famine. The Vikings wished him to compose a poem in praise of their ships, and he did this in "swaying" metre and with sounds of the sea. He then demanded in payment "a coin from every bad foreigner, and two coins from every good one!" Every man of the Vikings gave two coins, and so Rumann had enough money to save his people form hunger."

This site gives the same story (and another), but doesn't add the dramatic detail of the famine. Rumann died in 747 or 748.

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