I love our Irish language and often find myself reciting some of the beautiful poetry written in our native tongue as springtime nears.

This month I always think of the Irish poet Antoine Ó Raifteirí. His Irish language poem "Cill Aodáin" recounts as he set off for his native Mayo at the beginning of spring every year: 

“Anois teacht an earraigh, beidh 'n lá dul chun síneadh. 'S tar éis na Féil' Bríde, ardóidh mé mo sheol. Ó chuir mé 'mo cheann é ní stopfaidh mé choíche go seasfaidh mé síos i lár Chontae Mhaigh Eo."

That translates to:

Now coming of the Spring
the day will be lengthening,
and after St. Bridget's Day
I shall raise my sail.

Since I put it into my head
I shall never stay put
until I shall stand down
in the center of County Mayo.

And the place he is heading to is his hometown of Kiltimagh (Cill Aodáin). I love what he says about this - “Is dá mbéinnse i mo sheasamh i gceartlár mo dhaoine d'imeodh an aois díom is bheinn arís óg.”

When he is with his own people he will be young again, he tells us using the first person, modh cionníolach.

As springtime nears, I think of the Irish words for the flowers blooming in my garden now, plúiríní sneachta agus lus an chromchinn - snowdrops and daffodils.

The many wise seanfhocail we learnt frequently come to mind, ‘Ní thagann ciall roimh aois,’ how true! Wisdom does not come before age. (We should be super wise now!!)

Giorraíonn beirt bóthar.’ (Two people shorten a road.)

This one often comes to mind. My older sister lives in Laois. I drive there regularly and the journey takes exactly an hour. I find it long when I’m alone. However, if my younger sister comes with me it seems to take only a few minutes, as we chat nonstop the whole way.

Is fearr an tsláinte ná na táinte.’ (Health is better than a herd of cattle.)

We would usually say that ‘health is better than wealth.’ The older we get the truer this saying becomes!

An rud is annamh is iontach.’ (That which is rare is wonderful.)

I think of this one always when I am on a strict diet. I allow myself one glass of wine at the weekend and one biscuit. How delicious both taste then!

Bíonn blas ar an mbeagán,’ states the same thing.

Mól an óige agus tiocfaidh sí.’(Praise the young and they will do well)

A saying close to my heart. How wrong people were in the past to consider that praise would give a child ‘a swelled head.’ “You think you’re great,’ was an insult long ago. 

Other well-known sean-fochail are:

Nil aon tinteán mar do thinteán féin.’ (There’s no hearth like your own hearth.)

Fileann an feall ar an bhfeallaire." (Treachery returns to the traitor.)

Is gaire cabhair Dé ná an doras." (God’s help is nearer than the door.)

"Tus mait, leath na hoibre." (A good beginning, half the work.)

Bíonn adharca fada ar na ba thar lear.’ (The cows overseas have long horns.)

This one is also very true indeed!

Ní neart go cur le chéile.’ (There is no strength until there is cooperation.)

Ní hé lá na gaoithe lá na scolb.’ (The windy day is not the day for the scollops, that is the day for thatching the roof.)  

An té nach bhfuil láidir, caithfidh se bheith sé bheith glic.’ (He who is not strong needs to be clever.)

All very wise words! Take heed.

Do you have a favorite piece of Irish language poetry or literature? Share in the comments.

Books facebook
IrishCentral Book Club

Looking for Irish book recommendations or to meet with others who share your love for Irish literature? Join IrishCentral’s Book Club on Facebook and enjoy our book-loving community.