The Sea Tangle, or, The Sisters


Two sisters sit out on a reef, reflecting on their childhood. They love the same man, yet he has chosen the younger sister for his bride. The jealous older sister lulls the younger sister to sleep with a song, braiding her hair with the seaweed that grows on the rock so that she is trapped as the tide comes in.

The jealous sister eventually marries her widowed brother-in-law. Meanwhile, a bard finds some bones on the shore and turns them into a harp. As he plays at their wedding feast, the bones of the drowned sister cry out through the harp and tell her story. This song is what I imagine the wedding guests might have heard.

Chagarain gaoil, ho rao leó,
Hao leoiro ho rao leó.

‘S fhada bh’uam a chi mi’n ceo,
Cha ‘n‘eil deo an caol no’n cuan.

Chagarain gaoil, ho rao leó,
Hao leoiro ho rao leó.

Uvil, uvil!*
Nach truagh leat mi,
Bhean ud thall an cois na tràghad?

‘S i bhean iadaich,
Haori horó,
Rinn mo thàladh,
Hùg ó,
‘Sa dh’fhàg mise,
Haori horó,
An so ‘gam bhàthadh,
Hùg ó,

‘S fuar mo leaba,
Hùg ó,
Fuar-fhliuch sleamhain,
Hùg ó,
Fliuch le m’ dheuraibh,
Haori horó,
‘Sfliuch le sàile.
Hùg ó.

Beannachd màthar,
Beannachd dhìlinn,
Beannachd Iosa
Air mo phaisdean.

Mo leanabh beag,
Gaol mo mhànrain,
Iarraidh tu nochd
Cioch do mhàthar,
Ach ma dh’iarras ’s diomhain dà sin,
Gu’m bi iad luma-lan de’n t’-sàile.
Uvil, uvil!

A ballad to my love, ho rao leó,
Singing ho rao leó.

Long ago and far away, your smoky guile
No longer conceals ghost nor ocean.

A ballad to my love, ho rao leó,
Singing ho rao leó.

Uvil, uvil!
Do you not care for me at all,
Woman yonder, along the beach?

She is a jealous woman,
Haori horó,
She lured me here,
Hùg ó,
And left me,
Haori horó,
Here to drown,
Hùg ó,

Cold my bed,
Hùg ó,
Cold, wet, and slippery,
Hùg ó,
Wet with my weeping,
Haori horó,
And wet with seawater.
Hùg ó.

Blessings of a mother,
Blessings of a life cut short,
Blessings of Jesus
Be upon my babies.

My little child,
My lion, my song,
If you ask tonight
For the breasts of your mother,
Ah, your request shall be in vain,
For they will be bursting full of the sea.
Uvil, uvil!

*the cry of a seagull

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