March 15th the Ides of March and that fateful day for one Julius Caesar in the year 44 BC. After the death of Caesar his adopted nephew, Octavian, rose to power in Rome and became the first Emperor. The senate awarded him the title “Augustus” in 27 BC, meaning “The illustrious one”.
In 1852 on Roxborough Estate in Galway a young girl was born to to Frances Persse and was named Isabella Augusta Persse. She grew up and married Sir William Henry Gregory and became Lady Gregory. She Co-founded and Managed the Abbey Theatre, Ireland’s National Theatre with William Butler Yeats, Edward Martyn, John Millington Synge etc.
Lady Gregory was a prolific playwright but her greatest legacy to Ireland was as a folklorist. She learned the Irish language and established a school on her estate. Then she collected and published a huge body of folk material. She was the Irish version of the Brothers Grimm.
Here is one of her translations, a sinful, sexual and blasphemous piece of beauty:
Donal Óg; Anonymous 8th Century Irish poem.
Translation by Isabella Augusta (Lady Gregory)
It is late last night the dog was speaking of you;
the snipe was speaking of you in her deep marsh.
It is you are the lonely bird through the woods;
and that you may be without a mate until you find me.
You promised me, and you said a lie to me,
that you would be before me where the sheep are flocked;
I gave a whistle and three hundred cries to you,
and I found nothing there but a bleating lamb.
You promised me a thing that was hard for you,
a ship of gold under a silver mast;
twelve towns with a market in all of them,
and a fine white court by the side of the sea.
You promised me a thing that is not possible,
that you would give me gloves of the skin of a fish;
that you would give me shoes of the skin of a bird;
and a suit of the dearest silk in Ireland.
When I go by myself to the Well of Loneliness,
I sit down and I go through my trouble;
when I see the world and do not see my boy,
he that has an amber shade in his hair.
It was on that Sunday I gave my love to you;
the Sunday that is last before Easter Sunday.
And myself on my knees reading the Passion;
and my two eyes giving love to you for ever.
My mother said to me not to be talking with you today,
or tomorrow, or on the Sunday;
it was a bad time she took for telling me that;
it was shutting the door after the house was robbed.
My heart is as black as the blackness of the sloe,
or as the black coal that is on the smith’s forge;
or as the sole of a shoe left in white halls;
it was you that put that darkness over my life.
You have taken the east from me; you have taken the west from me;
you have taken what is before me and what is behind me;
you have taken the moon, you have taken the sun from me;
and my fear is great that you have taken God from me!