translated from Early Modern Irish by Seamus Heaney
You who opt for English ways
And crop your curls, your crowning glory,
You, my handsome specimen,
Are no true son of Donncha’s.
If you were, you would not switch
To modes in favour with the English;
You, the flower of Fódla’s land,
Would never end up barbered.
A full head of long, fair hair
Is not for you; it is your brother
Who scorns the foreigners’ close cut.
The pair of you are opposites.
Eoghan Bán won’t ape their ways,
Eoghan beloved of noble ladies
Is enemy to English fads
And lives beyond the pale of fashion.
Eoghan Bán is not like you.
Breeches aren’t a thing he values.
A clout will do him for a cloak.
Leggings he won’t wear, nor greatcoat.
He hates the thought of jewelled spurs
Flashing on his feet and footwear,
And stockings of the English sort,
And being all prinked up and whiskered.
He’s Donncha’s true son, for sure.
He won’t be seen with a rapier
Angled like an awl, out arseways,
As he swanks it to the meeting place.
Sashes worked with threads of gold
And high stiff collars out of Holland
Are not for him, nor satin scarves
That sweep the ground, nor gold rings even.
He has no conceit in feather beds,
Would rather stretch himself on rushes,
Dwell in a bothy than a bawn,
And make the branch his battlement.
Horsemen in the mouth of a glen,
A savage dash, kernes skirmishing –
This man is in his element
Taking on the foreigner.
But you are not like Eoghan Bán.
You’re a laughing stock on stepping stones
With your dainty foot: a sad disgrace,
You who opt for English ways.
Excerpted from The Translations of Seamus Heaney by Seamus Heaney and edited by Marco Sonzogni. Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Copyright © 2022 by The Estate of Seamus Heaney. Introduction and editorial material copyright © 2022. All rights reserved.