This Irish poem “Cúl an Tí” comes in at number 55 on my list of top 100 Irish poems.
It was part of the Irish syllabus in Irish schools for many years. The poem was translated into English by Tony Dermody.
I have included the Irish version first and the English translation underneath.
Cúl an Tí – Irish Version
Tá Tír na nÓg ar chúl an tí,
Tír álainn trína chéile,
Lucht cheithre chos ag súil na slí,
Gan bróga orthu ná léine,
Gan Béarla acu ná Gaeilge.
Ach fásann clóca ar gach droím
Sa tír seo trína chéile,
Is labhartar teanga ar chúl a’ tí
Nár thuig aon fhear ach Aesop,
Is tá sé siúd sa chré anois.
Tá cearca ann is ál sicín,
Is lacha righin mhothaolach,
Is gadhar mór dubh mar namhaid sa tír
Ag drannadh le gach éinne,
Is cat ag crú na gréine.
Sa chúinne thiar tá banc dramhaíl,
Is iontaisi an tsaoil ann,
Coinnleoir, búclaí, seanhata tuí,
Is trúmpa balbh néata,
Is citeal bán mar ghé ann.
Is ann a thagann tincéirí
Go naofa, trína chéile,
Tá gaol acu le cúl a’ tí,
Is bíd ag iarraidh déirce
Ar chúl gach tí in Éirinn.
Ba mhaith liom bheith ar chúl a’ tí
Sa doircheacht go déanach
Go bhfeicinn ann ar cuairt gealaí
An t-ollaimhín sin Aesop
Is é in phúca léannta.
Cúl an Tí(The Back of the House) – English Version
At the back of the house is a land of youth,
A jumbled beautiful space among
The farmyard beasts unclothed, unshod,
Nor knowing the Irish or English tongue,
Walking the way.
Yet each one grows an ample cloak,
Where chaos is the heart of rule,
And in that land the language spoke
Was taught of old in Aesop’s school,
Long passed away.
Some hens are here, a chicken clutch,
A simple duck, though fixed of mind,
A big black dog with wicked looks
Barking loud like a good watch-hound,
A cat sun-baking;
There, a heap of bric-a-brac,
The cast-off treasure stuff of life,
A candlestick, buckles, an old straw hat,
A bugle quiet, and a kettle white
Like a goose waking.
Here the tinkers come uncouth,
Blessing generously all they see,
Feeling at home in the land of youth,
Seeking cast-off things for free,
All over Ireland.
I would go back in the dead of night,
The treasure gilded in the moonbeams’ reach,
Perhaps to see in the eerie light
The child-wise Aesop’s phantom teach
His ghostly learning.
I hope you enjoyed this poem Cul an Ti.
You can learn more about Seán Ó Ríordáin below:
Seán Pádraig Ó Ríordáin (3 December 1916 – 21 February 1977) was born in Baile Mhúirne, County Cork.
English was his first language. His mother spoke English; his father spoke Irish and English. His father’s mother, a native Irish speaker, lived next door. His next-door neighbour on the other side also spoke Irish. It wasn’t long before Ó Ríordáin gained some knowledge of Irish.
Ó Ríordáin published four books: Eireaball Spideoige [A Robin’s Tail] (Sáirséal Ó Marcaigh 1952, 1986), Brosna [Kindling] (Sáirséal agus Dill 1964), Línte Liombó [Limbo Lines] (Sáirséal agus Dill 1971), and the posthumous Tar éis mo Bháis [After my Death] (Sáirséal agus Dill, 1978)
As well as writing poetry, he wrote a column in The Irish Times during the latter years of his life in which he spoke vehemently about national affairs.
Ó Ríordáin’s poems have enjoyed constant popularity, due in part to the exposure gained by the inclusion of his work in the standard Irish curriculum.