The Song of Amergin

The “Song of Amergin” and its origins remain mysteries for the ages. The ancient poem, perhaps the oldest extant poem to originate from the British Isles, or perhaps not, was written by an unknown poet at an unknown time at an uncertain location. The unlikely date 1268 BC was furnished by Robert Graves, who translated the “Song of Amergin” in his influential book The White Goddess (1948). Graves remarked that “English poetic education should, really, begin not with Canterbury Tales, not with the Odyssey, not even with Genesis, but with the Song of Amergin.” Recounted in the Leabhar Gabhála (The Book of Invasions), the poem has been described as an invocation, as a mystical chant, as an affirmation of unity, as a creation incantation, and as the first spoken Irish poem. A sort of magical affirmation to give one power over one’s enemies.

I am Wind on Sea,
I am Ocean-wave,
I am Roar of Sea,
I am Stag of Seven Tines,
I am a Hawk on a Cliff,

Who knows the ages of the moon, who, if not I.
Who has been to where the sun sleeps, who, if not I
Who touches the stars and knows their song?

I am shining tear of the Sun,
I am Fairest among Herbs,
I am Boar for Boldness,
I am Salmon in Pool,
I am a Lake on a Plain,

Who knows the ages of the moon, who, if not I.
Who has been to where the sun sleeps, who, if not I
Who touches the stars and knows their song?

I am leveller of mountains
I am ancient craft
I am victor and fallen
I am Awen that fires your mind
I am dew in the sunlight.
I am fairest of flowers.
I am mightiest of trees
I am meaning of the Earth Song.

Who knows the ages of the moon, who, if not I.
Who has been to where the sun sleeps, who, if not I
Who touches the stars and knows their song?

 

The original poem in Irish:

Am gaeth i m-muir,
Am tond trethan,
Am fuaim mara,

Am dam secht ndirend, [dam = ox, deer, stag?]
Am séig i n-aill, [séig = hawk, eagle or vulture?]

Am dér gréne,
Am cain lubai,
Am torc ar gail,
Am he i l-lind,
Am loch i m-maig,
Am brí a ndai,
Am bri danae,
Am bri i fodb fras feochtu,
Am dé delbas do chind codnu,

Coiche nod gleith clochur slébe?
Cia on co tagair aesa éscai?
Cia du i l-laig fuiniud gréne?

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