Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Thursday, September 19, 2002


Gerald Serafin put me up on the St. Blog's list! Callooh, callay! Now, as long as I don't think of the fast company I'm in, I won't feel depressed....

An Irish Poem to St. Catherine of Alexandria

Okay, okay, so she's not technically a saint anymore. But she's still an important symbol of the educated woman, etc. And it's a good poem. Here's the original and my translation, but I'll just put the translation up on my blog. (Sorry it's not prettier and doesn't rhyme like the original.) Caitir-Fhiona is pronounced more like "Katherina", what with the "fh" being silent and all.

Star of the world, Catherine,
helper of the Greeks,
Helping the chosen people, saving each,*
there at their dying.

Catherine, honored daughter,
branch of virtue,
a face like fresh appleblossom,
green brow.*

A green brow on the Greek king's daughter
not captured by a suitor --
in the shade of her cheeks is brightness
and a berry's color.

Berry's color and sun's garland*
in crimson cheeks --
many a knee bending from the source*
in tufted locks.

In the shape of her curved eyes, Catherine
is not surpassed by Greek women.
Curved eyes do not look at a young man --
bright-toothed dark mouth.

Face like an apple, breast like a swan,
a virgin not violated.
Feather-down is not brighter than her shining white hand--
green eyes, bright cheeks.

The virgin with her cheeks will not be found
without a suitor
till you stretch your cloak over my madness,
son of Mary.

Brigid of Ireland and Scotland,
the virgin of the islands --
she is the misty-bright flower of the young women,

Athrachta, helper of Limerick --
speedy enough
is the white-soled young woman of the Boyle,
wax candle.

Gentle white Ciaran, Columcille--
gentle the company--
Patrick, Martin, Mongan, Manann,
Coman, Coireall,

The Trinity, great Mary and Michael --
sunny band--
eleven thousand noble virgins of the Boyle,*
flower of pure virgins.

*helping the chosen people: "clann" means children or clan, but it sounds like "chosen people" is what's meant....

* abhra uaine/green brow: "uaine" means green or greenery. McKenna translates this as "dark brow", but I have a feeling it could also refer to the laurel crowns you sometimes see on pictures of saints (because of St. Paul's comparison of life to a race, and achieving Heaven to the athlete's laurel). It would be especially fitting for Catherine as a Greek Egyptian to wear such a crown of victory. (Shrug)

* inghin Gréigríogh/the Greek king's daughter: I don't know if it means anything, but a good number of Irish fairytales have the hero meet up/quest for/marry the king of Greece's daughter. Anyway, as far as I know, European legends of St. Catherine of Alexandria do not make her a princess -- just a philosopher -- but the Irish like to elaborate.

* sun's garland: sunshine.

* many a knee bending from the source/In tufted locks: This means her hair is curling in the same shape as bended knees. I think. :)

* eleven thousand noble virgins of the Boyle: This sounds like St. Ursula, doesn't it?

Okay, so I've seen a lot of prayer/courtly love type poems before, but I think this poet really needed a girlfriend! Or at least he was reallllly trying to pursue Wisdom.... :) But I like it.


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