A Poem by Scott De Buitléir

I have my gift of language from my mother: 
Raising me to speak with clarity, 
Like the high-kings and chieftains of old, 
In both Saxon tongue and Gaelic breath. 

I learned so much more than just words, 
When bhí is pronounced as "vee", 
And beidh can be "beg" or "bay", 
Not all within sight is as it seems. 

On my father's side, Comme Je Trouve
A motto en français from their Norman days, 
Taught a diplomatic tone, like my father, full-flow, 
Speaking care-free across those radio waves. 

Last night, my mother showed me Ogham, 
The ancient alphabet of Gaels gone by, 
And in it laid a joke told long ago, 
Of three monks who left society aside. 

We read translations, side by side, 
From Old Irish to its younger son, with English ex-bride, 
We picked out words, familiar to us, 
Like relations from generations past, 

Like our greatest grandmother, a legend in her own right; 
Tengzas īwerijonākā, the language of the Irish, 
My deepest root in soil, from the Fourth Century, 
Keeps my sense of self in firm place. 

And later, last night, my mother followed me, 
To explore words and tones of northern lands, 
Yet be it jag älskar dig, or mo ghrá thú
For this gift and more, I love you.

© 2019 Scott De Buitléir

Author's Note

Scott De Buitléir
An brief explainer on some of the words used:

Saxon tongue: The original term for the English language in Gaelic was "An Sacs-Bhéarla" - literally, the Saxon tongue.
bhí: "was"
beidh: "will be"
Comme Je Trouve: The Butler family motto, French for "As I Find [It]".
Ogham: Pronounced [ˈoːm], Ogham is an ancient alphabet from the 1st Century, which was used to write Early Irish/Gaelic.
Tengzas īwerijonākā: This is a transliteration from Primitive Irish, for "[the] Tongue of the Irish". However, the name the language in Modern Irish is "Gaeilge" (connected with 'Gaelic').
Jag älskar dig / Mo ghrá thú: I love you, in Swedish and Irish respectively.

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Added on December 31, 2018
Last Updated on January 2, 2019
Tags: language, linguistics, Irish, Gaelic, French, Latin, family, heritage


Scott De Buitléir
Scott De Buitléir

Cork, Ireland

Hello! I write poetry on a range of themes, from identity to relationships, and from languages to LGBTQ history. I use Writer's Café to publish new poetry, but I also have some books publis.. more..