Old Scottish Bird Poetry
Gaelic Names of Beasts has some poems for birds in Scots and Gàidhlig. I've transcribed a few here:
A metrical list of birds as found in an MS. of the fifteenth century, now in the British Museum, may be of interest here :—
‘‘To-day in the dawnyng I hyrde the fowles sing, The names of them it likyt me to myng–– ’ The parterigge, the fesant and the sterlyng The quayle, and the goldefyng and the lapwyng, The thrusche, the maveys, and the wodewale, The jaye, the popinjaye, and the nyghtyngale, The notthache, the swallow, and the sernow, The chawze, the cucko, cocow, The rooke, the revyn, and the crow, Among all the fowles that maden gle, The rere-mouse and the owle could I not see.''
on 3rd March 1899, and in the Highlander of a subsequent date :
‘‘Bid, bid, bidein, co chreach mo neadan ? Ma ’s e duine mor e, cuiridh mi ’s a lone; Ma ’s e duine beag e, cuiridh mi le creag e; Ma ’s e duin’ e gun chiall gun naire, Fagaidh mi aig a mhathair fein e.” ‘‘Bhid, bhid, bhidein, co chreach mo nidein ? Ma ’s e duine mor e, cniridh mile tom e; Ma ’s e duine beag e, cuiridh mi le creag e ; Ma ’s duine beag e gun chiall gun naire, Gu ‘n gleidheadh Dia dha mhathair fhein e.
The translation of the foregoing may be attempted as follows :
“Tweet, tweet, tweetie, who robbed my nestie? If he be a big man, I'll cast him in a bog then ; If he be a little man, I'll cast him o’er a rock then ; If he be a man void of sense and shame, ' I'll leave him to his own mother at hame.
Conaltradh nan Eun.
This piece is by Ewen M’Lachlan of Aberdeen and is in Leabhar nan Cnoc, 1834.
’Nuair bha ’Ghaelig aig na h-eoin ‘S a thuigeadh iad gloir nan dan, Bu tric an comhradh sa 'choill Air iom’ ponc, ma’s fior am Bard. Thainig pithaid luath na gleadhraich ‘S shuidh i air grod-mhcur cosach fearna ; Bha ’chomhachag ’na gurach riabhach Ma coinneamh, gu ciallach, samhach (Al. M’a choinneamh co’chag a ghuib chruim 's a caog shuil donn ’na ceann mar airneag. )
’N so dh’eirich a phitheid gu grad, ‘S thufrt i’s i ‘stailceadh a buinn, ‘‘ An tusa sin a’ d’ mheall air stob, ‘Nuair a bhios air do shiod-cheann trom, Am bi do theanga ‘ghnath fo ghlais ‘S tu gun Juaidh air neach no ni, ‘S tu cho duinte ri seana chloich bhric A bhios air meall a chnaip gun bhrigh?”
“Bu-hu-bu, tha thu faoin,” Ars’ eun maol a mhothair choir “Os mise tha flosrach 's a chuis Fheudail! ’s beag an tur tha 'd ghloir Cha bheus leamsa glige-glaipe Shloir, Chaoidh cha ghabh mi tlachd do’n luath-bheul, Labhraidh mi ‘nuair chi mi feum air, 'S cha choisinn mo bheul dhomh bruaidlein ; Ach ’s tric cach ort fein a magadh ; ‘S a liuthad glug-mhearachd bristeach Thaomas le cladhaireachd fhocal O shior-chlabar gui gun tuigse !”
Bu greis (treis) dhoibh mar so chonnspoid (comhstri), A' gearr-bhearradh gloir a cheile-(al. gearradh-bearadh) Gus an do leum a nuas an Glas-eun 'S rinn esan gach beairt (cuis) a reiteach’, (Al. An sin dh’ eirich Fir-eun nan gleus A shiubhlas an speur gu luath Sgrog e phiad air a cheann, . ’S dh’ fhag ei gu fuar fann. )
Air gach taobh ’nuair chual’ e 'chuis Thuirt e riu le run gun chleth, '' Ma's a fiach mo bhriathran eisdeachd So mar dheannainn fein duibh breth; 'S ioma barail tha ‘measg sluaidh, ‘S toigh le cuid ni ’s fuath le cach, Pairt their direach na ni cuis ’S cuid nach duraig sgur gu brath ; Tha am gu labhairt, ’s am gu cleasachd, Am gu bron, ’us am gu h-abhachd ; ’S lionmhor iad d’an ainm “bhi tuigseach O'n tig mile focal cearbach, Corr’ uair a mheasadh tu gorach Le tuille ’s a choir de sheanachas, Neach g’am bi theanga fo smachd ’S ainmig leis gu ’n gluais e lochd ; Saoilear gum bi an t-umaidh glic Nam b'eol da ‘bhi tric na thosd.””
An English translation has not been found given of the above by any one: the following may be accepted :
The Colloquy of the Birds.
When the birds spoke the Gaelic tongue And understood the glory of song, Full oft their converse in the woods On many a point, unless the Bard is wrong. Own then came the noisy magpie And perched on a rotten branch of a hollow alder; The owl like a speckled bunch' Opposite her, sensible and silent. (AL. Opposite her the owl of the crooked beak, his blinking The brown eye like sloe in his head.)
Then up started quickly the magpie and said, while stamping her feet, “Art thou there in a heap on a thorn, While your silky head hangs heavy? Is your tongue to be always locked Without mentioning any one or thing ? You're as close as an old grey stone, Which sapless on yonder knoll we see.”
‘‘ Boo-hoo-hoo! You're a fool!” Said the bald bird of the kindly murmur. “Tis I who am knowing in the case; Dear and senseless is your chatter, I do not admire glig-clag, And never take pleasure in the hasty mouth, I will speak when I see ‘tis necessary And my mouth won’t bring me sorrow ; But others often mock yon, While so many stupid mistakes Pour forth in the cowardly word Spoken flippantly by a senseless gab.”
Awhile they thus colloquied or discussed, Criticising sharply each other’s speech (or, cutting and slashing), Till down leapt (or alighted) the graybird, Who speedily settled each point or case. (Al. Then arose the ready true-bird That travels swiftly through the air; He punched the magpie on the head, And left him cold and weak.)
When he had heard all sides of the case, He said to them, with evident design, ‘If my words are worth listening to Thus would I do judgment among you: Many people, many opinions ; Some love what others hate, Some say sufficient for the purpose, Others hardly ever wish to stop ; There’s a time for speech and a time for play, A time for sorrow and a time for joy ; Many are there who are thought intelligent, From whom come a thousand mistakes, Occasionally you'd think them daft, By the superfluity of their talk ; He who has his tongue under command Seldom causes any harm The very fool may be thought wise If frequently be held his peace.”
source: Alexander Robert Forbes, Gaelic Names of Beasts, 1905, p 235-241