The Midnight Court
Eleven Versions of Merriman
Publication Date: 30 Aug 2015
Many translations into English verse of Brian Merriman’s celebrated eighteenth-century narrative poem Cúirt an Mheán Oíche (The Midnight Court) have been made by Irish poets over the past two centuries. All translators have tackled the problem of being Irish poets working in English and drawing upon the Irish-language tradition in various ways, as well as having to negotiate between Merriman’s world and their own historical moments. This tension in translation is the major focus of The Midnight Court: Eleven Versions of Merriman.
The author sets out the problems of translation in an introductory chapter and gives a general note on the tradition of translating Merriman’s poem. He then focuses attention on eleven translators, who are given a chapter each for discussion: Denis Woulfe, Michael C. O’Shea, Arland Ussher, Frank O’Connor, Lord Longford, David Marcus, Patrick C. Power, Cosslett Ó Cuinn, Thomas Kinsella, Seamus Heaney and Ciaran Carson.
As the book progresses, a picture forms of a layering in the life of the translated poem as translators rescue overlooked themes or stylistic approaches. This interesting undertaking, with its keen scrutiny of the text on a line-by-line basis, brings something new to Merriman scholarship, with examples of the myriad options available to the translator that illuminate nearly two hundred years of poetic translation and exchanges across two cultures.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gregory A. Schirmer is the author of books on Austin Clarke and William Trevor and of Out of What Began: AHistory of Irish Poetry in English. He edited After the Irish: AnAnthology of Poetic Translation (Cork University Press, 2009). He is Professor of English Emeritus at the University of Mississippi, and divides his time between Mississippi and West Cork.
‘Schirmer’s book is of great value in keeping Merriman and his translators in view, and in recalling the reader to one of the masterpieces of Irish literary tradition.’ – Máirín Ní Dhonnchadha, History Ireland