Charlotte Brooke, [trans.,] “Song for Gracey Nugent by Carolan”

[ Source: Reliques of Irish Poetry (1789); taken from the Field Day Anthology of Irish Literature, gen. ed. Seamus Deane (1991), Vol. 1, pp.980-81. ]

For Gracey Nugent
By Carolan§

Of Gracey’s charms enraptur’d will I sing!
Fragrant and fair, as blossoms of the spring;
To her sweet manners, and accomplish’d mind,
Each rival Fair the palm of Love resign’d.

How blest her sweet society to share!
To mark the ringlets of her flowing hair;
Her gentle accents, — her complacent mien!—
Supreme in charms, she looks — she reigns a Queen!

That alabaster form — that graceful neck,
How do the Cygnet’s down and whiteness deck!—
How does that aspect shame the cheer of day,
When summer suns their brightest beams display.

Blest is the youth whom fav’ring fates ordain
The treasure of her love, and charms to gain!
The fragrant branch, with curling tendrils bound,
With breathing odours — blooming beauty crown’d.

Sweet is the cheer her sprightly wit supplies!
Bright is the sparkling azure of her eyes!
Soft o’er her neck her lovely tresses flow!
Warm in her praise the tongues of rapture glow!

Her’s is the voice — tun’d by harmonious Love,
Soft as the Songs that warble through the grove!
Oh! sweeter joys her converse can impart!
Sweet to the sense, and grateful to the heart!

Gay pleasures dance where’er her foot-steps bend;
And smiles and rapture round the fair attend:
Wit forms her speech, and Wisdom fills her mind,
And sight and soul in her their object find.

Her pearly teeth, in beauteous order plac’d;
Her neck with bright, and curling tresses grac’d:—
But ah, so fair! — in wit and charms supreme,
Unequal Song must quit its darling theme.

Here break I off: — let sparkling goblets flow, full
And my heart its cordial wishes show:
To her dear health this friendly draught I pour,
Long be her life, and blest its every hour!—

§The fair subject of this Song was sister to the late John Nugent, Esq; of Castle-Nugent, Culambre. She lived with her sister, Mrs. Conmee, near Belanagar, in the county of Roscommon, at the time she inspired our Bard. Hist. Mem. of Irish Bards. Append. p.78.
Hair is a favourite object with all the Irish Poets, and endless is the variety of their description: — ‘Soft misty curls.’ — ‘Thick branching tresses of bright redundance.’ — ‘Locks of fair waving beauty.’ —’Tresses flowing on the wind like the bright waving flame of an inverted torch.’ They even affect to inspire it with expression: — as ‘Locks of gentle lustre.’ — ‘Tresses of tender beauty.’ — ‘The Maid with the mildly flowing hair,’ &c. &c.
 A friend to whom I sheaved this Song, observed, that I had omitted a very lively thought in the conclusion, which they had seen in Mr. WALKER’S Memoirs. As that version has been much read and admired, it may perhaps be necessary, to vindicate my fidelity, as a translator, that I should here give a literal translation of the Song, to shew that the thoughts have suffered very little, either of encrease or diminution from the poetry.
 ‘I will sing with rapture of the Blossom of Whiteness! Gracey, the young and beautiful woman, who bore away the palm of excellence in sweet manners and accomplishments, from all the Fair-ones of the provinces.’
 ‘Whoever enjoys her constant society, no apprehension of any ill can assail him. — The Queen of soft and winning mind and manners, with her fir branching tresses flowing in ringlets.’
 ‘Her side like alabaster, and her neck like the swan, and her countenance like the Sun in summer. How blest is it for him who is promised, as riches, to be united to her, the branch of fair curling tendrils.’
‘Sweet and pleasant is your lovely conversation! —bright and sparkling your blue eyes! — and every day do I hear all tongues declare your praises, and how gracefully your bright tresses wave down your neck!’
 ‘I say to the Maid of youthful mildness, that her voice and her converse are sweeter than the songs of the birds! There is no delight or charm that sweet imagination can conceive but what is found ever attendant on Gracey.’
‘Her teeth arranged in beautiful order, and her locks flowing in soft waving curls! But though it delights me to sing of thy charms, I must quit my theme! — With a sincere heart I fill to thy health!’
 The reader will easily perceive that in this literal translation, I have not sought for elegance of expression, my only object being to put it in his power to judge how closely my version has adhered to my original.


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