December 2017        

“When the table came”

Gabriel Rosenstock introduces and translates another poem from the Indian sub-continent, originally written in Konkani, the indigenous language of Goa.

We seem to accept “technological progress” and the McDonaldisation of the world as inevitable. Who wants to be called a Luddite? Yet on reading “When the Table Came” one is forced to ask what the price of “progress” really is, and to begin to count the losses.
     If you knew nothing of the author you might say to yourself: “Here is a simple peasant who rails against the modern world and the collapse of the fabric of traditional society. “Hey, man, move on!” Would it change your mind to know that the author obtained a doctorate in French literature from Sorbonne Université?
     “Came the Table” is not a sentimental re-creation of some utopian past. Manohar Sardessai’s poem is an anthem that can be read in tandem with the writings of green anarchists and anarcho-primitivists: everyone from Thoreau to John Zerzan, Derrick Jensen and other challenging thinkers of our own era. It is a cri de cœur that deserves to be widely known.
Nuair a tháinig an bordWhen the table came
Manohar Sardessai(Mez Ailem)
Tháinig an bord,Came the table,
I dteannta an bhoird, tháinig an ghloine, tháinig an cupánAlong with it the glass, the cup
Tháinig an scian, tháinig an spúnóg, tháinig an forcCame the knife, came the spoon, came the fork
Tháinig an plátaCame the plate
Deireadh le suí is éiríNo more sitting and rising
Tháinig an bord, i dteannta an bhoird an chathaoirCame the table, with the table the chair
Tháinig an chathaoir, deireadh leis an stól, áilleacht an Rangoli,Came the chair, exit the stool, the beauty of the Rangoli
Deireadh le suí an táilliúra, deireadh leis an seálNo more sitting cross-legged, no more shawl
Deireadh leis an mbréid gabhail, leis an snáth, leis an éadach deasghnách,No more loin cloth, no thread around, no ceremonial drape,
Deireadh leis an bpláta duilleoige, uisce á spraeáil timpeall,Gone is the leaf plate, the water sprinkling around,
An scaraoid bhán, an cupán deasghnách, na cúig dúileThe white cloth, the ritual cup, the five elements
Deireadh leis an spúnóg dheasghnách, an clog, an “tikkli”Gone is the ritual spoon, the bell, the “tikkli”
An marc dearg ar an gclár éadain, an mantraThe red mark on the forehead, the mantra
an marc bán, an “pranayam,” an luaithreach bheannaitheThe white mark, the “pranayam,” the holy ash
Deireadh leis an taos santail.Gone is the sandalwood paste.
Tháinig an bord, tháinig an chathaoirCame the table, came the chair
Tháinig na bróga, leis an gculaith éadaighCame the shoes, with the suit
Tháinig an bruscar ó gach áitCame the garbage from all around
Tháinig an léine, tháinig an carbhatCame the shirt, came the tie
Deireadh le ní na gcos is na lámhNo washing of feet, of hands
Deireadh leis an aghaidh a ní, na fiaclaNo washing the face, the teeth
Tar isteach, suigh, tar isteach, ithEnter, sit, enter, eat
Sábhálann sé am agus airgeadSaves time, profits
Tháinig an bord, deireadh leis an gcanji, mangó amhCame the table, exit the canji, the raw mango
Ruainne cnó cócóThe coconut bit
Tháinig an bord, tháinig an tae, an caifeCame the table, came the tea, the coffee
Tháinig an t-arán, an t-im, an t-anraithCame the bread, the butter, the soup
Deireadh le cumhracht túise, solas ón lampa ola,Gone the fragrance of the incense stick, the light of the oil lamp
Cad a cailleadh, cad a baineadh amach?How much lost, how much gained?
Cad a baineadh amach, cad a cailleadh?How much gained, how much lost?
Tháinig an bord, an bord, an bord . . .Came the table, the table, the table . . .

The Famine Year

Jane Francesca Wilde

Jane Wilde, a native of Wexford, mother of Oscar, and poet, wrote under the pen name “Speranza” in John Mitchel’s United Irishman. The following extract (verses 1 and 6) is from her poem about the British-impelled genocide and the innocents they were exterminating.

Weary men, what reap ye?—“Golden corn for the Stranger.”
What sow ye?—“Human corpses that await for the Avenger.”
Fainting forms, all hunger-stricken, what see you in the offing?
“Stately ships to bear our food away amid the stranger’s scoffing.”
There’s a proud array of soldiers; what do they round your door?
“They guard our masters’ granaries from the thin hands of the poor.”
Pale mothers, wherefore weeping?—“Would to God that we were dead,
Our children swoon before us, and we cannot give them bread!”

“We are wretches, famished, scorned, human tools to build your pride,
But God will yet take vengeance for the souls for whom Christ died.
Now is your hour of pleasure, bask ye in the world’s caress;
But our whitening bones against ye will arise as witnesses,
From the cabins and the ditches, in their charred, uncoffined masses,
For the Angel of the Trumpet will know them as he passes.
A ghastly, spectral army before God we’ll stand
And arraign ye as our murderers, O spoilers of our land!”

The poet knew that British arms controlled every Irish field. Bayonets, cannon, rifles, the lash, eviction and the gallows were used to seize Irish food (on the pretext that it was owned by some English owner-by-robbery). The identities and doings of the regiments involved are available in the Public Record Office in London to authors and academics subsidised by the Irish government, who neglect to use this knowledge. So the Big Lie continues to dominate in the general Irish perception of the Potato Famine. It is more than time for the real truth to be known.

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