This is the tale of a young man whose father sent him to join the army. Upon hearing that his girlfriend had left him he cut off his trigger finger so he would be dismissed. He is poor and alone on death's door but if he only had his sweetheart by him he would recover. In the last verse the ex-soldier wishes his father punishment for all the misery he has caused.
I learnt it in a sean-nós class with Gearóidín Bhreathnach at Oideas Gael in July 2013.
Nuair a d'éirigh mé ar maidin Dé Céadaoin
Níor choisric mé m'éadan, faraor
Nó gur bheir mé ar an arm a ba ghéire
Agus chuir mé a bhéal le cloch líof'
Chaith mise domh mo chuid éadaigh
Is mo chiall mhaith gur lig mé le gaoth
Is nuair a chuala mise iomrá ar mo chéadsearc
Orú, steall mé an chorrmhéar ón alt díom
Deir daoine go bhfuil mé tinn treallach,
Is nach bhfuil faoiseamh ag m'aicíd le fáil,
Ó chuir mé mo spéis ins an spéirbhean,
Tá 'na cónaí ar mhalaí a' tSléibhe Bháin.
Tá coim aici is gile ná an eala,
Nó an sneachta á shéideadh fán ard,
Tá an rósa 's an mhil ina headan,
Is ní fhaca mé aon bhean nib fhearr.
Is fada mo chosa gan bróga
'Gus is faide mo phócaí gan pinghin
Is fada mé ag gabháil le mná óga
Ach níor ól mé riamh deor le mo mhian
Is fada mo chrá croíse á dhéanamh
Is mo thumba á phriontáil ag saor,
Is mo chónair á tógáil lá an Earraigh,
Is na buachaillí deasa' gabháil faoi.
Dá mbeinnse seacht mbliana faoi thalamh
Ná i bhfiabhras na leabaidh i mo luí
A chéadsearc, dá dtiocfá' mé a fhiafraí
Scéal cinnte go mbeinn leat' mo shuí.
Ó, nach trua nach marbh a bhí m'athair,
Nuair a chuir sé mé go harm an Rí.
Is gurb í an uaigh ó mo chrualeaba feasta
'S a chéadsearc, nach trua leat mo luí?
When I arose on Wednesday morning
I didn't bless myself, alas,
As I took the weapon that would be the sharpest
And I put an edge on it with a polished stone.
I put on my clothes
And my good sense left with the wind
And when I heard a rumor about my sweetheart
I cut off my index finger at the joint
People say that I am ill and capricious,
And that there is no relief for my ailment,
Oh I fell for a beautiful woman,
Who lives in the slopes of the white mountain.
Her waist is whiter than a swan's
Or than the snow that swirls on the heights,
Her forehead is like roses and honey,
And I have never seen a finer woman.
It's long my feet have been without shoes
It is longer my pockets without pennies
It is long since I have been going with young women
But never before have I drunk the tears of my desire
I have suffered for too long
A mason carves my name for the tomb
This spring day my coffin is being made
And fine boys ready to carry it
Were I seven years buried
Or lying in my bed with fever
If you asked for me, my beloved
I would surely be up and by your side
It 's a pity that my father wasn't killed
When he put me in the king's army.
And it would be him in his misery and my hard dying also
And, sweetheart, isn't it a pity my dying?
The translation is partly my own and partly from the sites listed below.
Here's a recording of me singing this song: