Lyrics & Knowledge Personal Pages Record Shop Auction Links Radio & Media Kids Membership Help
The Mudcat Cafemuddy

Post to this Thread - Sort Descending - Printer Friendly - Home


druid chants---song choruses

Gutcher 12 Mar 16 - 01:40 PM
GUEST,Mfg 12 Mar 16 - 02:20 PM
Gutcher 14 Mar 16 - 03:26 AM
GUEST,R 14 Mar 16 - 06:24 AM
GUEST,Howard Jones 14 Mar 16 - 07:39 AM
GUEST 14 Mar 16 - 08:56 AM
Jim Brown 14 Mar 16 - 09:01 AM
Gutcher 14 Mar 16 - 01:20 PM
michaelr 14 Mar 16 - 07:06 PM
Jim Brown 15 Mar 16 - 03:45 AM
GUEST,Howard Jones 15 Mar 16 - 06:15 AM
MartinRyan 15 Mar 16 - 01:04 PM
Les in Chorlton 15 Mar 16 - 03:09 PM
GUEST,R 15 Mar 16 - 06:47 PM
Jim Brown 16 Mar 16 - 03:17 AM
Gutcher 16 Mar 16 - 05:31 AM
Jim Brown 16 Mar 16 - 03:14 PM
Stu 17 Mar 16 - 09:46 AM
GUEST,Jack Campin 17 Mar 16 - 12:18 PM
Share Thread
more
Lyrics & Knowledge Search [Advanced]
DT  Forum
Sort (Forum) by:relevance date
DT Lyrics:





Subject: druid chants---song choruses
From: Gutcher
Date: 12 Mar 16 - 01:40 PM

"Every word in every language has its pedigree"

"Down, down, derry down" "With a fal, lal, la" "Tooral, looral" "Hey, nonnie, nonnie" and many more, including examples from the French, were taken by the Author, Gaelic and Celtic Scholar Charles Mackay   in the middle part of the 19th.C. and, as he states, subjected to that venerable language, Gaelic, that was spoken in most parts of Britain in pre Roman times.
With his knowledge of {old} Gaelic he was able to prove, to his own satisfaction at least, that these "nonsense" lines were a corruption from that language of Druidical practices as described by Julius Caesar and others.
Have Mackays conclusions been examined/refuted by any in more recent times?

Incidentally he makes no mention of the only one that I sing with such a burden:---

"Daffin doon, daffin doon, daffin doon and dilly".


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: druid chants---song choruses
From: GUEST,Mfg
Date: 12 Mar 16 - 02:20 PM


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: druid chants---song choruses
From: Gutcher
Date: 14 Mar 16 - 03:26 AM

Charles Mackay was no eccentric bod flying a flag for Gaelic culture in the 19th.C.
During most of that century there was an increasing academic interest in the subject culminating in the establishment of a chair of Celtic at Edinburgh University in 1873, the first such chair in the world. Oxford University followed Edinburghs lead in 1877 with one of the candidates for the post of professor being Charles Mackay.
It can therefore be assumed that by submitting his Gaelic/druid connection for the, to then, considered "nonsense" words in many old songs he had no fear from the close scrutiny of a numerous band of Gaelic scholars.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: druid chants---song choruses
From: GUEST,R
Date: 14 Mar 16 - 06:24 AM

"Every word in every language has its pedigree"

Indeed - consider the word 'pedigree' itself, derived from 'crane's foot' - and isn't the crane a sacred bird to the Celts?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: druid chants---song choruses
From: GUEST,Howard Jones
Date: 14 Mar 16 - 07:39 AM

This sounds very fanciful to me. I don't question Mackay's knowledge of Gaelic, but I am puzzled how Scottish or Irish Gaelic words could have found their way into English songs, where these phrases are most typical. The Celtic language of the Ancient Britons was from the Brythonic or P-Celtic branch, which evolved into modern Welsh, Cornish and Breton. In druidic times it was probably also spoken in most of Scotland, and it was only later that Gaelic became dominant there. The Druids probably spoke a language related to modern Welsh, rather than Gaelic, so many of Mackay's connections don't work.

For example, he derives "Fal, lal, lal" from the Gaelic "failte" (welcome) and "là" meaning day - "welcome the day". However in Welsh "welcome" is "croeso" and "day" is "dydd".

Even if the origins of these "nonsense" words can be traced back to meaningful phrases in other languages it is a big leap to say they are druidic chants. I think his conclusions are no more than 19th Century romanticism and are probably no more valid than his connection of the druids with Stonehenge.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: druid chants---song choruses
From: GUEST
Date: 14 Mar 16 - 08:56 AM

Isn't it strange too that English songs should have supposedly "Gaelic" refrains that don't occur in Gaelic songs...? I'm in no position to question Charles Mackay's knowledge of Gaelic either, but from what I've read, he couldn't actually speak the language, and from a glance over the sort of derivations he proposes it looks to me as if he was just working with separate words, without bothering about how they might be connected together grammatically. He certainly doesn't seem to have have much idea of the history of languages - he's happy to derive Latin words from modern Gaelic ones, for example. Even in the mid-19th century, this can't have been cutting-edge stuff. He probably has a valid point that there is more Celtic influence in English than was generally recognized, but his attempt to prove this isn't convincing. He may have been a candidate for the Oxford chair of Celtic, but perhaps it's no accident that he didn't get it. It went to John Rhys, who actually spoke a Celtic language and had serious philological studies behind him.

On the other hand, all respect to Mackay as a journalist and newspaper editor. A few years ago, I spent some time studying issues of The Illustrated London News from the time when he was editor, and I was impressed at their efforts to provide detailed reports, including pictures, on the early, Danubian, stages of the Crimean War.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: druid chants---song choruses
From: Jim Brown
Date: 14 Mar 16 - 09:01 AM

Sorry about the anonymous guest posting. I must have signed out by mistake.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: druid chants---song choruses
From: Gutcher
Date: 14 Mar 16 - 01:20 PM

Am I right in thinking that one did not apply to become a Professor in those days, one had to be proposed for the post by at least one person attesting the candidates qualifications/fitness for the post.

I do not know if Mackay spoke Gaelic, ancient or modern, he certainly appears to have been able to read, write and understand both.

Was his work questioned at the time by, as mentioned above, the numerous well qualified scholars, or since, as was my query in the O.P.

Thanks for the information in the replies


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: druid chants---song choruses
From: michaelr
Date: 14 Mar 16 - 07:06 PM

Does Mackay offer a Gaelic/Druidic connection for "kitty alone"?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: druid chants---song choruses
From: Jim Brown
Date: 15 Mar 16 - 03:45 AM

I can't help with the procedures for appointing professors in 19th century Oxford or with the scholarly reception of Mackay's work at the time, except to note that Alexander MacBain doesn't mention him in the bibliography of his Etymological Dictionary of the Gaelic Language (1896).

For his inability to speak Gaelic (or indeed to understand spoken Gaelic), my source is The Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, Vol 2, 1872-73, pp. 101-2, where there is a report of a short address Charles Mackay made to the Society:

"Dr. Charles Mackay, who was received with loud applause, said that being a Highlander so far as he could trace his descent, and not having a single drop of Saxon blood in his veins, he stood there with a feeling of shame that he could not speak the language of his ancestors. He was sorry that the eloquent speech of Mr. Macgregor was not intelligible to him, but the sonorous beauty of the mere sounds was striking even to his ears, and put him in mind of the old lady in England who said that Mesopotamia was a blessed word ; it filled her with emotions of delight only to hear it pronounced. (Laughter and applause.) Something of the same kind filled his mind on hearing the Gaelic spoken."

In this address he talks briefly about his studies leading to the conclusion that "that Gaelic lay at the root not only of the vernacular and colloquial English, but of French, Spanish, Italian, Latin, and Greek." He features again in the 1873-74 volume, with a talk on "The Scotch in America", including, among other things, a report of a conversation he had with Jefferson Davis about slavery.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: druid chants---song choruses
From: GUEST,Howard Jones
Date: 15 Mar 16 - 06:15 AM

I know that Gaelic claims to have been the language of Eden, and that it has shared roots with other European languages if you go back far enough (as do almost all European languages) but modern thinking is that the Celtic languages form a separate branch from Latin and the Romance languages, rather than being at their root. More 19th century tartan romanticism I'm afraid.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: druid chants---song choruses
From: MartinRyan
Date: 15 Mar 16 - 01:04 PM

Of course it was the language of Eden - sure wasn't the apple green?

More seriously - yes, agreed.

Regards


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: druid chants---song choruses
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 15 Mar 16 - 03:09 PM

Eden is a fictional place in a book, Gaelic is a living evolving language - but who really gives a sod?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: druid chants---song choruses
From: GUEST,R
Date: 15 Mar 16 - 06:47 PM

'Sod' - from the proto-Celtic root 'sodach'* meaning 'autochthonous being, one sprung from the very soil'


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: druid chants---song choruses
From: Jim Brown
Date: 16 Mar 16 - 03:17 AM

To get back to Gutcher's original question: have Mackay's conclusions been refuted in more recent times?

I don't know if any study of his conclusions has been published, but it doesn't seem too difficult to find serious problems with his approach and the conclusions it leads him to:
1) He seems to have decided from the beginning what he is going to find, and then - no surprise - he claims to have found it. In the first place, he doesn't give reasons for thinking that the refrains are anything other than what they seem to be: melodious nonsense. And he doesn't give any reason why, if they do mean something, they should be druidic chants and not something else out of all the many possible things people have sung over the centuries.
2)His choice of Gaelic as the language of the supposed chants flies in the face of all that is known (and was known in his day too) about the differences between Celtic languages and their geographical distribution. As has already been pointed out, almost certainly the language spoken by British druids would have been more like an old form of Welsh,and the Celtic languages spoken in other parts of Europe were related but different again.
3)Having decided on Gaelic, he uses only the modern Gaelic of his own time. (I haven't seen any indication in his book that he was familiar with older forms of Gaelic or had much sense of the historical development of the language, but I may have missed something.) This leads him, for example, to assume that the "dh" in "luadh" was always silent, and so derive the "loo" in "fal lero lero loo" from it, but it almost certainly wouldn't have been silent 2,000 years earlier -- as with English words like "knight", the silent consonants represent sounds that were still there when the spelling of the words was established.
4)Not only are his supposed Druid chants based on modern Gaelic, they are just strings of separate words as if taken straight from the dictionary, with almost no sign of any grammatical connection between them – hardly any prepositions, no changes in the form of the words to indicate how they relate to each other. It is only in his English "translations" that the words are actually made to make sense.
5) The Gaelic words he chooses may have some similarity to the sounds in the refrains (and any difference can conveniently be explained as the result of "corruption"), but that alone is hardly enough to prove a connection. As he has started out with the idea that they are Druidic chants, he picks words that he imagines might fit in a religious context (apart from the reference to the oak tree to explain "down down derry down", I don't see much that is specific to the Druids about them). But they could easily be matched to other Gaelic words. Already he is uncertain whether "derry" is from "darach" or "doire", but why couldn't it equally be from "dara" = second, or "dearbh" = certain, or "deiradh" = end…? He derives "fal" from "failte", but why not "faile" = smell, or simply "fal" = turf? And so on.

So, sorry, he doesn't convince. I reckon he would have done better to have stuck to journalism.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: druid chants---song choruses
From: Gutcher
Date: 16 Mar 16 - 05:31 AM

Good answer J.B., thanks.

Not having Gaelic I was swithering about his theory as I had not been able to find anything to refute it by any of his contemporaries.

It helped to pass a wheen dreich days during the past winter.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: druid chants---song choruses
From: Jim Brown
Date: 16 Mar 16 - 03:14 PM

You're welcome!

It's still an interesting theory, even if it doesn't stand up. And I imagine his book might have gone down quite well with a lot of Gaels back then, as a pleasant change from outsiders speaking contemptuously about their language and culture.

(And if you every have occasion to spend some dreich days in a library that keeps old newspapers, I can highly recommend the 19th century issues of The Illustrated London News - edited by Charles Mackay 1852-59).


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: druid chants---song choruses
From: Stu
Date: 17 Mar 16 - 09:46 AM

The real truth is we know virtually nothing about the religious or political beliefs of our celtic ancestors of Great Britain. The romans were notorious propagandists, accusing everyone who offered resistance/they wanted to subjugate of human sacrifice regardless of whether they actually did or not (human sacrifice was banned in the empire, presumably with the exception of the games). This makes them unreliable chroniclers of the peoples they conquered, and their words must be taken with a pinch of salt.

Howard's correct about the British speaking a version of Welsh though, Gaelic never was spoken in the southern part of the island as far as I know.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: druid chants---song choruses
From: GUEST,Jack Campin
Date: 17 Mar 16 - 12:18 PM

Now if Mackay had found references in those refrains to an Iron Age project to hybridize dead animals, he'd have been more persuasive:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/archaeology/news/the-boneyard-of-the-bizarre-that-rewrites-our-celtic-past-to-include-hybrid-animal-monster-myths-10381965.html

The more we find out about ancient Celtic religion from archaeological evidence, the less it looks like any of the romantic stereotypes.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate
  Share Thread:
More...

Reply to Thread
Subject:  Help
From:
Preview   Automatic Linebreaks   Make a link ("blue clicky")


Mudcat time: 21 June 4:26 PM EDT

[ Home ]

All original material is copyright © 1998 by the Mudcat Café Music Foundation, Inc. All photos, music, images, etc. are copyright © by their rightful owners. Every effort is taken to attribute appropriate copyright to images, content, music, etc. We are not a copyright resource.