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I am of Ireland (Anonymous Medieval Irish Lyric, circa 13th-14th century AD)
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

I am of Ireland,
and of the holy realm
of Ireland.

Good sir, I pray thee:
for the sake of holy charity,
come dance with me
in Ireland.

The original poem (below) still smacks of German, as the first line reads: "Ich am of Irlaunde." But a metamorphosis was clearly in progress: English poetry was evolving to employ meter and rhyme, as well as Anglo-Saxon alliteration. Here is the original poem:

Ich am of Irlonde (Original Version I)

Ich am of Irlonde,
Ant of the holy londe
Of Irlonde.

Goode sire, praye ich thee,
For of sainte charitee,
Com ant daunce wyt me
In Irlonde.

Icham of Irlonde (Original Version II)

Icham of Irlaunde
Ant of the holy londe
Of Irlaunde.

Gode sire, pray ich the,
For of saynte charite,
Come ant daunce wyt me
In Irlaunde.

The request to join in a dance is interesting. And it's interesting to note that "ballad," "ballet" and "ball" all have the same root: the Latin ballare (to dance) and the Italian ballo/balleto (a dance). Think of a farm community assembling for a hoe-down, doing the two-step to music with lyrics. That is apparently how many early English poems originated. And the more regular meter of the evolving poems would suit music well.

William Butler Yeats, the great Irish poet, wrote a longer poem based on the elder poem's first line. His poem appeared in The Winding Stair and Other Poems, 1933.

Related Pages in Chronological Order: Song of Amergin, Caedmon's Hymn, Bede's Death Song, Deor's Lament, Wulf and Eadwacer, The Wife's Lament, Anglo-Saxon Riddles and Kennings, How Long the Night, Ballads, Sumer is Icumen in, Fowles in the Frith, Ich am of Irlaunde, Tom O'Bedlam's Song, Now Goeth Sun Under Wood, Pity Mary, Sweet Rose of Virtue, Lament for the Makaris

The HyperTexts