(from The Song Of Amergin blog, 24 September 2012)
For many people, the first introduction to the Song of Amergin came through Robert Graves The White Goddess (1948). Graves states that, "English poetic education should, really, begin not with Canterbury Tales, not with The Odyssey, not even with Genesis, but with the Song of Amergin." However, despite this apparently reverential beginning; Graves does not actually put forward the Song of Amergin as we have it; rather he begins by utterly changing this ancient poem to better fit his own pet theory, connecting the lines from this poem to the Ogham alphabet and the 'months' of the year. This creates a vague pattern, unprecedented in either nature or the Gaelic source culture he purports to respect.
Graves provides neither the original Irish poem, nor anyone else's English translation. Instead he just sets off on his own imaginative journey.
In order to create proof for his notions, he translates the lines of the Song very loosely, which, given the dense and obscure nature of the poem, is completely acceptable. However, he then proceeds to rearrange the lines, with no consideration of what they might mean in their original order, and invents completely new lines to give it the flow and meaning Graves, himself, wants this poem to have. The result is a perfectly lovely poem, but it has no real connection to Celtic tradition, myth, or cosmology, save through the mind of Robert Graves.
Grave's Song does not even begin with "I am Wind of Sea"; so the primordial significance of this line and it's connection to the last line of poem (which was dropped entirely) reveals his unfamiliarity with the tradition he is pretending to illuminate while pursuing his unique vision... It really is lovely, but bears only a vague and passing resemblance to the original, which he pretends to respect so much.
The Song Of Amergin
(from the album Immortal Memory, 2004)