Irish Language Blog

Amhrán Náisiúnta na Stát Aontaithe: All Four Verses of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in Irish with a glossary, literal translation, and pronunciation guide Posted by on Jul 6, 2014 in Irish Language

 (le Róislín)

Francis Scott Key autographed manuscript of “The Star Spangled Banner,” 1840. Manuscript Division. [cropped to first stanza only]

Francis Scott Key autographed manuscript of “The Star Spangled Banner,” 1840. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. [cropped to first stanza only]

I wonder how many Americans have actually sung all four verses of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in English, let alone in Irish.  Well, here’s your opportunity!  And if it’s not your own “amhrán náisiúnta,” it’s certainly an interesting song vocabulary-wise and history-wise.  In fact, I find all “amhráin náisiúnta” to be fascinating (and have two anthologies of them, from all over the world).

This blog contains all four verses, as translated by an tAthair Ó Gramhnaigh in 1898, with my own line-by-line literal translation and pronunciation guide, and a glossary for each stanza.   They were previously posted in this blog as four separate entries in 2012 (naisc thíos).  The original English, as written by Francis Scott Key, follows each section, in italics.

As for reaching “an nóta is airde,” you’re on your own, but I’ve heard that “uisce beatha” may help!  Cad é an nóta is airde san amhrán seo?  Má cheolann tú i ngléas B-maol é, is é an “f” ard atá i gceist.  Ochtach go leith!  Ceart go leor más Yma Sumac thú ach ní Yma Sumac mise maidir le raon gutha ná baol air.  Raon deich nóta atá agam, b’fhéidir.  Tusa?  Duine ar bith agaibh a bhfuil raon ceithre ochtach aige/aici?  Nó dhá ochtach?  Nó ochtach go leith, fiú (gan scréach ar an bhfocal “freeee” i mBéarla nó [gcró]gach” i nGaeilge)?

Please note the following about the pronunciation guide: I’ve made one concession here, compared to my usual rough guides to the sounds of Irish, since some people may want to plunge right into singing the song, not laboring over pronunciation.  For the broad “dh” sound (as in “dhuit“), best represented by the IPA symbol  /ɣ/, I’ve simply used “h.”  Experienced Irish speakers will know that this is really a guttural (throaty) sound not found in English but it’s better to lean toward softening the sound further than to ending up with too much of a “d” sound.  The consonant cluster “dh” has no “d” sound to it whatsoever.  For details on this sound, see the nóta thíos, marked by a réiltín (*), and there are some links to other blogs discussing this sound at the end of this entry.

The VERY literal translation is not meant to be singable; it’s very much word for word.  The regular English text is also given. A further note here for singers (as opposed to foghraithe, teangeolaithe, sintéiseoirí cainte agus a leithéid): this pronunciation guide is really designed for singing, not for individual analysis of focail or siollaí.  In most cases, in fact, I’ve transcribed the sounds as I would also speak them (not trying to fit a meter), since it seems to work.  Occasionally, though, I’ve made the words flow together even more than may be typical in speech, as for example in: ‘S tá an bhratach gheal-réaltach [stawn VRAH-tukh YAL-RAYL-tukh].  Here, I’ve collapsed the first three words (‘s tá an) into one sound (“stawn”), since it’s more singable that way (IMThF, ar a laghad).

Conversely, I stretched out the pronunciation in the following: Os cionn thír na gcrógach is talamh na saor?  is” as [ih-iss].  Normally, “is” is just like the “iss” of “hiss” or “miss.”  The “stretched-out” sound is like “us kyun HEE-IRzh nuh groh-GUKH ih-iss TAL-uv nuh seer.”  

And in véarsa 4: d’Athair Bua is Síth’ [do-uh AH-hirzh BOO-uss shee] with a stretched-out “d’Athair Bua” as [do-uh AH-hirzh] and collapsed “Bua is” as [BOO-uss], not as the standard [BOO-uh iss], which doesn’t seem to “sing” as well.

Mini-Guide to the Transcription System:

a) “rzh” like the “r” in English “tree” combined with the “zh” sound of French  “Jacques

b) “le” like “let,” not like French “le

c) “kh” like German “Buch,” Welsh “bach,” Scottish “Loch”

d) “uh” like the “u” in “putt” or “nut,” not like “put”  or German “Huhn

e) “oo” like English “fool” or “cool” f) “hy” like English “human,” “hew,” or “hue,” not like “hydrogen” or Welsh “hylo

An Bhratach Gheal-Réaltach / The Star-Spangled Banner, with literal translation of the Irish

1) Ó abair, an léir dhuit, le fáinne an lae, [oh AH-birzh un layrzh hitch le FAWN-yuh un lay], Oh say, is it clear to you (can you clearly see), with the ring of the day  

2)  An bhratach ‘bhí ‘n-airde le titim na hoíche? [un VRAH-tukh veen AHR-djuh le TIH-chim nuh HEE-hyuh?] The flag that was up with the falling of night?  

3) Tríd an chath ‘bhí na riabha ‘s na réaltaí geal-ghlé, [treedj un khah vee nuh REE-uh-vuh snuh RAYL-tee gyal-lyay], Through the battle, the stripes, and the stars were bright-clear,  

4) Ag luascadh go huasal ‘s ag míniú ár gcroíthe; [egg LOO-us-kuh guh HOO-us-ul segg MEEN-yoo awr GREE-huh] Swinging nobly and comforting our hearts  

5) Is ar n-imeacht don ló, níor ghéill sí go deo, [iss err NIM-ukht dun loh nee-or yayl shee guh djoh] And at going to the day [as the day ended], it never yielded,  

6) Ach a caorthinte ag pléascadh sna spéartha le gleo! [ahkh-uh KEER-HIN-tchuh egg PLAY-skuh snuh SPAYR-huh le glyoh!] But its fireballs exploding in the skies with clamor!  

7) Ó abair ‘bhfuil an bhratach gheal-réaltach go síor [oh AH-birzh wil un VRAH-tukh YAL-RAY-UL-tuh-ukh guh-uh shee-ur] Oh, say, is the brightly-starred flag still [waving / flying]]  

8) Os cionn thír na gcrógach is talamh na saor? [us kyun HEE-IRzh nuh groh-GUKH ih-iss TAL-uv nuh seer], Above the country of the brave and the land of the free?  

(O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming? Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight, O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there, Oh, say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?)

Gluais do véarsa 1.  This is a bit condensed from the original glossary in the 2012 post; more definitions can be found there, nasc thíos):

An léir?, is (it) clear?,

ár, our; ar n-imeacht, on (upon) going ,

bratach, flag; an bhratach, the flag,

cath, battle; tríd an chath, through the battle, crógach, brave (person); na gcrógach, of the brave (people); croí; croíthe, heart, hearts,

dhuit, to you,

fáinne, ring;  fáinne an lae, dawn,

geal-ghlé, bright-clear;  geal-réaltach, “star-spangled,” lit. bright-starry; literally, “spangled” is “spaglainneach;”  géill, níor ghéill, yield, didn’t yield;  gleo, clamor, tumult;  go deo, ever, never (if the verb is negative); go síor, for ever,

in airde, in a high place,

, day; don ló, to/for the day; an lae, of the day;  léir, clear;  luascadh, swinging

míniú, to explain, to comfort

oíche; night; na hoíche, of the night; os cionn, above, over

pléascadh, exploding

réaltaí, stars;  riabha, stripes

‘s = is = agus , and

saor, free (person); na saor, of the free (people);  spéir, spéartha, sky, skies

talamh, land;  tír, country;  titim, falling;  tríd, through

uasal, noble; go huasal,  nobly

An Bhratach Gheal-Réaltach, Véarsa 2

1) Ar an trá thall, go doiléir i lár cheonna na dtonn, [err un traw hawl guh DIL-yayrzh ih lawr HYOH-nuh nuh dun] On yonder shore dimly in the midst of the fogs of the waves  

2) Tá slua mór Shasan’ go gruama ina luí; [taw SLOO-uh mor HASS-un guh GROO-uh-muh nuh lee] There is England’s big horde gloomily lying down,  

3) Cad é siúd ar an ard thuas, ag luascadh anonn [kad ay shood err un awrd HOO-us egg LOO-us-kuh uh-NUN] What is that up on high up swinging over,  

4) Is á cheilt is á thaispeáint, ‘réir athrú na gaoithe? [iss aw hyeltch iss aw HASH-pyawntch rayrzh AH-hroo nuh gee-uh] And being hidden and being shown, According to the change of the wind?  

5) ‘Nois tá solas na gréine, ag lonradh air go tréan! [NISH taw SOl-us nuh GRAYN-yuh egg LON-ruh err guh trzhayn!] Now the light of the sun is shining on it strongly!  

6) ‘Nois is léir dhom a scáile sa toinn — féach í féin! [nish iss layrzh hom uh SKAWL-yuh suh tin – faykh ee hayn ] Now I clearly see its reflection in the wave — look at it itself!  

7) ‘Sí an bhratach gheal-réaltach, go raibh sí go síor [shee un VRAH-tukh YA-AL-RAYL-tukh guh ruh-uh shee-ee guh-uh shee-ur] It’s the star-spangled banner, may it forever be

8) Os cionn thír na gcrógach is talamh na saor! [us kyun HEE-IRzh nuh groh-GUKH ih-iss TAL-uv nuh seer] Above the country of the brave and the land of the free!  

(On the shore dimly seen, through the mists of the deep, Where the foe’s haughty host, in dread silence reposes, What is that which the breeze o’er the towering steep, As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses? Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam, In full glory reflected, now shines in the stream, ‘Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!)

Gluais do véarsa 2

Anonn, over;  Ard, high; high place;  Athrú, change; changing,

Cad é?, What’s that?;  Ceilt, hiding (act of);  Ceo, ceonna, fog, fogs,

Dhom, to me,

Féach!, Look!,

Gaoth, wind; gaoithe, of wind;  Grian, sun; na gréine, of the sun;  Go raibh sí (etc.) …, May she (etc.) be … ;  Go doiléir, murkily, Go gruama, gloomily;  Go tréan, strongly,

Is [say “iss” in Irish, not like the “izz” pronunciation of the English word “is]

Lár, middle;  Lonradh, shining;  Luí, lying down

‘nois, now

‘réir, according to

Sasan’, England; Shasan‘, of England;  Scáil, reflection;  Siúd, yonder;  Slua, horde, host;  Solas, light

Taispeáint, showing;  Trá, beach, shore, strand; Thall, over there; Thuas, up, above; Tonn, wave; na dtonn; of the waves; toinn, wave (dative case, after “sa“)

An Bhratach Gheal-Réaltach, Véarsa 3

1) Is cad d’éirigh don drong a thug mionna go teann, [iss kahd a DAYRzh-ee dun drong uh hug MIN-nuh go tchawn], And what happened to that throng , who gave oaths strongly

2) Go bhfágfadh gan tír sinn, gan áras ‘na sheasamh, [guhWAWG-huh gahn tcheerzh shin gahn AW-rus nuh HASS-uv], That they would leave [us] without a country, us without a building standing?

3) Is go dtabharfaidís léan leo, is leatrom is lann? [sguh DOR-hidj-eesh layn lyoh iss LAT-rom iss lahn?] And that they would bring grief with them, and oppression and blade?

4) Ó, do scrios a gcuid fola rian gránna a gcosa: [oh duh shkriss uh gwidj FOL-uh REE-un GRAW-nuh uh GUSS-uh], Oh, their share of blood destroyed the ugly track of their feet

5) Níl cara ná cáil ag fealltóir ná tráill, [neel KAH-ruh naw kaw-il egg FYAWL-toh-irzh naw TRAW-il], There is no friend or reputation at a traitor or a thrall

6) San uaigneas, san uaigh, níl a bhfoscadh le fáil! [sun OO-ig-nyuss, sun OO-ee, neel uh WOS-kuh le faw-il] In the loneliness, in the grave, there’s no shelter available (from it)  [NB 7/4/15: is féidir “sun OO-ig” a rá do “san uaigh” freisin, cosúil leis an bhfocal “uaigneas”]

7) ‘S tá an bhratach gheal-réaltach go buach go síor [stawn VRAH-tukh YA-AL-RAYL-tukh guh BOO-OO-uh-ukh guh-uh shee-ur] And the star-spangled banner is victoriously eternal(ly)

8) Os cionn thír na gcrógach is talamh na saor!         

[us kyun HEE-IRzh nuh groh-GUKH ih-iss TAL-uv nuh seer] O’er the country of the brave and the land of the free!  

(And where is that band who so vauntingly swore, That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion A home and a country should leave us no more? Their blood has wash’d out their foul footsteps’ pollution, No refuge could save the hireling and slave From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!)

Gluais do véarsa 3:

Áras, building, house, mansion,

Cad?, What?;  Cáil, reputation;  Cara, friend; Cos, foot, leg; **a gcosa, their feet, their legs; Cuid, share, portion

D’éirigh + do, happened to;  Do (past tense marker, untranslated);  Drong, group, throng,

Fág, leave; go bhfágfadh, that (they) would leave;  Fáil, getting;  Fealltóir, traitor;  Foscadh, shelter; a bhfoscadh, their shelter;  Fuil, blood; fola, of blood,

Go teann, strongly, tightly, firmly;  Gránna, ugly,

Lann, blade;  Léan, grief;  Leatrom, oppression, unevenness,

Mionn, mionna, oath(s)

‘na sheasamh, standing (in its standing);  , nor

Rian, track, trail (n);

Scrios, destroyed Tabhair, give; go dtabharfaidís, that they would give;  Tráill, thrall, slave

Uaigh, grave (n);  Uaigneas, loneliness

And a few further notes:

a) Maidir leis an bhfocal “drong” -it’s a direct parallel to the English word “throng.”  Remember, the initial Irish broad “d” sound has a dental quality, with the tongue pressed against the back of the upper teeth, so it’s not surprising that English equivalent has a “hard th” (theta) sound.

b) Maidir leis an bhfocal Béarla “vauntingly”: I think “go teann” was a good choice here, given the context.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anything described as occurring “vauntingly” in actual modern spoken English.  The ordinary Irish words for “vaunting” (if anything about the word “vaunting” could be described as “ordinary”) are “maíteach” and “gaisciúil.”  And where’s that “vaunting” from anyway?  Apparently from Latin “vanus” (“vain” — That figures!)  

**Iarsmaoineamh (28 Eanáir 2015): For “rian gránna a gcosa,” we see “a gcosa” for “(of) their feet.”  The official modern standard form for this would be “a gcos,” without the final “-a.”  But at the time Ó Gramhnaigh’s translation was made, the Caighdeán Oifigiúil didn’t exist yet.  Many words had numerous variations in spelling and grammatical treatment.  In fact, many still do, even after the spelling reforms of the 1950s.  It’s impossible to know now whether Ó Gramhnaigh was debating between “a gcosa” and “a gcos,” but he may have felt, as I do, that “a gcosa” flows better.  Pairing “gránna” with “gcosa” not only creates some alliteration (g + g), but the two “-a” endings create a loose sort of end rhyme.  And, while we’re at it, vowels are widely recognized as being easier to sing, mar is eol do na hIodálaigh!

An Bhratach Gheal-réaltach, Véarsa 4

1)  Gurab amhlaidh go brách, nuair a sheasfaidh na laoich                            [GUR-ub OW-lee guh brawkh NOO-irzh uh HASS-ee nuh lee-ih] May it be thus forever when the heroes (will) stand

2)  Idir shlua na namhad is áras a gcloinne; [idj-irzh HLOO-uh nuh NAW-ud iss AWR-uss uh GLIN-yuh], Between the host of the enemy and the building (house) of their family;

3)  ‘S go raibh altú is glóir d’Athair Bua is Síth’,                                      [sguh ruh AL-too iss gloh-irzhdo-uh AH-hirzh BOO-uss shee] And may there be praise and glory to Father [of?] Victory and Peace,

4)  Thug dúiche Uaidh féin dúinn, go deireadh na cruinne,                                      [hug DOO-ih-hyuh OO-ee hayn,  doo-in guh DJERzh-uh nuh KRIN-yuh] Who gave the territory from Himself, to us until the end of the universe!

5)  Beidh rath ar an Neart, mar tá linn-ne an Ceart,                     [bay rah err un nyart mahr taw LIN-yuh un kyart] Prosperity will be on the Strength, because the Right is with us,

6)  Is tá dóchas ár gcroí ar Dhia na bhFeart!      [iss taw DOH-khuss awr gree eh-err YEE-uh nuh vyart!] And the hope of our heart (is) is on God of the Miracles (almighty God)!

7)  ‘S beidh an bhratach gheal-réaltach, go buach go síor [sbay un VRAH-tukh YA-AL-RAYL-tukh guh BOO-OO-uh-ukh guh-uh shee-ur] And the star-spangled banner will be victoriously eternally

8)  Os cionn thír na gcrógach is talamh na saor!          [us kyun HEE-IRzh nuh groh-GUKH, ih-iss TAL-uv nuh seer] O’er the country of the brave and the land of the free!  

(Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand Between their loved home and the war’s desolation,  Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land  Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation, Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.” And the star-spangled banner  in triumph doth wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!)

Gluais do véarsa 4:  

Altú, thanks, thanking;  Amhlaidh, thus,

Beidh, will be;  Bua, victory,

Ceart, right (noun or adj.);  Clann, family; a gcloinne, of their family (old spelling with “o”);  Cruinne, universe,

d’Athair, to/for Father (God);  Dia, God;  Dóchas, hope;  Dúiche, territory,

feart, miracle; na bhfeart, of the miracles,

Glóir, glory;  Go brách, forever;  Go deireadh, till (the) end; Gurab, may it be,

Laoch, laoich, hero, heroes,

Namhaid, enemy; na namhad, of the enemy(-ies) (sing. or pl.);  Neart, strength;  Nuair a, when,

Rath, prosperity

Sheasfaidh, will stand;  Síth, peace

Uaidh [OO-ee], from Him (capitalized in the text because referring to God)

Sin agaibh na ceithre véarsa.  SGF, Róislín

The links for the other blogs are:

Ó Abair An Léir Dhuit, Véarsa 4: Oh, Say Can You See, 4th (and final) verse (Amhrán Náisiúnta na Stát Aontaithe)

*Pronunciation Note: You can hear the broad “dh” sound at the following site, but you’ll have to listen to four other velar sounds first: (Click on “velar” and listen for the 5th example, marked as ɣ).  The sounds are recorded in columns and rows, so you have to listen to all the sounds in that particular column or row.

Alternately, you could click on the “fricative” row, but then there are 15 fricatives ahead of the one we want.  Which is called the … <tormáil drumaí> … “cuimilteach glórach coguasach.”   Or, más fearr leat i mBéarla é, “voiced velar fricative.” This /ɣ / sound, which doesn’t occur in English, has been discussed in previous blogs in this series, like the following:

a) Saying “I love you” in Irish and Minding Your Velar Fricatives,

b) Fools, on Hills and Otherwise, with Irish Pronunciation Tips

c) Pronunciation Follow-up to the “Cúig Fhocal gan Mhaith” Series

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  1. Mark:

    Thanks for sharing this translation of the U.S. anthem. Can you identify the source of the text? Any idea why it was created? From what I can find online, an tAhair O’ Gramhnaigh was living in Los Angeles, USA in 1898.

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