February 19, 2004

Chì Mi Bhuam . . .

. . . is Scottish Gaelic for “I see (at a distance) from me.” It’s the title of a song by Alasdair The Ridge MacDonald, who in 1847 left his home in Mabou on Cape Breton Island for the Nova Scotia mainland. One bright day on Cape George, he could see clearly across to his old home:

Chì mi bhuam, fada bhuam
Chì mi bhuam ri muir làin
Chì mi Ceap Breatuinn mo luaidh
Fada bhuam thar an t-sàil’

I see at a distance, far at a distance
I see at a distance on the full tide
I see Cape Breton my love
Far from me across the sea

You can hear a clip of the song (sung by Barry George) and read the English translation here (track 11).

The Human Breakdown of Absurdity is one of the finest examples of a song-poem, the train-wreck spawn of amateur lyricists, professional musicians, hustling producers, and hurried recording sessions. This particular song was written by Ove Lid, with music by Lew Tobin, and performed by Norm Burns & Singers. You can listen to a clip here (track 5).