The Song of Amergin

The front cover of a handmade carousel book. It's titled The Song of Amergin by C. A. Ward. Top view of The Song of Amergin, fully expanded. The layered pages are red, black, and white. The first two layers are cut to reveal the subsequent layers. Top view of The Song of Amergin, partially expanded. The covers are partially visible, as is the structure of the carousel book. A spread from The Song of Amergin. The first layer has lines from the poem and paper-cut dolmens. The second layer has paper-cut plants. Detail shot of the second spread of the Song of Amergin. The willow leaf paper-cut is in focus. Third spread of the Song of Amergin book. Detail of the third spread from The Song of Amergin. The holly leaf cut out is in focus and the corresponding Ogham letter. The final spread of The Song of Amergin. The page is cut into hills with stone arches. The background is the moon phases.

The Song of Amergin is my adaptation of the ancient Irish poem of the same name. The poem itself is thought to have many meanings including its function as a tree calendar and mnemonic for the Ogham alphabet. I chose the carousel book format because it combined the cyclical nature of a calendar with the multi-layered depth of a tunnel book. The different meanings of the poem are shown on different layers. The dolmens on the first layer are representations of how the Ogham alphabet is often found carved into standing stones. The second layer shows the tree and letter associated with each line of the poem.

In preparing the book I combined aspects of my favorite translations of the poem. The complete text is as follows:

The Song of Amergin

I am a stag of seven tines.
I am a flood across a plain.
I am a wind on deep waters,
     stirring life among the depths.
I descend the shining dew,
     a tear of the sun.
Aloft, I rise the Griffin,
     a hawk above a cliff.
I am a thorn beneath the nail.
I am a wonder among flowers,
     the navigator’s rose.
I am the hallowed oak, smoldering
     and the lightning that blasts it so.
I am a spear that roars blood rage.
I am a salmon in wisdom’s pool.
I am a lure from paradise,
     to walk the earth a wisp.                                                                                          I am a hill where poets walk.
I am a red boar,
     ruthless and roving.
I am a threatening breaker of the sea.
I am the receding tide,
     a dragging death to the unlucky

I am an infant, who but I
     unfurls the secrets
     of the unhewn dolmen arch.
I am the womb of every holt,
     to birth the hours of the day.
I am the blaze on every hill,
     to mark the months’ initiation.
I am the queen of every hive,
     dispensing days from celestial hand.
I am the shield to every head,
     as they repose akin to tides.
I am the tomb of every hope,
     as the seasons’ close draws near.