Gwrac'h Ahez

The Hag Ahès

Text collected by Madam de Saint-Prix
Included in the Penguern Collection
MS N° 91 at the Bibliothèque Nationale : Trégor folk songs
Published by Dastum in "Dastumad Penwern" in 1983

St Hervé Chapel on top of Menez-Bré



PENGUERN MANUSCRIPT

GROAH AES

1. Arri groac'h Aes en hon bro,
Kessomp meïn bras war en hincho ;
Kessomp meïn bras ha meïn bihan
War en hent bras en kreïs al lan.

2. Nag an den kos a levere
En he goaze war vene Bre :

3. - Woël a ve kernes ha bossen,
Wit groac'h Aes en hon c'hichen ;
Woël a ve bresel ha maro
Wit groac'h Ails en hon c'hevro.

4. Man groac'h Aes en pen a lan,
Honnes na deu ket ec'hunan :
Truantourien a zo gant-hi
Da lakat 'n noas leuren ho ti,

5. - Kessomp meïn bras ha meïn bihan
War en hent bras en kreïs al lan.

6. - Kiri houarn a zo ganti
ha kesek gwen war he c'hiri ;

.................................

7. Hag er gernes gwen vel an erc'h
War gei"n eun eïes deu warlec'h.

8. - Kessomp meïn bras ha meïn bihan
War en hent bras en kreïs al lan.

9. - Er brezel gwal, er brezel ter ,
A deu warle(r)c'h gant an erer ,
Gant er blei"di, gant er brini,
so klasq kat kik tud da dibi.

10. - Kessomp meïn bras ha meïn bihan
War en hent bras en kreïs al lan.

11. - Ar vossen du, ar vossen wen,
A deu warle(r)c'h en eur c'har pren,
En eur c'har pren, n'hen wuic'hourat
An Ancou treut hen chareat.

12.- Kessomp meïn bras ha meïn bihan
War en hent bras en kreïs al lan.

13. - Warle(r)c'h hounes na velan ken
Na velan den war er blenen.
Na velan ken mert ar gaen bras
O kreiskin war an douar noas,

14. - Arri groac'h Aes en han bro
kessomp mei'n bras war an hincho.
KLT TRANSCRIPTION

GWRAC'H AHEZ

1. Erru Gwrac'h Ahez en hon bro.
Kasomp mein bras war an henchoù!
Kasomp mein bras ha mein bihan
War an hent bras e-kreiz al lann!

2. Nag an den kos a lavare
En e goagez war Venez Bre:

3. - Gwell a ve kernes ha bosenn
Vit Gwrac'h Ahez en hon kichen.
Gwell a ve brezel ha marv
Vit Gwrac'h Ahes en hon c'hevreoù.

4. Ma Gwrac'h Ahes e penn al lann.
Honnezh na zeu ket hec'h unan:
Truantourien a zo ganti
Da lakaat 'n noas leurenn ho ti.

5. - Kasomp mein bras ha mein bihan
War an hent bras e-kreiz al lann!

6. - Kirri houarn a zo ganti
Ha kezek gwenn war he c'hirri.

..............................

7. Hag ar gernes gwenn vel an erc'h
War gein un heizez zeu war-lerc'h.

8. - Kasomp mein bras ha mein bihan
War an hent bras e-kreiz al lann!

9. - Ar brezel gwall, ar brezel taer
A zeu war lerc'h gand an erer.
Gant ar bleizi, gant ar brini
Zo 'klask kaout kig dud da zebriñ.

10. - Kasomp mein bras ha mein bihan
War an hent bras e-kreiz al lann!

11. - Ar vosenn du, ar vosenn wenn
A zeu war-lerc'h en ur c'harr prenn,
En ur c'harr prenn a c'hwigourat.
An Ankoù treut hen charreat.

12. - Kasomp mein bras ha mein bihan
War an hent bras e-kreiz al lann!

13.- War-lerc'h honnezh, na welan ken.
Na welan den war ar blaenenn.
Na welan ken 'med ar genn vras
O kreskiñ war an douar noazh..."

14. - Erru Gwrac'h Ahez en hon bro.
Kasomp mein bras war an henchoù!
TRANSLATION

THE HAG AHES

1. The Hag Ahes comes to these parts.
Let us load large slabs on our carts,
Lay big and small rocks to secure
And pave the way across the moor!

2. Do you hear what the old man says,
Seated atop the Menez-Brez?

3. - Better plague of our own and dearth
Than Ahes passing along our earth.
Death and woes are sooner dismissed
Than the Hag Ahes in our midst.

4. Hag Ahes is at the moor's end.
But not her alone: all her band:
Rogues and villains coming to boot,
Our homes to plunder and to loot.

5. - Lay big and small rocks to secure
And pave the way across the moor!

6. - Now iron waggons follow on
Which by snow white horses are drawn.

.........................

7. - Next comes hunger as white as snow,
Riding on the back of a doe.

8. - Lay big and small rocks to secure
And pave the way across the moor!

9. The war, gruesome to the feeble
Follows, with a circling eagle,
And wolves and crows lured by their greed
For human flesh whereon to feed.

10. - Lay big and small rocks to secure
And pave the way across the moor!

11. - White and black plague are two dragons,
Hitched up to a wooden waggon.
A wooden waggon whose wheels creak
Driven by Ankou, the thin freak.

12. - Lay big and small rocks to secure
And pave the way across the moor!

13. After him... I'm searching in vain:
No one to be seen on the plain.
Nothing but yonder immense wedge
Driving into bare ground its edge..."

14. - Lay big and small rocks to secure
And pave the way across the moor!

Translated by Ch. Souchon (c) 2011

NOTES:

« Ahes’ Highway »
The article « way » in the French-Breton dictionary composed by the Rev. Gregory of Rostrenen in 1732 reads:
“Hent Ahès: "Ahes’ Highway" is a three layer paved roadway built by Princess Ahes who founded Kerahes viz. Carhaix, to link this town with Nantes on the one hand, and Brest on the other hand. This denomination is still in use from place to place.”
This song is, consequently, sung by the roadmenders who are busy restoring the ancient road.
It is is echoed by the old man who, far from considering this opening up to the outer world a progress, points out in his curses alternating with the road builders' cheers, the dangers it implies.

Is this a forgery? François Vallée's opinion
In the preface to "Dastumad Penwern" (The De Penguern Collection published in 1983 by Dastum) there is a long account (in Breton language) by François Vallée (1860 -1949, a linguist who composed a famous dictionary) concerning Guillaume-René Kerambrun. It was published in "Studi hag ober" (N°12, 1940) by the grammarian and poet Maodez Glanndour (alias the Reverend Pierre Le Floch, 1909 - 1986):
"Included in the De Penguern song collection is a roughbook titled "The Hag Ahès". It is not deposited at the Bibliothèque Nationale, but at Rennes University Library. It was discovered in Durance antique bookshop. They made me a gift of this document, that I gave to the Rennes University Library, along with other fascicles missing in the De Penguern Collection that were kept at Durance's. It seems that the roughbook "The Hag Ahès" contains a first draft of the song as jotted down from somebody's singing by Mme de Saint-Prix, intertwined with a transcription by Kerambrun.
I published in the "Memories of the Breton Association" and in the magazine "Kroaz ar Vretoned" part of the songs discovered at Durance's. Yet I did not include "The Hag Ahes" on account of its uneasy deciphering. Kerambrun was suspected of having written himself the whole song. It seems beyond doubt that he had to rewrite part of the verses that were too confused in the draft of Mme de Saint-Prix.
About Kerambrun, who acted as a secretary helping de Penguern with his collection, I know nothing, except that he was repeatedly charged with forgery, an unwarranted reproach in my opinion. He was a relative to Denis Kerambrun, a solicitor at Belle-Isle-en-Terre whom I often heard deservedly praising the merits of this relation of his who, I am afraid, sometimes just acted a bit thoughtlessly".

The collector, Mme de Saint Prix
Madam de Saint-Prix (1789 - 1869), née Emilie-Barbe Guitton was originating from Callac (near Vannes). She married Charles de Saint-Prix in 1816 and spent a lifetime in the Morlaix area. Many are those who bore witness to the eclectic hospitality of her salon where mixed together "Legitimists, Republicans and Orleanists" and as well a "general in evening dress" as a "farmer in frieze clothes", so said the Reverend Kerzale in the funeral oration he delivered in praise of her.
A perfect Breton speaker, she may have started her collecting in 1820, possibly prompted by the grammarian Le Gonidec (1775-1838), who was a friend of her husband's.
She made no attempt at publishing herself her investigations but allowed other collectors to avail themselves of them : La Villemarqué admits that he was "set on the track of the poem about Merlin, by Madam de Saint-Prix, who was kind enough to contribute some fragments sung in Tregor". Anatole Le Braz states on the other hand that " Madam de Saint Prix often said to my father that she had helped M. de La Villemarqué to many Breton laments".
The writer Chevalier de Fréminville (1787 -1848) hints in his narrative "Antiquités bretonnes" (1837) at pieces she had contributed.
But it was De Penguern who most gained by her exertions when she gave him the greatest part of her collection that was to become MS N° 92 in the stocks of the Bibliothèque Nationale.

Guillaume-René de Kerambrun (1813- 1852)
He was born at Bégard (between Lannion and Guingamp, studied laws in Rennes, founded a theatre magazine, published poems and became a writer of renown. He helped, furthermore, J.M. de Penguern with his collection of folk songs, but he is suspected of having composed himself a few pieces (the best ones!)
However, the historian Arthur de La Borderie (1827 - 1901, the author of the imposing "History of Brittany") defended the genuineness of the "Hag Ahès" and the " Stamped paper Dance" songs against Luzel's and Le Braz' charges, as well as La Villemarqué's insinuation concerning the second song. More recently, the musicologist Donatien Laurent took sides with Kerambrun's defenders as he considers as probably genuine two other songs incriminated by Luzel: "The wolves of the sea" and "Raid of Saxons" (Argadenn ar Saozon).

A princess or a giant hag?
The nefarious character referred to in this song is likely to be the alleged eponymous figure of Carhaix town.
The geographer Jean Ogée (1728 -1789), who wrote a "Geographic Dictionary of Brittany" and an "Atlas - Itinerary of Brittany", does not believe in the existence of Is. He remarks that in some people's opinion Is was the inland town Carhaix (Keraës in Breton): Keraes was the Ker-Is of old. Before him Albert Le Grand had already connected the name "Ahès" with this town, as he had ascribed its foundation to a certain Princess Ahès.
In fact (according to M. Bernard Tanguy) both the Breton "Kerhaes" and the French "Carhaix" are for an old "Carofes" prolonging the Latin "Quadruvium", crossroads. The latter had early replaced "Vorgion", the previous name of the main town of the tribe Osismii. The town Charroux in the département Allier has the same etymology. The "Guide de la Bretagne mystérieuse - Finistère" (Tchou 1966) asserts that "old established tradition [in the Carhaix area] sees in Ahès a legendary princess (or goddess) who may be traced in several places of the Breton inland: a hamlet named "Carhaix" between Rohan and Bréhan-Loudéac, a "Corn-Carhai" on the Portsall rocks near Ploudalmézeau and a township "Caraës" on Ushant Island. The mid 17th century lawman Eguiner Baron referred to this tradition when he wrote:
Exstat oppidum in comitatu Cornualensi Armoricae Britanniae, ab Ahae gigantis feminae nomine appelatum Ker-Ahez, quod verbum sonat Villa Ahae, i.e.
There is in the county Cornouaille, in Armorica, a fortified place named after the gigantic woman Ahès, as "Carhaix" means "town of Ahès".
It is remarkable that this text should make of the princess a giant..."

Madame de Saint-Prix (1789 -1869)



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