[From C I Paton 'Pargys Caillit', 1947]



John Feltham, in a very interesting account of his "Tour Through the Isle of Man in 1797 and 1798," which was published in the latter year, gave a list of the books known to him which had. been published in the Manks language. Among them there was one which had recently appeared (1) at the time of his visit. He writes, " I was surprised to see Milton's Paradise Lost in Manks dress, and a clergyman (2) assured me that it possessed merit." The book here mentioned is Pargys Caillit, or as the title was spelled in the first edition " Phargys Callyt." The translator was the Revd. Thomas Christian of Ballakilley in Kirk Marown, of which parish he, like his father and grandfather before him, was vicar. His grandfather, Thomas Christian, unlike the generality of: his countrymen, seems to have held Jacobite views, for at the time of Charles Edward's rebellion he was called upon to enter into two securities of 10 to answer the charge of having asserted that "The Pretender was and is the Right Heir to the Crowne of Great Britaine." (3) His son John, the father of Thomas Christian the younger, was the translator of the Second Book of Kings into Manks, (4) and helped with the translation of the Prayer Book.

Bishop Hildesley, to whose persistent efforts. the noble Manks translation of the Bible is mainly due, was disappointed with young Thomas Christian when he was first sent to him. He wrote to the Revd. Philip Moore, March 1761. " Young Christian got to me the day before the snow... . . I find he is almost a blank paper, notwithstanding the vast cries up of his vehement scholarship. His uncle sent me a list of books he had read, enough to frighten a learned Jew. He is tolerably versed in Greek Testament. But it is time he should know things as well as words, or Dan Cowley will have the head of him by many bars." (5)

However in 1768 or 1769 he appointed him as Vicar of Peel. Thomas seems to have been disappointed at getting no better living, until the Bishop pointed out that " his several appointments" amounted to .. . . . no less than 65 Manks, [nearly 56 Sterling] and then he drew in his horns, and said that indeed it was much more than he had reason to expect (6).

In 1780 Thomas Christain became Vicar of Marown, after the death of his father in 1779, and remained in that parish until his death in 1799, though he had before that time ceased to be vicar. I have been told that his death was due to an overdose of a medicine-he having insisted on drinking the whole bottle instead of the prescribed dose (7).

Pargys Caillit, though no date appears on the original title page was published in 1796, which is the date given in the reprint of 1872. The Manks speaking population at that period was a large one. The Revd. Hugh Stowell (the elder) stated in 1809 that of the 30,000 inhabitants of the Island one third knew Manks only and another third spoke and read it better than they could English. The poem was most likely widely read. The late Custodian of Peel Castle, William Cashen, as a child " would go to old Paiee Cooil, a weaver in Dalby, and though she could not read she would recite Pargys Caillit ..... to him in Manks while he filled the ..... bobbins for her." (8) Mr. G. W. Wood told me that Harry Cubbon, the Laxey Local Preacher, could recite any passage of the poem, and that he himself had tested him.

The first edition is a small 12 mo volume of 120 pages. It is on poor paper and badly printed. The author has ignored to a large extent the spelling which had been already standardised by the Manks Bible over twenty years previously. Unfortunately the reprint has been badly edited and, besides typographical errors, lines which faulty proof reading had permitted to be duplicated in the first edition were left unexpunged in the second-four lines in one place, ten in another and two more in a third place,

That Pargys Caillit " possessed merit " all must agree who have enough knowledge of the Gailck to judge. It is a magnificent translation, or rather, paraphrase. The original title page calls it a translation of Milton's poem. The reprint calls it a translation of selected passages. It is really much more than the latter, and less than the former. Pargys Caillit might, be better described as the story of Paradise Lost retold in Manks verse; abridged from Milton's 10,565 to 3,930 lines, after deducting the above mentioned duplications. (9) The whole poem which is written in 10-syllabic couplets, has been recast as well as abridged, but with the exception of Adam's vision in Books XI and XII of the original, and of some of the setting of the poem in other places, no material part of the story has been omitted, through here and there a little new matter has been added-and not bad either!

`The Manks poem is not divided into books.

First comes an introductory address to the Manks reader, in the course of which the author says -.

Line 7.

" Ta goull beg sollys skeayley magh er my chree
Dy voddyms gynsagh da ny Manninee
Yindys mooar to foayst feer joarree daue,
As da ashoonyn to jeu er dagh laue."

" A small bright ray beams shining on my heart
That I may to my countrymen impart
A tale of wonder none before did tell,
And to the nations on each hand that dwell."

This looks as though Christian expected the Highlanders and the Irish to understand his Manks. I am not aware of any Scotch or Irish Gaelic rendering of the poem, though there is a Welsh one which received high praise from George Borrow.

Then follows the poem proper, headed :

The paraphrase begins with a description of heaven, not, however, given, as in the original, by the angel Raphael to Adam, but told direct to the reader. The opening lines are :

" Yn Chairn Yee skeayl magh reeriaght vooar da hene,
Liauyr fegooish kione, as fegooish cagliagh lheean;
Niau jir mayd r'ee; cheer dy vaynrys vooar,
Lane jeh dagh mie, jeh berchys, oaashley's gloyr."

" God did himself a kingdom great provide,
Long without end, and without borders wide;
Heaven we shall call it-land of joys untoldFull of all good, of riches manifold."

The angels in happiness are divided into various ranks, one under another, but are all subject to God. To these angels in solemn assembly, the Father gives commandment that the Son is to be worshipped.

Line 149.

" Dy chooilley ghlioon nagh groym ayns ammys da
Vees tilgit magh ass m'enish son dy braa,
As vein my vaynrys, veik my ghrayse as foayr,
Veih ooilley'n chairys t'echey ayns my ghloyr."

" And everyone that will not bow the knee
Shall be cast out for all eternity
From all my happiness, my grace and care,
From all my glory 'tis his right to share."

From this beginning which agrees with Milton's Book V line 571, the story runs through Books VI, VII, part of VIII, and then turns back to Books I, II, III, IV up to the first part of Book V, omitted from the commencement, and ends with IX and X omitting almost entirely only XI and XII, dealing with the expulsion from Paradise (told in a few lines), and Adam's Vision.

The following selections may be taken to illustrate the Manks poem :-Abdiels' Speech, Milton V from line 809.

Line 301.

" O ghreain as atchim! Quod s'loys loayrt not Jee
Lheid ny goan mollee? O s'beg heill mish chaie
Nyn Lheid y chlashtyn.
Kys daase ayns dty chleeau
Lheid y pyshoon t'er skeayley magh cha bieau
Fud whilleen pooar?
Va gys nish biallagh,
As vees, dy-gerrit, ass
Niau tilgit magh.
Mayrts son dy bragh, gys ynnyd t'er ny chroo
Da'n aigney piandagh, as da'n shilley doo."

Line 328

" Nagh bare dhyts, eisht, ve corree rish dty chree
Son mooads dty voyrn, as dt'olkys not dty Yee;
Gys e Vac reeoil tuittym er dty ghlioon;
Quoi ec ta fys nagh der eh dhyt pardoon?"

O fear and horror!
Who 'gainst God dare pour
Such blasphemy? I little thought before
The like to hear.
Within thy breast how grew
Such poison that so swiftly has run through
This mighty concourse?
Till now they did obey
But shortly shall from heaven be cast away
With thee for ever to the place of doom
To grief of mind and to hell's blackest gloom."

" Were it not well that thou thy heart abhorred
For thy great pride and treason 'gainst thy Lord?
Before hin royal Son bend thou thy knee.
Who knows but that he still may pardon thee?"

The history of the creation (Milton, Book V) is given in great detail, over 350 lines being devoted to this part of the story.. Behemoth and Leviathan, mentioned in passing by Milton, are expanded into descriptions taken from the Book of Job

Leviathan :Line 1293.

"'Sy diunid vooar ta'n Leviathan snaue,
Yn cretoor smoo as s'agglee ren e laue.
Casley rish uinnagyn y vadyran
Ta 'hooillyn sollys lossey ayns e chione,
Ass e veeal lane drillinyn d'aile spreih magh,.
As veih e stroanyn bodjallyn dy yaagh;"

* * *

" Myr y clagh wyllin ta 'chree moyrnagh. creor,.
As craidey t'eh mysh chwe gyere ny shleiy;
Cha jean eh soiagh smoo jeh yiarn ny prash,'
Ny yinnagh oo jeh stubbyl fo dty chass.;
Tra t'eh snaue ta'n faarkey stermagh gatt
As cloie myr ushtey scoldee ayns y phot.
Jeh mirrilyn yn Ooilley-niartal Jee
'Sy diunid vooar, she'n eeast mooar shoh yn ree."

" In the vast deep the huge Leviathan played,
The beast most fearsome that his hand yet made
Like to the windows of the morning seem
His eyes, so bright within his head they. gleam;
From his full mouth a' shower of sparks there flies,
And clouds of smoke from out his nostrils rise."

* * *

Hard as a millstone is his haughty heart,
He scorns the sharpest sword, the keenest dart;
He fears as little steel or brass to meet
As thou wouldst broken stubble 'neath thy feet.
Where'er he swims the sea foams boiling hot
And bubbles like the water in a pot.
O'er all God's wonders in the mighty main
This monster fish doth as a monarch reign." Behemoth

Line 1366.

" Yn Behemoth mooar ren Jee nish y yannoo,
Yn creetoor smoo va foast shooyl er y thalloo,
Myr prash ny yiarn e chraueyn lajer ta,
As goll-rish billey ta'amman juntagh crag;
Er-lesh dy n'iu eh awin ec yn un traa;
As Jordan vooar y hyrmagh tra t'eh paa;
She eshyn smoo jeh ooilley raaiãyn Yee,
As foast yn faiyr myr dow t'eh goaill son bee."

" Then Behemoth, mighty monster, God next made,
The hugest form that roams the forest glade,
O'er brass or iron may his bones prevail,
And like a cedar sways his mighty tail,
He thinks to drain a river with his mouth,
Scarce Jordan wide would serve to slack his drouth,
The greatest, he, of all the works of God,
Yet like an ox, he takes the grass for food."

Adam and Eve:

Line 1641.

" Jeh ooilley 'vec Adam s'ooasle rieau

As fud inneenyn Aue (10) neesht b'aaley jeu.
Ayns Adam hee oo ooashley, reill as pooar,
Creenaght, graih, tushtey, briwyns as. cree mooar,
Tastey, resoon, dunnallys marish shee,
As cairys, neesht, ooilley ayns jalloo Yee.
Ayns carriads Aue hee oo aigney mooar,
Foast imlee, meein, graihagh, cur geill da'n phooar
Va er e skyn; gyn loght as kinjagh kiune
Irnneagh jeh e currym, as leeidit lesh resoon.
Ooasle, ard-chreeagh, dwoaiagh er anvea;
Ayns goo as jannoo s'maynrey va nyn mea."

" None of his sons with Adam can compare,
And 'mongst her, daughters none as Eve is fair
In Adam mayest thou rule and power see,
Wisdom, love, knowledge, magnanimity,
Peace, heedfulness and courage undismayed,
And righteousness; all in God's image made.
In Eve appears a mind refined indeed,
Yet humble, meek, that to the power gives heed
That is above her; sinless, calm and staid,
Mindful of duty and by reason led,
Noble, great-hearted, hating broil or strife,
In word and deed right happy was their life."

The serpent tempting Eve:

Line 3548

" Fys v'ec y Chroodagh my yinnagh oo gee

Jeh'n mess ocasle shoh, dy bee oo jeant myr Jee:
As eisht, ny share dy chummal sense e phooar,
Mee-hustagh baillish freilt ve e chretoor
Foast my she Jee eh, shegin da ve dooie.
Son foill cha faase cha jean, eh uss y stroie;
'Naght myr t'eh niartal t'eh neesht lane dy ghrayse
Uss, shirrey tushtey, cha der eh gys baase."

For if thou eat of this most noble tree
Thy Maker knows that thou shalt be as he,
And therefore, power over them to keep,
In ignorance he would his creatures steep.
Yet, be he God, he must be kind to all.
Sure, he'd not slay thee for a fault so small!
As he is strong so is he full of grace,
For seeking knowledge he would none abase."

God's sentence on Adam:


" Cursit," dcoyrt eh, "ta'n thalloo er-city-hon,
Drineyn's onnaneyn yiow dy aase dhyt ayn,
Arryltagh jeu hene, dy chummal obbyr rhyt,
Er beggan ymmyd-beaghey vees ad dhyt.
Ayns pian as doccar, imnea as kiarail
Ooilley dty vea liauyr shegin dhyt y ghoaill,
Lesh ollish, neesht, yiow uss dty veggan frill." I

" Cursed," said he, "the ground is for thy sake,
'Thorns, thistles, briars shall a thicket make
Spontaneous grown to hinder all thy toil
Of little use to thee-thy land to spoil. In pain and toil, anxiety and care
All thy life long must thou this burden bear.
With sweating brow thou thus shalt gain thy meagre fare." ,

The conclusion.


" Troailt ry-lhiass laa, as goaill nyn cash 'syn oie
Fo creg ny cronk, nyn girp as aigney skee ;
Croiyn as smeir-ghressagh shirveish daue son bee)
Gys. hooar ad coan kiune rea dy hoiagh ayn
Dy chosney beaghey as dy gheddyn cloan.
Road faagym ad gys grayse as myghin Yee,
As fo ard-chiarail as grain ny flaunyssee."

" All day together do they trudge, by night
Beneath some rock they rest in anxious plight.
Nuts and ripe berries make a frugal banquet light,
' Till to a broad calm vale their way they take
To rear their children and a living make,
Where I shall leave them to God's grace and love.
And 'neath the care of heavenly hosts above

Thomas Christian was probably the author of at least two of the Carvals (long religious songs) formerly sung at the Christmas Eve services. One of these, " Roish my row flaunys er ny chroo " (Before the heavens were created), is not only a condensed Pargys Caillit itself, as Pargys Caillit is a condensed Paradise Lost, but it contains several passages so closely resembling certain lines in Christian's. poem that it is difficult to avoid the inference that they were by the same author. The carval is one of the finest in the language. That the author of such a fine piece of work should have plagiarised from Pargys Caillit is in itself unlikely, but the unlikelihood is increased by the existing of a MS. of the carval which is not of later date than 1793-three years before the appear ance of Pargys Caillit in print. Neither is it likely that Thomas Christian should have been under the necessity of borrowing lines from some unknown carval-writer.

Compare the following passages :

From the carval-in which the angels are likened to stars

" Myr 'syn glen oie ver shin myner
Ny aileyn baney t'er-nynskyn
Lossey dy gennal ayns yn aen
As lieh-my lieh cur soilshey hooin,
Dagh rollage .... Mooar as beg
Ta lane jeh'n sonlshey hee mayd ayn."
As in a clear night we may spy
The pure white stars above our head,
Merrily twinkle in the sky
As turn by turn their light they spread,
These stars all . . Great and small
Are full of the light we see them shed.

From Pargys Caillit on the same subject:-

"Myr ayns oie aalin to shiu cur-my-ner.
Ny cainleyn sollys lossey ayns yn aer;
Paart beg, paart mooar, cur soilshey er dagh laue
Rere thwse y phoaar to Jee er n'eeasaght daue,
Foast ooilley sollys lossey lieh-my-lieh
Chioee freayll nyn reill yn dooghys t'ad jeant jeh."
As in a cloudless night ye may espy
The brilliant candles flashing in the sky,
Some small, some great, on either hand they shine
As God hath gifted them with power divine,
Yet each one brightly gleams in his own turn,
Keeping the natural laws by which they burn.

Or these lines (carval) describing a place "without form and void"

" Dowin fegooish grunt, as ard gyn haare,
Lhean neesht gyn oirr, as liauyr gyn kione."
Deep without base, high also without top,
Broad also, borderless; long without end.

compared with (Pargys Caillit) :-

" Ta'n dowin gyn grunt, ard te neesht gyn baare,
Liauyr fegooish kione, as fegooish mean as oirr."

'Tis deep without base, high also without top,
Long without end, and without midst or magge.

It looks as if Christian had been engaged on Pargys Caillit for some years before publishing, and had meanwhile written a condensed abstract of it as a Christmas carval. A copy of the latter may be studied in A. W. Moore's " Carvalyn Gailckagh," Manx Carols, published in 1891.

Another one likely to have been written by him is "Roish my row yn seihll shoh crooit " (Before this world was created), published by Mr. P. W. Caine, in the "Examiner," July, 1915.

Let me finish this sketch of an important Manks work with an expression of opinion on its merits, taken from a Guide Book which devoted an unusually large space to Gailck literature,

Kneale's Guide to the Isle of Man, 3rd edition: (circa 1871) p. 12. footnote

"According to a well-known Manx scholar all the finest passages have been translated, and all the' nonsense' has been suppressed. On my asking him where the nonsense is to be found, he replied," Teet, there's a dale of nonsense in the English pome. I mane the foolish tales about Adam and Eve coortin' and suchlike. There's none of that nonsense in the Manx pote-ry-no inteet. A dale of Milton's Paradise Lost is nauthin' in the world but thrash. The Manx translation. is far shoo-pay-re-er-partickerly those parts of the pome tellin' about the fights between the divvels and the angels. - Yes, inteet. Ay, man, it's ray-ly wun-thin-ful-it's grandgrand uncommon!"

Well, well! Who'd have thought it?



(1) 1796.

(2) Probably the Revd. Thomas Corlett, of Lezayre, who gave him information about the language and traslated Ken's Morning and Evening Hymns which Feltham gave in his Tour.

(3) A. W. Moore's " Notes and Documents " p. 68.

(4) Memoirs of Bishop Hildesley, p. 252.

(5) Letter to the Revd. Philip Moore, January 19th, 1769, printed in the "Manx Sun" Dec. 3rd, 1904.

(6) Ditto, May 27th, 1905.

(7) Told to me by the late Archdeacon Kewley.

(8) Miss S. Morrison's Introduction to William Cashin's " Manx Folk-Lore" 1912, p. ix.

(9) Not including the Introduction of 62 lines.

(10) The Manks "Aue" for Eve looks odd to a modern English reader, but it was the form used in the Geneva (" Breeches ") Bible, which was the most popular translation in the British Isles up to the middle of the 17th century and was no doubt used in the Isle of Man.

Mona's Herald, Ltd.




Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
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