The Midnight Court is a translation of Cuirt An Mhean Oiche by Brian Merriman. An outstanding poet, Ciaran Carson has also proved himself an adept and adventurous translator.
Now he turns to a masterpiece perfectly suited to his abundant gifts, the eighteenth-century Irish ‘Cúirt an Mhéan Oíche’. Brian Merriman’s classic debate on marriage and the plight of young women culminates in the fairy goddess Aoibheall’s judgement against men. Carson echoes Merriman’s mix of high rhetoric and rude colloquial wit and replicates his probing analysis of sexuality and social mores.
The acrobatics of his couplets quicken the poem’s passionate argument, capturing its nudges and winks in earthy, contemporary idiom. What he calls Merriman’s ‘abundant lexicon of vilification . . . numerous double entendres and gorgeousness of verbal music’ comes alive in his brilliant recreation. This Midnight Court unfolds with a spring — and a surprise — in every step.
“Carson’s translation of ‘The Midnight Court’ is that rarest of things: a small and utterly enjoyable masterpiece. It brings to a wider audience than ever before a great and neglected piece of 18th century literature and, to an American readership, something equally important. In this country, poetry now is more frequently written than read, and the pleasures of the long poem are all but lost. By and large, our poets lack ambition and their meager audiences the patience. What Carson offers the willing in these 60 pages of poetry with a brief introduction is a rollicking evening of instruction in the pleasures of a long and entertaining poem.” — Tim Rutten, Los Angeles Times