The Midnight Verdict: Translations from the Irish of Brian Merriman (c.1745-1805) and from the Metamorphoses of Ovid
Each of the translations in this book can be read for its own sake or as part of a triptych. By setting excerpts of Brian Merriman’s Cúirt an Mheán Oíche (The Midnight Court) within the acoustic of a classical myth (the story of Orpheus and Eurydice), Seamus Heaney provides a new and illuminating context for the eighteenth-century classic Irish poem. The idea of juxtaposing the three pieces came out of ‘a single impulse’, said the poet in his translator’s note. Each of the translations can be read for its own sake or as part of a triptych. By setting within the acoustic of a classical myth, Heaney added a further chapter to his work as a translator and provided a new and illuminating context for Merriman’s classic work.
‘Seamus Heaney’s The Midnight Verdict is a bold, ambitious—and neglected — work. It is bold in structure: Heaney sandwiches an eighteenth century Irish comic poem between Ovid’s account of Orpheus’s loss of Eurydice (in book X of the Metamorphoses) and Orpheus’s death (in book XI). Its ambition is implied in what Heaney observes of Merriman’s The Midnight Court, from which he takes excerpts to compose The Midnight Verdict: it contributes to “the construction of a desirable civilization” (Heaney 1995, 57).’ — Steve Heiny The Classical Association of the Middle West and South