Notes on the Gaelic Title
Prionnsa beag, ’s ait leam e Prinsah beg Sate loum a thu C2. Little Prince, he makes me happy. Campbell’s title may be shorthand for a verse with alternate line endings. In the following reconstruction, only the text in green is given by Campbell:
Prionnsa beag, ’s ait leam e,
Prionnsa beag ’s ait leam,
Prionnsa beag, ’s ait leam thu,
Prionnsa beag ’s ait leam.
Little Prince, he makes me laugh,
Little Prince makes me laugh,
Little Prince, you make me happy,
Little Prince makes me happy.
These lyrics are a speculative reconstruction fitting the melody of the Ùrlar, first quarter.
Ronald Black suggests that the problematic-looking “a thu” in Campbell’s spelling is the key that explains it. If we accept that “a” is e, pronounced à (which is normal), it wouldn’t be logical to use the vocative case – A Phrionnsa bhig, is aite leum thu – which was Roderick Cannon’s solution in the first edition of these notes (2009). If line 1 ended e, however, and line 3 ended thu, then the first line would set the pattern. This gives Prionnsa beag throughout, aligning with Campbell’s spelling which is identical in the Index and above the music.
If singing this verse to the whole ùrlar, Allan MacDonald suggests incorporating the line Prionnsa beag ’s àill leam (Little Prince is beautiful to me / is my desire). Campbell’s “thu” may represent the sound TU, and in some circumstances thu is pronounced TU, but his spelling could equally represent the normal pronunciation of thu.
The ‘Prince’ in this title is more likely to be a real prince than the composer’s son or his employer’s. It is tempting to associate it with Charles Edward Stuart, born in 1720, but Prionnsa is also a very likely name for a horse or a dog (in this case, a foal or a puppy). There is much incidental mention of dogs in traditional Gaelic verse, always in the context of hunting – coin air éill “dogs on leash”. These were big sleek animals, like Irish wolf-hounds, used for hunting deer. There is the traditional story of MacPhee’s Black Dog which fought and killed the vampire woman, and of the piper who disappeared into the cave, and all that ever emerged at the other end was his dog with its hair singed (R. Black, The Gaelic Otherworld, 2nd edition). There are also two other pieces in Colin Campbell’s Instrumental Book which appear to celebrate dogs (B. Brown, Murdoch’s Black Dog and Sorley’s Black Dog).