r2vyln3rdioj14u-rld0ska where mountains meet the sea: August 2009

The House

It's only a small house
standing in isolation.
No new things are inside
- there's not a video in sight.

But you get warmth and talk
you get food and tea.
You get the knowledge of the old people
- the things that are important in the world.

Coinneach MacMhanais


Dark, dark was the day when we looked on Culloden
And chill was the mist drop that clung to the tree,
The oats of the harvest hung heavy and sodden,
No light on the land and no wind on the sea.
There was wind, there was rain, there was fire on their faces,
When the clans broke the bayonets and died on the guns,
And ’tis Honour that watches the desolate places
Where they sleep through the change of the snows and the suns.

Unfed and unmarshalled, outworn and outnumbered,
All hopeless and fearless, as fiercely they fought,
As when Falkirk with heaps of the fallen was cumbered,
As when Gledsmuir was red with the havoc they wrought.
Ah, woe worth you, Sleat, and the faith that you vowed,

Ah, woe worth you, Lovat, Traquair, and Mackay;
And woe on the false fairy flag of Macleod,
And the fat squires who drank, but who dared not to die!

Where the graves of Clan Chattan are clustered together,
Where Macgillavray died by the Well of the Dead,
We stooped to the moorland and plucked the pale heather
That blooms where the hope of the Stuart was sped.
And a whisper awoke on the wilderness, sighing,

Like the voice of the heroes who battled in vain,
“Not for Tearlach alone the red claymore was plying,
But to bring back the old life that comes not again.”

Andrew Lang


If we were in Talisker on the shore
where the great white foaming mouth of water
opens between two jaws as hard as flint -
the Headland of Stones and the Red Point -
I'd stand forever by the waves
renewing love out of their crumbling graves
as long as the sea would be going over
the Bay of Talisker forever;
I would stand there by the filling tide
till Preshal bowed his stallion head.

And if the two of us were together
on the shores of Calgary in Mull
between Scotland and Tiree,
between this world and eternity,
I'd stand there till time was done
counting the sands grain by grain.
And also on Uist, on Homhsta's shore,
in the face of solitude's fierce stare,
I'd remain standing, without sleep,
while sea were ebbing, drop by drop.

And if i were on Moidart's shore
with you, my novelty of desire,
I'd offer this synthesis of love,
grain and water, sand and wave.
And were we by the shelves of Staffin
were the huge joyless sea is coughing
stones and boulders from its throat,
I'd build a fortified wall
against eternity's savage howl.

Sorley Maclean trans. from Gàidhlig (Dàin do Eimhir) by Iain Crichton Smith

the lonely shore

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne'er express, yet cannot all conceal.

George Gordon, Lord Byron, from Childe Harold's Pilgrimage



Tired and dejected hair dripping
wet trying to hitch a ride
up Loch Lomondside. Her mini
stops short, a shaking wheezing
white terrier. I stare in
surprise I've waited nearly four
hours for this moment. 'Cumonn.
Guerrin.' She drawls we jerk
off and smash the puddles northwards.

'Road's crawling with bloody
hitchers' she complains, 'but
I liked the tired way you
smiled.' We talk, she teaches
poetry in Australia, I read
her some of mine, she's impressed.
Wow! The gorgeous doll's impressed!

Tired now but laughing still
we tumble over to Skye
I fall asleep and talk
all night she listens
and cackles evilly into
her cornflakes tantalising
me with what I might
or might not have said.

Then out on the road to laugh
uproariously round the island
the car barking and yelping
with glee cocking its leg
at passing places nipping the
heels of lumbering buses. Screech
of brakes and out she leaps
sprinting up the drunken
road sandals flapping bangles
clinking mad hoops flying
round her pants. 'You crazy
kite you can't catch sheep!
It's not allowed!' Chokes back
into the driving seat 'I only
wanted to FEEL him!'

Zoom back to the caravan
fling her psychedelic suitcase
into the panting car. Swop
'phone numbers - world apart
yet nearer than that. A last
whoop of laughter as she unleashes
the mini and they chase bumble
bees to the ferry together. Some
times I wish I'd kissed her.

Stewart McIntosh, from Scottish Love Poems A Personal Anthology  (ed by Antonia Fraser)