r2vyln3rdioj14u-rld0ska where mountains meet the sea: January 2010

Highland farewells

Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the North,
The birth-place of Valour, the country of Worth;
Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,
The hills of the Highlands for ever I love.

My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart's in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer;
Chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,
My heart's in the Highlands, wherever I go.

Farewell to the mountains, high-cover'd with snow,
Farewell to the straths and green vallies below;
Farewell to the forests and wild-hanging woods,
Farewell to the torrents and loud-pouring floods.

My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart's in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer;
Chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,
My heart's in the Highlands, wherever I go.

Robert Burns, whose 251th birthday it is today.

The Highland Farewell

And so, we must leave our land,
Forget, all our hopes and plans,
And sail, far away, cross the sea.
We pray, to keep our self-respect,
As tears, fall upon the salty deck,
We watch, our beloved land, fade away.

I'll sing to you, my Highland Farewell,
I'll sing to you, my Highland Farewell.

Na sloigh as fearr san gcruinne
(The best people in the round world)
a muirn a mire bhfoghnamh;
(Their joyousness, their keenness, their effectiveness)
ni comhnairt bheith 'na bhfeagmbais;
(Without them is no strength)

Although...our seed is scattered far,
In time, we remember who we are
And sing, our people's songs, of yesterday.
And now, as i take your hand,
We walk, upon the golden sand
And think, of our long lost home, far away.

I'll sing to you, my Highland Farewell
I'll sing to you, my Highland Farewell

Steve McDonald

May 3rd

today the sea has left skeins
of treasure on the sand
each wave ebbs a necklace
seaweed threads, broken shells,
feathers, straw and fine peat grain

Pauline Prior-Pitt, from Shore Sequence

Treeless landscape

Except in grooves of streams, armpits of hills,
Here's a bald, bare land, weathered half away.
It pokes its bony blades clean through its skin
And chucks the light up from grey knucklebones,
Tattering the eye, that's teased with flowers and stones.

Something to do with time has all to do
With shape and size.  The million shapes of time,
Its millions of appearances  are the true
Mountain and moor and tingling water drop
That runs and hangs and shakes time towards a stop.

Prowling like cats on levels of the air
These buzzards mew, or pounce: one vole the less,
One alteration more in time, or space.
But nothing's happened, all is in control
Unless you are the buzzard or the vole.

Yet, all the same, it's weathered half away.
Time's no procrastinator. The land thrusts

A rotting elbow up. It makes a place
By sinking into it, and buzzards fly
To be a buzzard and create a sky.

Norman MacCaig

November 21st

Grey on grey
the corrugated iron sea
one shade deeper than the sky
washes in reluctantly.

Pauline Prior-Pitt, from North Uist Sea Poems

Never Before

Grown men tremble when they meet,
have never seen, never felt
not in living memory, never before.
And they know storms.
Marooned in the blind dark,
never so long a black night
the sea rising, never before so high,
shuttering in across open fields
pursued by the frantic wind

Houses shook in the suck and push of it,
the smack of rain and the banging.
Not knowing what was banging,
walking from room to room with torches,
drowsing not sleeping, finding buckets
to catch water dripping through ceilings,
listening for the ebb for a slackening
which never came.

In the late dawn of cold morning,
tales are told of causeways fallen,
roads barred by boulders
shoals of seaweed swept inland
of roofs blown off,
of sheds fetched up on other crofts,
a slate through a window impaled on a pillow
an old woman afloat on her bed
and people up to their waists in water
and forty sheep flocked dead in a corner
and mile after mile of grass and black plastic
clinging to broken wire fences.

Never before such a torn island
and the west coast shoreline gnawed to the bone.

Pauline Prior-Pitt, from North Uist Sea Poems

Foiled shepherd

I drive my little flock of beliefs
along a narrow road. They behave well
until we pass your house.

You are that parrot in Lairg
that had learned the language
whistled by shepherds. When
the Lamb Sales were on - what
confusion in the road! - what scattering,
what barking, what human execrations!

You parrot my language.
All you need now is to learn
its meaning. Then I, with my dogs,
at heel, will saunter at ease
behind that flock, my mind
filled with their baaing, my face
grinning in their dust.

Norman MacCaig

Old crofter

The gate he built last year
hangs by its elbow from the wall.
The oar he shaped this summer
goes through the water with a swirl, a swivel.

The hammer in his great hand
pecks like fowl in the grain.
His haycocks are lopsided.
His lamp stands on the dresser, unlit.

One day the rope he has tied
will slither down the rock
and the boat drift off idly
dwindling away into the Atlantic.

Norman MacCaig


High in the air, the air
Lies like an open secret;
It loosens its fist and lets
Islands float in to where

Round heads bob on the green -
Their dogs' eyes follow the dinghy
Crabbing across the tide.
Two cliffs and a sea between

Have stolen a space of time
And squander it all in being;
The sea thrills like a silence
Between a chime and a chime:

And the rowan digs its claws
Into the heart of the matter
And a rose is Lazarus and
Shuffling ripples are flaws

Through which the mind can see
What way the wind is blowing -
As this one, that drifts in
Over the boulder scree,

Where ducks squatter in mud
And, cubed on a kilted stone,
Stands the grey honeycomb
Filled with claret and blood

Where a great music arose
And Mary, Red Alasdair's daughter,
Made poems and ladled her snuff
Into her randy nose.

Norman MacCaig, from A Round of Applause

The dear green place

I quarter my little field.
It stretches from the fall of Troy
to this minute, but it's not cramped 
in my skull.

Its natives, all artists, make shapes
out of words and sounds and colours
and anything solid. They have a basilisk eye
for clocks and calendars.

Not an eagle, me, but
an ancient sparrowhawk
dowdily perched on fenceposts
in any century.

Still, I pop up over the hedges
in a dashing way, looking to surprise
a mousy philosopher
or a scuttling poet.

The pleasing thing is
when I've devoured a warbling musician
and fly off, I hear him behind me
still practising Op.4 No. 6.

This country makes a fool of ecology
and an ass of conversation.
It's a land death has forgotten to visit
and I am not one of his angels.

Norman MacCaig

Pine trees

Enter the dignified wood.
The pine needles will give you
a cloak of inaudibility.

And you'll hear nothing yourself
unless a maverick gust of wind
drags a line of surf
through the tree tops.

A still from a war photograph -
staunch trees support their wounded comrades.

How can you bear it -
the turbulence in your mind surrounded
with such a silence?

But the grave silence wins.
It enters your mind and destroys time there,
It drapes your mind with green veils.

And you smile when you hear
a voice of the silence, the sweet twittering song
of a siskin, that flies batlike (but brilliant)
between the melancholy banners.

Norman MacCaig

January, 5


Off Lindisfarne
the waves shiver like monks
at their ablutions.

Under high horizontals
of ice-cloud, the sky
scrubbed clean as a dairy.

The train darts north,
hungry as a tongue.

Only the exile longs for
the words to name a country:

either live it or learn,
at a bare table,

ancestral silence, like a rumble
deep in the loch's throat,

the forgotten song
of the curling-stone,

the snow slipping like white meat
from the bones of the mountain.

Alison Fell

Morag McPhearson, of Glen Lyon

Someone said, he had heard, years later
That my man had been cut down
On the road, near Resaurie Pass,
Fleeing from the slaughter
On the bloody moor, perhaps.

Another, that he had died in the final charge
With the other men of his ken,
Against the bayonets and shot
And shell, of Cumberland's men.

I know not where he fell, whether
It was in battle, or in flight,
I only know that he is gone
These long years, since
And that all of my dreams died,
With him, that day and into the night.

And I waited, in hope
Until the very end, I can wait no more
For my bones are old now, my hair is grey
The wind howls softly, in the eaves
The cattle are lowing from the byre,
And the glowing peat forms faces
From the past, whispering, farewell,
Now, from the fire.

Scott Martin