r2vyln3rdioj14u-rld0ska where mountains meet the sea: The Year of the Whale

The Year of the Whale

The old go, one by one, like guttered flames.
    This past winter
        Tammag the bee-man has taken his cold blank mask
             To the honeycomb under the hill,
  Corston who ploughed out the moor
        Unyoked and gone; and I ask,
    Is Heddle lame, that in youth could dance and saunter
       A way to the chastest bed?
The kirkyard is full of their names
              Chiselled in stone. Only myself and Yule
                  In the ale-house now, speak of the great whale year.

This one and that provoked the taurine waves
    With an arrogant pass,
        Or probing deep through the snow-burdened hill
           Resurrected his flock,
                Or passed from fiddles to ditch
        By way of the quart and the gill,
    All night lay tranced with corn, but stirred to face
                     The brutal stations of bread;
While those who tended their lives
        Like sacred lamps, chary of oil and wick,
            Died in the fury of one careless match.

Off Scabra Head the lookout sighted a school
    At the first light.
        A meagre year it was, limpets and crows
            And brief mottled grain.
               Everything that could float
        Circled the school. Ploughs
    Wounded those wallowing lumps of thunder and night.
                The women crouched and prayed.
Then whale by whale
        Blundering on the rock with its red stain
           Crammed our winter cupboards with oil and meat.


George Mackay Brown, from The Year of the Whale

No comments: