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The poetry of Sorley MacLean
The poetry of Sorley MacLean

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1.2 Grasping Gaelic

Activity 1

Please read the following poems by Sorley MacLean (linked below): ‘The Turmoil’, ‘Kinloch Ainort’, ‘Heroes’, ‘Death Valley’, ‘A Spring’, and ‘She to Whom I Gave…’. Some of the poems have both Gaelic and English versions presented (the English versions are by MacLean himself).

As you read through each poem, please consider the following questions:

  • (a) Looking at the Gaelic, do you see patterns in the verse that are not reproduced in English – likely assonance, for instance?

  • (b) What strikes you about MacLean's handling of landscape?

Click to view the poem ‘The Turmoil [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

Click to view the poem ‘Kinoch Ainort

Click to view the poem ‘Heroes

Click to view the poem ‘Death Valley

Click to view the poem ‘A Spring

Click to view the poem ‘She to Whom I Gave…


The audio (which is presented in Section 2), in which Sorley MacLean is recorded in conversation about these poems with Iain Crichton Smith, should enable you to check your own answers to these questions against two cardinal authorities. (Crichton Smith is a most distinguished poet and novelist in both Gaelic and English. His translation of MacLean's book Dain do Eimhir, published in 1970, was a landmark in MacLean's belated public recognition.) But before you listen to the recording, you probably need to know more about MacLean and the Gaelic that he uses.