The poetry of Sorley MacLean
The poetry of Sorley MacLean

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The poetry of Sorley MacLean

2.1.2 The poems

Your reading in this course has already prepared you to some extent, but please read the following poems (both the English and Gaelic versions are given) which are discussed in the recordings, and then listen to the recordings.

 

Kinloch Ainort

A company of mountains, an upthrust of mountains

a great garth of growing mountains

a concourse of summits, of knolls, of hills

coming on with a fearsome roaring.

 

A rising of glens, of gloomy corries,

a lying down in the antlered bellowing;

a stretching of green nooks, of brook mazes,

prattling in the age-old mid-winter.

 

A cavalry of mountains, horse-riding summits,

a streaming head long haste of foam,

a slipperiness of smooth flat rocks, small-bellied bare summits,

flat-rock snoring of high mountains.

 

A surge-belt of hill-tops,

impetuous thigh of peaks,

the murmuring bareness of marching turrets,

green flanks of Mosgary,

crumbling storm-flanks,

barbarous pinnacles of high moorlands.

 

Ceann Loch Aoineart

Cómhlan bheanntan, stóiteachd bheanntan,

córr-lios bheanntan fásmhor,

cruinneachadh mhullaichean, thulaichean, shiéibhtean,

tighinn ‘sa’ bheucaich ghábhaidh.

 

Eirigh ghleanntan, choireachan údlaidh,

laighe ‘s a’ bhúirich chrácaich;

sineadh chluaineagan, shuaineagan srúlach,

briodal ‘s an dúbhlachd ársaidh.

 

Eachdraidh bheanntan, marcachd mhullaichean,

deann-ruith shruthanach cáthair,

sleamhnachd leacannan, seangachd chreachainnean,

strannraich leacanach árd-bheann.

 

Onfhadh-chrios muhullaichean,

confhadh-shlios thulaichean,

monmhar luim thurraidean mársail,

gorm-shliosan Mhosgaraidh,

stoirm-shliosan mosganach,

borb-bhiodan mhonaidhean árda.

 

A Spring

At the far edge of a mountain there is a green nook

where the deer eat water-cress,

in its side a great unruffled eye of water,

a shapely jewel-like spring.

 

One day I came with my love

to the side of the remote brook.

She bent her head down to its brink

and it did not look the same again.

 

I reached the distant little green

many a time again, alone

and when I looked into the swirling water

there was in it only the face of my treasure-trove.

 

But the glens were going away

and the pillared mountains were not waiting for me:

the hills did not look

as if my chanced-on treasure had been seen.

 

Fuararn

Tha cluaineag ann an iomall sléibh

far an ith na féidh lus biolaire;

‘na taobh suil uisge mhór réidh,

fuaran leugach cuimir ann.

 

Air latha thainig mi le m’ ghaol

gu taobh a' chaochain iomallaich,

chrom i h-aodann sios ri bhruaich

‘s cha robh a thuar fhéin tuilleadh air.

 

Rainig mi a’ chluaineag chéin

a rithist liom fhéin iomadh uair,

agus nuair choimhead mi ‘san t-srulaich

cha rogh ach gnuis té m’ ulaidh innt’.

 

Ach bha na glinn is iad a’ falbh

is calbh nam beann gun fhuireach rium,

cha robh a choltas air na sléibhtean

gum facas m' eudail ulaidhe.

 

She To Whom I Gave…

She to whom I gave all love

gave me no love in return;

though my agony was for her sake,

she did not understand the shame at all.

 

But often in the thoughts of night

when my mind is a dim wood

a breeze of memory comes stirring the foliage,

putting the wood's assuagement to unrest.

 

And from the depths of my body's wood,

from sap-filled root and slender branching,

there will be the heavy cry: why was her beauty

like a horizon opening the door to day?

 

An Te Dh'an Tug Mi…

An té dh’ an rug mi uile ghaol

cha tug i gaol dhomh air a shon;

ged a chiurradh mise air a sailleabh

cha do thuig i ‘n tamailt idir.

 

Ach trie an smuaintean na h-oidhch’

an uair bhios m’ aigne ‘na coille chiair,

thig osag chuimhne ‘g gluasad duillich,

ag cur a furtachd gu luasgan.

 

Agus bho dhoimhne coille ehuim,

o fhriamhach snodhaich ‘s meangach meanbh,

bidh eubha throm: carson bha h-aille

mar fhosgladh faire ri latha?

 

Heroes

I did not see Lannes at Ratisbon

nor MacLennan at Auldearn

nor Gillies MacBain at Culloden,

but I saw an Englishman in Egypt.

 

A poor little chap with chubby cheeks

and knees grinding each other,

pimply unattractive face –

garment of the bravest spirit.

 

He was not a bit “in the pub

in the time of the fists being closed,”

but a lion against the breast of battle,

in the morose wounding showers.

 

His hour came with the shells,

with the notched iron splinters,

in the smoke and flame,

in the shaking and terror of the battlefield.

 

Word came to him in the bullet shower

that he should be a hero briskly,

and he was that while he lasted

but it wasn't much time he got.

 

He kept his guns to the tanks,

bucking with tearing crashing screech,

until he himself got, about the stomach,

that biff that put him to the ground,

mouth down in sand and gravel,

without a chirp from his ugly high-pitched voice.

 

No cross or medal was put to his

chest or to his name or to his family;

there were not many of his troop alive,

and if there were their word would not be strong.

And at any rate, if a battle post stands

many are knocked down because of him,

not expecting fame, not wanting a medal

or any froth from the mouth of the field of slaughter.

 

I saw a great warrior of England,

a poor manikin on whom no eye would rest;

no Alasdair of Glen Garry;

and he took a little weeping to my eyes.

 

Curaidhean

Chan fhaca mi Lannes aig Ratasbon

no MacGill-Fhinnein aig Allt Eire

no Gill-Iosa aig Cuil-Lodair,

ach chunnaic mi Sasunnach ‘san Eiphit.

 

Fear beag truagh le gruaidhean pluiceach

is gliiinean a'bleith a chéile,

aodann guireanach gun tlachd ann –

comhdach an spioraid bu tréine.

 

Cha robh buaidh air ‘“san tigh-osda

‘n am nan dorn a bhith ‘gan dunadh”,

ach leoghann e ri uchd a’ chatha,

anns na frasan guineach mugach.

 

Thainig uair-san leis na sligean,

leis na spealgan-iaruinn bearnach,

anns an toit is anns an lasair,

ann an crith is maoim na haraich.

 

Thainig fios dha ‘san fhrois pheileir

e bhith gu spreigearra ‘na dhiulnach:

is b'e sin e fhad ‘s a mhair e,

ach cha b'fhada fhuair e dh'uine.

 

Chum e ghunnachan ris na tancan,

a'bocail le sgriach shracaidh stairnich

gus an d’ fhuair e fhein mu ‘n stamaig

an deannal ud a chuir ri lar e,

bial sios an gainmhich ‘s an greabhal,

gun diog o ghuth caol grannda.

 

Cha do chuireadh crois no meadal

ri uchd no ainm no g'a chairdean:

cha robh a bheag dhe fhdime maireann,

‘s nan robh cha bhiodh am facal laidir;

‘s co dhiubh, ma sheasas ursann-chatha

leagar moran air a shailleabh

gun duil ri cliu, nach iarr am meadal

no cop ‘sam bith a bial na h-araich.

 

Chunnaic mi gaisgeach mor a Sasuinn,

fearachan bochd nach laigheadh suil air;

cha b' Alasdair a Gleanna Garadh –

is thug e gal beag air mo shuilean.

 

Death Valley

(Some Nazi or other has said that the Fuehrer had restored to German manhood the ‘right and joy of dying in battle’.)

 

Sitting dead in “Death Valley”

below the Ruweisat Ridge

a boy with his forelock down about his cheek

and his face slate-grey;

 

I thought of the right and the joy

that he got from his Fuehrer,

of falling in the field of slaughter

to rise no more;

 

Of the pomp and the fame

that he had, not alone,

though he was the most piteous to see

in a valley gone to seed

 

with flies about grey corpses

on a dun sand

dirty yellow and full of the rubbish

and fragments of battle.

 

Was the boy of the band

who abused the Jews

and Communists, or of the greater

band of those

 

led, from the beginning of generations,

unwillingly to the trial

and mad delirium of every war

for the sake of rulers?

 

Whatever his desire or mishap,

his innocence or malignity,

he showed no pleasure in his death

below the Ruweisat Ridge.

 

Glac a’ Bhais

(Thubhairt Nasach air choireigin gun tug am Furair air ais do fhir na Gearmailte ‘a’ choir agus an sonas bas fhaotainn anns an araich’.)

 

‘Na shuidhe marbh an “Glaic a'Bhais”

fo Dhruim Ruidhiseit,

gill'og ‘s a logan sios m'a ghruaidh

‘s a thuar grisionn.

 

Smaoinich mi air a’ choir ‘s an agh

a fhuair e bho Fhurair,

bhith tuiteam arm an raon an air

gun éirigh tuilleadh;

 

air a’ ghreadhnachas ‘s air a'chliu

nach d'fhuair e ‘na aonar,

ged b’ esan bu bhronaiche snuadh

ann an glaic air laomadh

 

le cuileagan mu chuirp ghlas’

air gainmhich lachduinn

‘s i salach-bhuidhe ‘s Ian de raip

‘s de spruidhlich catha.

 

An robh an gille air an dream

a mhab na h-Iudhaich

‘s na Comunnaich, no air an dream

bu mhotha, dhiubh-san

 

a threorakheadh bho thoiseach al

gun deoin gu buaireadh

agus bruaillean cuthaich gach blair

air sgath uachdaran?

 

Ge b'e a dheoin-san no a chas,

a neoichiontas no mhiorun,

cha do nochd e toileachadh ‘na bhas

fo Dhruim Ruidhiseit.

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