Celebrating Scotland: St Andrew’s Day. Robert Burns 1759-96 Scottish poet. From the lone shielding of the misty island. Mountains divide us, and the waste of seas – Hugh MacDiarmid 1892-1978 Scottish poet and nationalist. O flower of Scotland, when will we see your like again, Robert Crawford 1959
GOD bless our land, our Scotland, Grey glen an’ misty brae, The blue heights o’ the Coolins, The green haughs yont the Spey, The weary wastes on Solway, Snell winds blaw owre them a’ — But aye it’s Hame, lad, Yours an’ mine, lad, Shielin’ or ha’.
It’s Hame, it’s Hame for ever, Let good or ill betide! The croon o’ some dear river, The blink o’ ae braeside.
God bless our land; it’s yonder – Far in the cold North Sea: But ‘neath the old Saint’s glamour It’s calling you an’ me: Your feet tread Libyan deserts, Mine press the wattle’s bloom, But to-night we stand together Among the broom.
It’s Hame, it’s Hame for ever, Let shore or sea divide! The croon o’ some dear river, The blink o’ ae braeside.
God bless our land. We dream o’t — The days aye brakin’ fine On the lang, lane glints o’ heather In the glens we kent langsyne.
Ay, we are Reubens, rovers, ‘Neath mony an alien star, But flaunt the blue flag o’er us, Pipe up the ” Braes o’ Mar,” And steppe and nullah vanish, And pomp and pelf and fame — It’s gloamin’ — on a lown hillside, An’ lads, . . . We’re . . . Hame.
Wha cares if skies be dull and gray? Wha heeds November weather? Let ilka Scot be glad to-day The whole wide warl’ thegither.
We’re a’ a prood and stubborn lot, And clannish-sae fowk name us- Ay, but with sic guid cause none ought Tae judge us, or tae blame us,
For joys that are we’ll pledge to-day A land baith fair and glowing- Here’s tae the hames o’ Canada, Wi’ luve and peace o’erflowing!
For joys that were, for auld lang syne, For tender chords that bind us, A toast-your hand, auld friend, in mine- ‘The land we left behind us!’
Ho, lowlanders! Ho, hielandmen! We’ll toast her a’ thegither, Here’s tae each bonnie loch and glen! Here’s tae her hills and heather!
Here’s tae the auld hame far away! While tender mists do blind us, We’ll pledge on this, St. Andrew’s day, ‘The land we left behind us!’
George Bruce (Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, 1909-2002) Why the Poet makes Poems (written to my dentist, Dr. K. P. Durkacz, to explain why I failed to keep an appointment) . When it’s all done and said whether he is smithing away by the mad sea, or, according to repute, silvering them in a garret by moonlight, or in plush with a gold nib, or plain bourgeois in a safe bungalow with a mortgage, or in a place with a name, Paris, Warsaw, Edinburgh, or sitting with his heart in the Highlands, or taking time off at the office to pen a few words, the whole business is a hang-over from the men in the trees, when thunder and sun and quake and peas in a pod were magic, and still is according to his book, admitting botany is OK for the exposition of how the buds got there, geology for how the rocks got just like that, zoology for the how of the animals, biology for us kind – but that’s not his game: he’s after the lion playing around with the lamb for fun. He doesn’t want to know the how, the why. It’s enough for him to say: ‘That’s what’s going on. The grass is jumping for joy, and all the little fishes are laughing their heads off.’
. . .
William Neill (Prestwick, Ayrshire, 1922-2010) Seasons . Skeich wes the hert i the spring o the year whan the well-sawn yird begoud tae steer an the plewlan’s promise gledened the ee atween Balgerran an Balmaghie.
The lang het simmer cam an rowed the haill Glenkens in a glent o gowd an the gangan fit on the hill gaed free atween Balgerran an Balmaghie.
Hairst an the cornriggs flisked i the wun like a rinnan sea i the southan sun; then ilka meeda peyed its fee atween Balgerran an Balmaghie.
Nou the lang year’s dune, an the druim grows stey an the snaa liggs caal ower Cairnsmore wey; the crannreuch’s lyart on ilka tree atween Balgerran an Balmaghie. . . .
Distant Snow . I see in the distance today, a cloak of snow atop Meall Liath, Why do I not sae Millyea, the more Lowland name? Though there is many a Gaelic name on the natives of this district many generations have caused a separation. Am I blessed or cursed with too much vision? . . .
Distant Snow – in the original Gaelic:
Sneachd Air Astar . Chi mi an diugh air astar fallain sneachd air Meall Liath. Carson nach theirinn Millyea ainm is motha Gallda? Ged that iomadh sloinneadh Gàidhlig air muinntir dùthchasach an àite rinn iomadh linn eadar-dhealachadh. Am beannaichte mise no mallaichte le tuilleadh ‘sa chòir de lèirsinn?
. . . Larach* . On Drumconnard now, only the curlew calls. Sadly a body may stand on that high place beside bare gable end and scattered walls to think of old magic tales and a vanished grace. . Foolish, they say, are the praisers of time past: a wise man turns his face and hails the new, but bricks of hucksters hall will turn to dust while Drumconnard’s ruin whispers to the few. . *Larach – Gaelic word for ruin or foundation
. . . Deodorant Advert (inspired by Catullus’ Latin poem LXIX) . Don’t you know, Rufus, why those lovely creatures won’t let you bed ’em for those gifts laid out of diamonds, dresses, jewels – things that feature much in your wooings? There’s a tale about that says your armpits have a horrid pong like something dead – and that’s what makes ’em scared. There’s no good-looking bird will come along to get her nose filled when your armpit’s bared – so get some stuff to chase that stink today or pretty darlings just won’t come your way. . . . Deodorant Advert – in Scots: . Weill, Roy ma laddie, hou can ye no see nae bonnie lass will ligg aside yir thie, for gifts o silen claith an glentin stanes while yon reek frae yir oxters aye remains? It stangs yir hairt, ye say, yon nestie tale that says a gait wad hae a sweeter smell. Gin oor nebs runkle at yer stink’s rebuff whit douce wee thing can thole yir manky guff? Sine oot yon ugsome yowder eidentlie or dinnae wunner hou the weemin flee.
. . .
Derick Thomson (Lewis/Glasgow, 1921-2012) Return from Death . When I came back from death it was morning, the back door was open and one of the buttons of my shirt had disappeared. . I needed to count the grass-blades again, and the flagstones, and I got the taste of fresh butter on the potatoes. . The car needed petrol, and love sat sedately on a chair, and there was an itchy feeling at the back of my knee. . And if you believe, as I do, that one who reads can understand half a word, you can see that I’ve mentioned Only a couple of things I felt then.
. . . Return from Death – in the original Gaelic: . Tilleadh Bhon a’ Bhàs . Nuair a thàinig mi air ais bhon a bhàs bha a’ mhadainn ann, bha an doras-cùil fosgailte, is bha putan dhe na bha ‘na mo lèine air chall. . B’ fheudar dhomh am feur a chùnntadh a-rithist, is na leacan, is dh’fhairich mi blas an ìm ùir air a’ bhuntàt’. . Bha ‘n càr ag iarraidh peatroil, ‘s an gaol ‘na shuidhe gu stòlda air seuthar, is tachais anns an iosgaid agam. . ‘S ma tha thu creidse mar tha mise gun tuig fear-leughaidh leth-fhacal, chì thu nach tug mi iomradh ach air rud no dhà a dh’ fhairich mi.
. . . . .
Torn posters flutter; coldly sound The boom of trams and the rattle of hooves, And the clerks who hurry to the station Look, shuddering, over the eastern roves,
Thinking, each one, ‘Here comes the winter! Please God I keep my job this year!’ And bleakly, as the cold strikes through Their entrails like an icy spear,
They think of rent, rates, season tickets, Insurance, coal, the skivvy’s wages, Boots, school-bills, and the next instalment Upon the two twin beds from Drage’s.
For if in careless summer days In groves of Ashtaroth we whored, Repentant now, when winds blow cold, We kneel before our rightful lord;
The lord of all, the money-god, Who rules us blood and hand and brain, Who gives the roof that stops the wind, And, giving, takes away again;
Who spies with jealous, watchful care, Our thoughts, our dreams, our secret ways, Who picks our words and cuts our clothes, And maps the pattern of our days;
Who chills our anger, curbs our hope, And buys our lives and pays with toys, Who claims as tribute broken faith, Accepted insults, muted joys;
Who binds with chains the poet’s wit, The navvy’s strength, the soldier’s pride, And lays the sleek, estranging shield Between the lover and his bride.
First published as ‘St Andrew’s Day, 1935’, the poem also turns up in Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936), and occupies Gordon Comstock’s thoughts throughout much of the novel. According to the Times Literary Supplement, Gordon’s only book, Mice, showed ‘exceptional promise’.
Joscelyn (8 years old) came home with an assignment to write a poem about Scotland because it was near St Andrew’s day. The instructions on what was required were a bit confusing. She has a piece of paper with SCOTLAND written vertically down the edge so each line began with a letter. She had to write something Scottish on each line with a describing word. It is difficult to do it “properly” but fun if you relax the rules. Here is what dad came up with while cooking tea. We are debating whether to send it to school as Joscelyn’s work.
Serious surfs Crazy Ceilidhs Overly audacious Tartan Traversed Lochs and Lavies Atlantic Antlers reach Nearly to the North Sea Dundee; Cake of Kings