Главная страница «Первого сентября»Главная страница журнала «Английский язык»Содержание №16/2008

Scottish Poems and a Song


by Janet Paisley (translated by the poet from the Scots) watching the procession to open Scotland’s parliament, which ceased 25 March 1707 – resurrected 1 July 1999

There is no stone where the hawk soars,
no hawk where the stones stand

nor at their cobbled feet, no king
to reign his wide high street

where only rain crowns a castle-hill
no burning women wish they’d drowned

and the shuttered shops can sell no cloth
while no tea or snuff is taken there

as no gill bell rings this meridian
nearly three hundred years are turned around

on a spiral stair. Edinburgh sings
an old song to a newborn tune, and a star

is lit where stone mounts dust
to raise us up where the hawk can soar.

Excerpt from For the Opening of the Scottish Parliament

9 October 2004 by Edwin Morgan Appointed National Poet for Scotland in 2004

Open the doors! Light of the day, shine in; light of the mind, shine out!
We have a building which is more than a building.
There is a commerce between inner and outer, between brightness and shadow,
between the world and those who think about the world.
Is it not a mystery? The parts cohere, they come together
like petals of a flower, yet they also send their tongues
outward to feel and taste the teeming earth.
Did you want classic columns and predictable pediments?
A growl of old Gothic grandeur? A blissfully boring box?
Not here, no thanks! No icon, no IKEA, no iceberg,
but curves and caverns, nooks and niches,
huddles and heavens, syncopations and surprises.
Leave symmetry to the cemetery.
But bring together slate and stainless steel, black granite and grey granite,
seasoned oak and sycamore, concrete blond and smooth as silk –
the mix is almost alive – it breathes and beckons – imperial marble it is not!

…What do the people want of the place?
They want it to be filled with thinking persons
as open and adventurous as its architecture.
A nest of fearties is what they do not want.
A symposium of procrastinators is what they do not want.
A phalanx of forelock-tuggers is what they do not want.
And perhaps above all the droopy mantra of ‘it wizny me’ is what they do not want.
Dear friends, dear lawgivers, dear parliamentarians,
you are picking up a thread of pride and self-esteem
that has been almost but not quite, oh no not quite, not ever broken or forgotten…

We give you our consent to govern, don’t pocket it and ride away.
We give you our deepest dearest wish to govern well,
don’t say we have no mandate to be so bold.
We give you this great building,
don’t let your work and hope be other than great when you enter and begin.
So now begin. Open the doors and begin.

Poet’s Notes

My poem was commissioned by the Parliament…to write a ‘public’ poem, I developed a style not unlike the free verse of Walt Whitman, which lent itself admirably to the speaking voice and allowed for an expansiveness suited to the large subject – a moment in a nation’s history where change was being marked in an inescapable way. I liked the fact that the sense of a big occasion produced a modern building fixed surprisingly into the heart of old Edinburgh, into which it sent its tentacles and petals and from which it drew the sustenance of many centuries of history
But a building is only a building. What about the people who were going to work there? I made sure that the poem addressed the politicians very directly, challenging them to rise to the occasion of a fine new parliament building and to take up with vigour and determiniation the threads that had almost been snapped when the old parliament of Scotland’s lost independence was dissolved.


by Janet Paisley

She is a harsh mother,
arthritic with hills and crags
cut deeper than crow’s feet.
Her face is lined with ravines
her voice the roar of spume
on broken brown-toothed rock.
She passes boulders off as breasts,
belts her waist with an industrious past,
in her arms, she gathers firs
A grey and grizzled warrior, she is
bordered by ample hips, her tongue
a lash of thunderous voltage.
No season softens her, she drags
her children up on gorse and whin,
winters them without kindness.
She fires the hearth with ice or hail,
expects snow to pass for gentleness.
spring girdles her old in green.
If she holds you to her rugged breast
it is to pour the white-water scorn
of mountains on your head.
When she croons, she throws up seagulls.
sleeping, she drags a lumpen pillow
over the moon, punches out a few stars.
She’ll turn your dreams to Scotch mist,
bone comb your hair with tugging wind
scrub your faces with rain.
In your mouth she lodges a language
no one speaks, in your heart a stone.
but if you go from her
A wild song and dance will follow
to bind you forever son or daughter,
make you sick for home.


by Elizabeth Burns

The fog that is like
The wind that is like
The sand that is like
The hills that are like
The flowers that are like
The beach that is like
The summers that are like
The air that is like
but more rare
but not so sharp
but turns to mud
but more peopled
but bloom earlier
but more crowded
but darken quickly
but not so sweet

Poet’s Notes

‘Like’ is a poem about living in England and missing Scotland. The first three lines refer specifically to the part of northwest England where I live, where the landscape and the climate is very different to that of the east coast of Scotland where I’ve spent most of my life. The rest of the poem is more general, and touches on differences that will probably be familiar to anyone who travels between Scotland and England.
It’s a poem about missing a landscape, and homesickness, and, hopefully, the form of the poem adds something to this lightness of tone, with its brief phrases and the spaces between the words. I decided on spaces because I feel they can give a sense of a longer pause, a bigger breath taken, and I like the uncluttered feel of a poem without any punctuation. And, although I wasn’t conscious of it when I wrote the poem, there’s perhaps an echo of the ‘space’ between the two countries in the physical shape of the poem.

The Scottish Prince

by Carol Ann Duffy

Every summer, I visit the Scottish Prince
at his castle high on a hill outside Crieff.
We dine on haggis and tatties and neeps
I drink water with mine and the Prince sips
at a peaty peppery dram. Then it’s time for the dance.

O Scottish Prince, the heathery air sweetens the night.
Bats hang upside down in the pines like lamps waiting for light.
Ask me, ask me to dance to the skirl o’ the pipes.

All the girls are in dresses. The boys are in kilts,
but no boy’s so fine as the Prince in his tartan pleats.
I wait for a glance from the Prince, for the chance
to prance or flounce by his side, to bounce hand in hand
down the Gay Gordon line. Och, the pleasure’s a’ mine!


At the end of summer, I say goodbye to the Scottish Prince
and catch a train to the South, over the border, the other side
of the purple hills, far from the blue and white flag, waving farewell
from the castle roof. The Prince will expect me back again
next year – here’s a sprig of heather pressed in my hand as proof.

O Scottish Prince, the heathery air sweetens the night.
Bats hang upside down in the pines like lamps waiting for light.
Ask me, ask me to dance to the skirl o’ the pipes.
Ask me, ask me, ask me to dance to the skirl o’ the pipes.

Poet’s Notes

Written for my 9-year old daughter Ella, on our annual holiday at Crieff Hydro Hotel; where she nightly dances the Gay Gordon, and many a reel, not only with her dad but also with the hotel’s handsome kilted host, whom Ella thinks is a Scottish Prince.

Scotland the Brave (song)

Hark when the night is falling
Hear! Hear, the pipes are calling,
Loudly and proudly calling,
Down thro’ the glen.
There where the hills are sleeping,
Now feel the blood a-leaping,
High as the spirits of the old
Highland men.

Towering in gallant fame,
Scotland my mountain home,
High may your proud standards gloriously wave,

Land of my high endeavour,
Land of the shining river,
Land of my heart for ever,
Scotland the brave.

High in the misty Highlands,
Out by the purple islands,
Brave are the hearts that beat beneath Scottish skies.
Wild are the winds to meet you,

Staunch are the friends that greet you,
Kind as the love that shines from
Fair maiden’s eyes.
Far off in sunlit places,
Sad are the Scottish faces,
Yearning to feel the kiss of sweet Scottish rain.
Where tropic skies are beaming,
Love sets the heart a-dreaming,
Longing and dreaming for
The homeland again.