Proclamation

Alison Cockburn
Scots
1712 – 1794

 

Have you any laws to mend,
Or have you any grievance?
I’m a hero to my trade,
And truly a most leal prince
Would you have war, would you have peace?
Would you be free from taxes?
Come chapping to my father’s door,
You need not doubt of access.

Religion, law, and liberty,
Ye ken are bonnie words, sirs;
They shall be all made sure to you
If ye’ll fight wi’your swords, sirs.
The nation’s debt we soon shall pay,
If you’ll support our right, boys;
No sooner we are brought in play,
Than all things shall be tight, boys.

Ye ken that by a Union law,
Your ancient knigdom’s undone;
That all your ladies, lords, and lairds,
Gang up and live in London.
Nae longer that we will allow,
For crack—it goes asunder,
What took sic time and pains to do,
And let the world wonder

And for your mair encouragement,
Ye shall be pardoned byganes:
Nor mair fight on the Continent,
And leave behind your dry banes.
Then come away, and dinna stay,—
What gars ye look sae loundert?
I’d have ye run, and not delay,
To join my father’s standard.

The Wreck

Don Paterson
Scots
b. 1963

 

But what lovers we were, what lovers,
even when it was all over—

the bull-black, deadweight wines that we swung
towards each other rang and rang

like bells of blood, our own great hearts.
We slung the drunk boat out of port

and watched our sober unreal life
unmoor, a continent of grief;

the candlelight strange on our faces
like the tiny silent blazes

and coruscations of its wars.
We blew them out and took the stairs

into the night for the night’s work,
stripped off in the timbered dark,

gently hooked each other on
like aqualungs, and thundered down

to mine our lovely secret wreck.
We surfaced later, breathless, back

to back, and made our way alone
up the mined beach of the dawn.

An Ode on Aeolus’s Harp

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 320th birthday.

James Thomson
Scots
1700 – 1748

 

I

Ethereal race, inhabitants of air,
Who hymn your God amid the secret grove,
Ye unseen beings, to my harp repair,
And raise majestic strains, or melt in love.

II

Those tender notes, how kindly they upbraid!
With what soft woe they thrill the lover’s heart!
Sure from the hand of some unhappy maid
Who died of love these sweet complainings part.

III

But hark! that strain was of a graver tone,
On the deep strings his hand some hermit throws;
Or he, the sacred Bard, who sat alone
In the drear waste and wept his people’s woes.

IV

Such was the song which Zion’s children sung
When by Euphrates’ stream they made their plaint;
And to such sadly solemn notes are strung
Angelic harps to soothe a dying saint.

V

Methinks I hear the full celestial choir
Through Heaven’s high dome their awful anthem raise;
Now chanting clear, and now they all conspire
To swell the lofty hymn from praise to praise.

VI

Let me, ye wandering spirits of the wind,
Who, as wild fancy prompts you, touch the string,
Smit with your theme, be in your chorus joined,
For till you cease my muse forgets to sing.

To Genius

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 225th birthday.

Frances Wright
Scots
1795 – 1852

 

Yes! it is quench’d — the spark of heavenly fire,
That Genius kindled in my infant mind:
Fled is my fancy: damp’d the fond desire
Of fame immortal; — all my dreams resign’d.
All, all are gone: yet turn I ne’er behind
Like pilgrim wending from his native land?
Shall I in other path such beauties find,
As spring beneath imagination’s hand,
As bloom on wild enthusiasm’s visionary strand?

Celestial Genius! dangerous gift of Heaven!
How many a heart and mind hast thou o’erthrown!
Broken the first, the last to frenzy driven,
Or jarr’d of both for aye the even tone!
Once, once I thought such fate would be my own,
And only look’d to find an early grave;
To die, as I had liv’d — my powers unknown;
Content, so reason might her empire save,
Unseen to sink beneath oblivion’s rayless wave.

But oh! with all thy pains, thou hast a charm
That nought may match within this vale below;
E’en for the pangs thou giv’st, thou hast a balm,
And renderest sweet the bitterness of wo.
Thy breath ethereal — thy kindling glow—
Thy visions bright — thy raptures, wild and high;
He that hath felt — Oh! would he e’er forego?
No! — in thy glistening tear thy bursting sigh,
Though fraught with wo, there is a thrill of ecstasy!

And art thou flown, thou high celestial power?
For ever flown? — Ah! turn thee yet again!
Ah! yet be with me in the lonely hour,
Yet stoop to guide my wilder’d fancy’s rein!
Turn thee once more, and wake thy ancient strain;
No joys that earth can yield I love like thine:
Nay, more than earth’s best joys I love thy pain.
And could I say, I would thy smile resign?
No, while this bosom beats, oh still great gift be mine!

All the Hills and Vales Along

Charles Sorley
Scots
1895 – 1915

 

All the hills and vales along
Earth is bursting into song,
And the singers are the chaps
Who are going to die perhaps.
O sing, marching men,
Till the valleys ring again.
Give your gladness to earth’s keeping,
So be glad, when you are sleeping.

Cast away regret and rue,
Think what you are marching to.
Little live, great pass.
Jesus Christ and Barabbas
Were found the same day.
This died, that went his way.
So sing with joyful breath,
For why, you are going to death.
Teeming earth will surely store
All the gladness that you pour.

Earth that never doubts nor fears,
Earth that knows of death, not tears,
Earth that bore with joyful ease
Hemlock for Socrates,
Earth that blossomed and was glad
‘Neath the cross that Christ had,
Shall rejoice and blossom too
When the bullet reaches you.
Wherefore, men marching
On the road to death, sing!
Pour your gladness on earth’s head,
So be merry, so be dead.

From the hills and valleys earth
Shouts back the sound of mirth,
Tramp of feet and lilt of sing
Ringing all the road along.
All the music of their going,
Ringing swinging glad song-throwing,
Earth will echo still, when foot
Lies numb and voice mute.
On, marching men, on
To the gates of death with song.
Sow your gladness for earth’s reaping,
So you may be glad, though sleeping.
Strew your gladness on earth’s bed,
So be merry, so be dead.

The Victoria Falls

Muriel Spark
Scots
1918 – 2006

 

So hushed, so hot, the broad Zambesi lies
Above the Falls, and on her weedy isles
Swing antic monkeys swarm malignant flies,
And seeming-lazy lurk long crocodiles.

But somewhere down the river does the hush
Become a sibilance that hints a sigh,
A murmur, mounting as the currents rush
Faster, and while the murmur is a cry

The cry becomes a shout, the shout a thunder
Until the whole Zambesi waters pour
Into the earth’s side, agitating under
Infinite spray mists, pounding the world’s floor.

Wrapped in this liquid turmoil who can say
Which is the mighty echo, which the spray?

Done is a Battle

We present this work in honor of Corpus Christi.

William Dunbar
Scots
1459 – 1520

 

Done is a battle on the dragon black,
Our champion Christ confoundit has his force;
The yetis of hell are broken with a crack,
The sign triumphal raisit is of the cross,
The devillis trymmillis with hiddous voce,
The saulis are borrowit and to the bliss can go,
Christ with his bloud our ransonis dois indoce:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.

Dungan is the deidly dragon Lucifer,
The cruewall serpent with the mortal stang;
The auld kene tiger, with his teith on char,
Whilk in a wait has lyen for us so lang,
Thinking to grip us in his clawis strang;
The merciful Lord wald nocht that it were so,
He made him for to failye of that fang.
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.

He for our saik that sufferit to be slane,
And lyk a lamb in sacrifice was dicht,
Is lyk a lion risen up agane,
And as a gyane raxit him on hicht;
Sprungen is Aurora radious and bricht,
On loft is gone the glorious Apollo,
The blissful day departit fro the nicht:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.

The grit victour again is rissen on hicht,
That for our querrell to the deth was woundit;
The sun that wox all pale now shynis bricht,
And, derkness clearit, our faith is now refoundit;
The knell of mercy fra the heaven is soundit,
The Christin are deliverit of their wo,
The Jowis and their errour are confoundit:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.

The fo is chasit, the battle is done ceis,
The presone broken, the jevellouris fleit and flemit;
The weir is gon, confermit is the peis,
The fetteris lowsit and the dungeon temit,
The ransoun made, the prisoneris redeemit;
The field is won, owrecomen is the fo,
Dispuilit of the treasure that he yemit:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.

The Six Bards

James MacPherson
Scots
1736 – 1796

 

Night is dull and dark,
The clouds rest on the hills;
No star with twinkling beam,
No moon looks from the skies.
I hear the blast in the wood,
But distant and dull I hear it.
The stream of the valley murmurs,
Low is its murmur too.
From the tree at the grave of the dead,
The lonely screech-owl groans.
I see a dim form on the plain,
‘Tis a ghost! it fades, it flies;
Some dead shall pass this way.
From the lowly hut of the hill
The distant dog is howling;
The stag lies by the mountain-well,
The hind is at his side;
She hears the wind in his horns,
She starts, but lies again.
The roe is in the cleft of the rock:
The heath-cock’s head beneath his wing.
No beast, no bird is abroad,
But the owl, and the howling fox;
She on the leafless tree,
He on the cloudy hill.
Dark, panting, trembling, sad,
The traveller has lost his way;
Through shrubs, through thorns he goes,
Beside the gurgling rills;
He fears the rock and the pool,
He fears the ghost of the night.
The old tree groans to the blast;
The falling branch resounds.
The wind drives the clung thorn
Along the sighing grass;
He shakes amid the night.
Dark, dusty, howling, is night,
Cloudy, windy, and full of ghosts;
The dead are abroad; my friends
Receive me from the night.

Burning Questions

Alison Fell
Scots
b. 1944

 

You are a lynx and a liar
and I have my father’s dancing eyes
and laughter crackles between us
like snakes or lightning
in the quick dab of lip

Laughing we touch and fly;
we are buzzing and crafty,
uncatchable.

Laughing we deny
what is darkest in us,
the world’s strong shadow,
the need to choose.

What shall we do with each other?

I know the shock of the future
and the whistling silence.
I do not know you.
You may be translucent,
I may pass right through.

Sit down and settle,
Let me melt into you.
You must tell me your truths
and see if I sting.