Culloden Moor (Seen in Autumn Rain)

Alice MacDonell
Scots
1854 – 1938

 

Full of grief, the low winds sweep
O’er the sorrow-haunted ground;
Dark the woods where night rains weep,
Dark the hills that watch around.

Tell me, can the joys of spring
Ever make this sadness flee,
Make the woods with music ring,
And the streamlet laugh for glee?

When the summer moor is lit
With the pale fire of the broom,
And through green the shadows flit,
Still shall mirth give place to gloom?

Sad shall it be, though sun be shed
Golden bright on field and flood;
E’en the heather’s crimson red
Holds the memory of blood.

Here that broken, weary band
Met the ruthless foe’s array,
Where those moss-grown boulders stand,
On that dark and fatal day.

Like a phantom hope had fled,
Love to death was all in vain,
Vain, though heroes’ blood was shed,
And though hearts were broke in twain.

Many a voice has cursed the name
Time has into darkness thrust,
Cruelty his only fame
In forgetfulness and dust.

Noble dead that sleep below,
We your valour ne’er forget;
Soft the heroes’ rest who know
Hearts like theirs are beating yet.

To the Rainbow

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 245th birthday.

Thomas Campbell
Scots
1777 – 1844

 

Triumphal arch, that fill’st the sky
When storms prepare to part,
I ask not proud Philosophy
To teach me what thou art; –

Still seem; as to my childhood’s sight,
A midway station given
For happy spirits to alight
Betwixt the earth and heaven.

Can all that Optics teach unfold
Thy form to please me so,
As when I dreamt of gems and gold
Hid in thy radiant bow?

When Science from Creation’s face
Enchantment’s veil withdraws,
What lovely visions yield their place
To cold material laws!

And yet, fair bow, no fabling dreams,
But words of the Most High,
Have told why first thy robe of beams
Was woven in the sky.

When o’er the green, undeluged earth
Heaven’s covenant thou didst shine,
How came the world’s gray fathers forth
To watch thy sacred sign!

And when its yellow luster smiled
O’er mountains yet untrod,
Each mother held aloft her child
To bless the bow of God.

Methinks, thy jubilee to keep,
The first-made anthem rang
On earth, delivered from the deep,
And the first poet sang.

Nor ever shall the Muse’s eye
Unraptured greet thy beam;
Theme of primeval prophecy,
Be still the prophet’s theme!

The earth to thee her incense yields,
The lark thy welcome sings,
When, glittering in the freshened fields,
The snowy mushroom springs.

How glorious is thy girdle, cast
O’er mountain, tower, and town,
Or mirrored in the ocean vast,
A thousand fathoms down!

As fresh in yon horizon dark,
As young thy beauties seem,
As when the eagle from the ark
First sported in thy beam:

For, faithful to its sacred page,
Heaven still rebuilds thy span;
Nor lets the type grow pale with age,
That first spoke peace to man.

A Highly Valuable Chain of Thoughts

We present this work in honor of the 110th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Andrew Lang
Scots
1844 – 1912

 

Had cigarettes no ashes,
And roses ne’er a thorn,
No man would be a funker
Of whin, or burn, or bunker.
There were no need for mashies,
The turf would ne’er be torn,
Had cigarettes no ashes,
And roses ne’er a thorn.

Had cigarettes no ashes,
And roses ne’er a thorn,
The big trout would not ever
Escape into the river.
No gut the salmon smashes
Would leave us all forlorn,
Had cigarettes no ashes,
And roses ne’er a thorn.

But ‘tis an unideal
Sad world in which we’re born,
And things will ‘go contrairy’
With Martin and with Mary:
And every day the real
Comes bleakly in with morn,
And cigarettes have ashes,
And every rose a thorn.

To the Old Gods

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 135th birthday.

05-15 Muir
Edwin Muir
Scots
1887 – 1959

Old gods and goddesses who have lived so long
Through time and never found eternity,
Fettered by wasting wood and hollowing hill,
You should have fled our ever-dying song,
The mound, the well, and the green trysting tree.
They have forgotten, yet you linger still,
Goddess of caverned breast and channeled brow,
And cheeks slow hollowed by millennial tears,
Forests of autumns fading in your eyes,
Eternity marvels at your counted years
And kingdoms lost in time, and wonders how
There could be thoughts so bountiful and wise
As yours beneath the ever-breaking bough,
And vast compassion curving like the skies.

Winter Twilight in West Lothian

03-05 Hutchison
Isobel Wylie Hutchison
Scots
1889 – 1982

The sun’s going down behind the great shale-heap
Over against the village; shadows creep
Shifting from door to door, and all the bings
Of Broxburn stand like tombs of Theban kings
Black on the crimson, crowned by fierce blue stars.

From the fields mist is rising. Motor cars
Pass swiftly through the film of gathering grey,
Their drivers peering apprehensively
For furtive waggons, dazzled by the bits
Of sunset that still float above the pits
And fall into the puddles on the road.

Beyond the hedge the ploughman has bestrode
His horse, or seated edgewise lumbering rides
With feet that flap against the steaming sides
Of his tired beast, homeward beneath the moon,
Now and then whistling snatches of a tune
The harness echoes with its tinkling brass.

From time to time belated miners pass
With uncouth, blackened faces, taciturn;
Behind the bings the fires of sunset burn
To ashes very slowly. In the north
The Bear prowls softly up above the Forth
In a dark gulf the wind has sucked again
Out of the clouds. To-morrow we’ll have rain.

I Cannot Deem Why Men Toil So for Fame

We present this work in honor of the 155th anniversary of the poet’s death.

01-05 Smith
Alexander Smith
Scots
1829 – 1867

I cannot deem why men toil so for Fame.
A porter is a porter though his load
Be the oceaned world, and although his road
Be down the ages. What is in a name?
Ah! ‘t is our spirit’s curse to strive and seek.
Although its heart is rich in pearls and ores,
The Sea complains upon a thousand shores;
Sea-like we moan for ever. We are weak.
We ever hunger for diviner stores.
I cannot say I have a thirsting deep
For human fame, nor is my spirit bowed
To be a mummy above ground to keep
For stare and handling of the vulgar crowd,
Defrauded of my natural rest and sleep.

“God is Departed from Me, and Answereth Me No More”

11-27 Hamilton
Janet Hamilton
Scots
1795 – 1873

 

A King has sought at midnight hour
The sorceress in her cell,
And bids invoke the Prophet’s shade,
His coming doom to tell.
He bows before the spectral form,
He speaks in anguish sore—
“God is departed from me,
And answereth me no more.”

Dark words—how pregnant with despair!
How fraught with hopeless woe!
Stern spake the spirit-seer—”What hope
When God He is thy foe?
And wherefore seek to know thy doom,
For this thou knew’st before?
“ ‘God is departed from thee,
And answereth thee no more!’

“The word which God hath spoke by me
He hath confirmed and done—
He rends the kingdom from thy hand;
His own anointed one,
Even David, he shall fill thy throne;
Thy reign, thy life is o’er—
‘God is departed from thee,
And answereth thee no more!’

“Since thou obey’dst not God, nor didst
His high behest fulfil,
He gives thy host, thy sons, thy life,
Up to the enemies’ will.
Thy soul, ere midnight glooms again,
Shall wing th’ eternal shore.
‘God is departed from thee,
And answereth thee no more.’“

He faints, he falls, on earth he lies,
That stately, peerless form,
Which oft had tower’d in Israel’s van
And ruled in battles’ storm.
Oh kingly oak! the thunder fires
Have scathed thine inmost core.
“God is departed from thee,
And answereth thee no more.”

Who runs may read this awful truth,
In lines of lightning traced,
The spoken, written Word of God,
Though trampled, scorn’d, defaced
By men of sin and pride, the earth
Shall burn, the heavens decay,
Ere Word of God, to man reveal’d,
Shall fail or pass away.

Late Love

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 60th birthday.

11-09 Kay
Jackie Kay
Scots
b. 1961

 

How they strut about, people in love,
How tall they grow, pleased with themselves,
Their hair, glossy, their skin shining.
They don’t remember who they have been.

How filmic they are just for this time.
How important they’ve become – secret, above
The order of things, the dreary mundane.
Every church bell ringing, a fresh sign.
How dull the lot that are not in love.
Their clothes shabby, their skin lustreless;
How clueless they are, hair a mess; how they trudge
Up and down the streets in the rain,

remembering one kiss in a dark alley,
A touch in a changing room, if lucky, a lovely wait
For the phone to ring, maybe, baby.
The past with its rush of velvet, its secret hush
Already miles away, dimming now, in the late day.

Mrs. Tilscher’s Class

We present this work in honor of the International Day of the Girl.

10-11 Duffy
Carol Ann Duffy
Scots
b. 1955

 

You could travel up the Blue Nile
with your finger, tracing the route
while Mrs Tilscher chanted the scenery.
Tana. Ethiopia. Khartoum. Aswân.
That for an hour, then a skittle of milk
and the chalky Pyramids rubbed into dust.
A window opened with a long pole.
The laugh of a bell swung by a running child.

This was better than home. Enthralling books.
The classroom glowed like a sweet shop.
Sugar paper. Coloured shapes. Brady and Hindley
faded, like the faint, uneasy smudge of a mistake.
Mrs Tilscher loved you. Some mornings, you found
she’d left a good gold star by your name.
The scent of a pencil slowly, carefully, shaved.
A xylophone’s nonsense heard from another form.

Over the Easter term, the inky tadpoles changed
from commas into exclamation marks. Three frogs
hopped in the playground, freed by a dunce,
followed by a line of kids, jumping and croaking
away from the lunch queue. A rough boy
told you how you were born. You kicked him, but stared
at your parents, appalled, when you got back home.

That feverish July, the air tasted of electricity.
A tangible alarm made you always untidy, hot,
fractious under the heavy, sexy sky. You asked her
how you were born and Mrs Tilscher smiled,
then turned away. Reports were handed out.
You ran through the gates, impatient to be grown,
as the sky split open into a thunderstorm.

Pirate Story

We present this work in honor of International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

09-19 Stevenson
Robert Louis Stevenson
Scots
1850 – 1894

 

Three of us afloat in the meadow by the swing,
Three of us aboard in the basket on the lea.
Winds are in the air, they are blowing in the spring,
And waves are on the meadow like the waves there are at sea.

Where shall we adventure, to-day that we’re afloat,
Wary of the weather and steering by a star?
Shall it be to Africa, a-steering of the boat,
To Providence, or Babylon, or off to Malabar?

Hi! but here’s a squadron a-rowing on the sea—
Cattle on the meadow a-charging with a roar!
Quick, and we’ll escape them, they’re as mad as they can be,
The wicket is the harbour and the garden is the shore.