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.

The Maiden’s Vow

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 255th birthday.

Carolina Oliphant
Scots
1766 – 1845

I’ve made a vow, I’ll keep it true,
I’ll never married be;
For the only ane that I think on
Will never think o’ me.

Now gane to a far distant shore,
Their face nae mair I’ll see;
But often will I think o’ them,
That winna think o’ me.

Gae owre, gae owre noo, gude Sir John,
Oh, dinna follow me;
For the only ane I ere thocht on,
Lies buried in the sea.

from The Lay of the Last Minstrel

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 250th birthday.

Sir Walter Scott
Scots
1771 – 1832

Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!
Whose heart hath ne’er within him burn’d,
As home his footsteps he hath turn’d
From wandering on a foreign strand!
If such there breathe, go, mark him well;
For him no Minstrel raptures swell;
High though his titles, proud his name,
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim;
Despite those titles, power, and pelf,
The wretch, concentred all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust, from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonour’d, and unsung.

The Banks o’ Doon

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

07-21 Burns
Robert Burns
Scots
1759 – 1796

 

Ye banks and braes o’ bonie Doon,
How can ye bloom sae fresh and fair?
How can ye chant, ye little birds,
And I sae weary fu’ o’ care!
Thou’ll break my heart, thou warbling bird,
That wantons thro’ the flowering thorn:
Thou minds me o’ departed joys,
Departed never to return.

Aft hae I rov’d by Bonie Doon,
To see the rose and woodbine twine:
And ilka bird sang o’ its Luve,
And fondly sae did I o’ mine;
Wi’ lightsome heart I pu’d a rose,
Fu’ sweet upon its thorny tree!
And may fause Luver staw my rose,
But ah! he left the thorn wi’ me.