Caldonia

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

James Hogg
Scots
1770 – 1835

 

Caledonia! thou land of the mountain and rock,
Of the ocean, the mist, and the wind-
Thou land of the torrent, the pine, and the oak,
Of the roebuck, the hart, and the hind;
Though bare are thy cliffs, and though barren thy glens,
Though bleak thy dun islands appear,
Yet kind are the hearts, and undaunted the clans,
That roam on these mountains so drear!

A foe from abroad, or a tyrant at home,
Could never thy ardour restrain;
The marshall’d array of imperial Rome
Essay’d thy proud spirit in vain!
Firm seat of religion, of valour, of truth,
Of genius unshackled and free,
The muses have left all the vales of the south,
My loved Caledonia, for thee!

Sweet land of the bay and wild-winding deeps
Where loveliness slumbers at even,
While far in the depth of the blue water sleeps
A calm little motionless heaven!
Thou land of the valley, the moor, and the hill,
Of the storm and the proud rolling wave-
Yes, thou art the land of fair liberty still,
And the land of my forefathers’ grave!

Being a Human Being

Tom Leonard
Scots
1944 – 2018

 

for Mordechai Vanunu

not to be complicit
not to accept everyone else is silent it must be alright

not to keep one’s mouth shut to hold onto one’s job
not to accept public language as cover and decoy

not to put friends and family before the rest of the world
not to say I am wrong when you know the government is wrong

not to be just a bought behaviour pattern
to accept the moment and fact of choice

I am a human being
and I exist

a human being
and a citizen of the world

responsible to that world
—and responsible for that world

The Laird o’ Cockpen

We present this work in honor of the 175th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Carolina Oliphant
Scots
1766 – 1845

 

The laird o’ Cockpen, he’s proud an’ he’s great,
His mind is ta’en up wi’ things o’ the State;
He wanted a wife, his braw house to keep,
But favour wi’ wooin’ was fashious to seek.

Down by the dyke-side a lady did dwell,
At his table head he thought she’d look well,
McClish’s ae daughter o’ Claversha’ Lee,
A penniless lass wi’ a lang pedigree.

His wig was weel pouther’d and as gude as new,
His waistcoat was white, his coat it was blue;
He put on a ring, a sword, and cock’d hat,
And wha could refuse the laird wi’ a’ that?

He took the grey mare, and rade cannily,
An’ rapp’d at the yett o’ Claversha’ Lee;
‘Gae tell Mistress Jean to come speedily ben,
She’s wanted to speak to the Laird o’ Cockpen’.

Mistress Jean was makin’ the elderflower wine;
‘An’ what brings the laird at sic a like time?’
She put aff her apron, and on her silk gown,
Her mutch wi’ red ribbons, and gaed awa’ down.

An’ when she cam’ ben, he bowed fu’ low,
An’ what was his errand he soon let her know;
Amazed was the laird when the lady said ‘Na’,
And wi’ a laigh curtsie she turned awa’.

Dumfounder’d was he, nae sigh did he gie,
He mounted his mare – he rade cannily;
An’ aften he thought, as he gaed through the glen,
She’s daft to refuse the Laird o’ Cockpen.

And now that the laird his exit had made,
Mistress Jean she reflected on what she had said;
‘Oh, for ane I’ll get better, it’s waur I’ll get ten,
I was daft to refuse the Laird o’ Cockpen’.

Next time that the laird and the lady was seen,
They were gaun arm-in-arm to the kirk on the green;
Now she sits in the ha’ like a weel-tappit hen,
But as yet there’s nae chickens appear’d at Cockpen.

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?