Thursday, April 02, 2009

National Poetry Month

It's National Poetry Month, so here's my contribution.

Hallaig was written in the Gaelic by Sorley Maclean. This is his own translation into English, and it is him reciting it, behind music from the late Martyn Bennett. It is the most hauntingly beautiful evocation of humanity I know. The last five lines:

a vehement bullet will come from the gun of Love;

and will strike the deer that goes dizzily,
sniffing at the grass-grown ruined homes;
his eye will freeze in the wood,
his blood will not be traced while I live.


get me every time. The poem recalls what it is like, now, to walk through Hallaig, an ancient settlement on the island of Raasay which was cleared of people during the Highland Clearances. It is a meditation on life and death, the past and the present. In the poem, the trees and the landscape come to life as the living relics of the departed generations of Sorley Maclean's people. 'Time, the deer' flits through the scene until it is felled by the 'gun of love': this, then, is a love killing, bloodless, stopping time, freezing human memory so that we may never forget what happened here, so that the memories of the past and of the Raasay people will live on forever in the land, in the trees, in the air.

The text can be found on the Sorley Maclean website. There isn't a direct link, but go here and select "View English translations" and scroll down a bit.

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