Monday 30 June 2008

Poem: At Somhairle's Grave

I strove for words I could not find,
to pick the lock, express my mind,
but all I wrote was all in vain,
until I read giftie Maclean.

My thoughts and fears, the tears I'd shed
in voice unknown - already said.
The lonely place but sea and hill,
life's simple truths, love stranger still.

Maclean: the poet I'll never be.
His words yet resonate in me.
You've seen and been, without due fame,
An ceann thall, MacGill-Eain.

Ceann Loch Aoineart

Cycling through Skye recently, we took the side loop to Moll. This is quieter and less hilly than the main road, and provides a great view into the head of Loch Ainort where the Red Cuillin and Blaven rise from the sea to their naked rocky tops. It is the correct spot to consider Ceann Loch Aoineart, one of my favourite of Sorley Maclean's poems:

Còmhlan bheanntan, stòiteachd bheanntan,
còrr-lios bheanntan fàsmhor,
cruinneachadh mhullaichean, thulaichean, shlèibhtean
tighinn sa bheucaich ghàbhaidh.

Even without understanding the original version, the alliterative sound rolls of the tongue. Sorley - who lived most of his life nearby at Raasay - was perhaps Britain's best poet of the 20th century. The reason he is unknown is simple - he wrote in Gaelic.

As far as I am aware, there are no memorials to Sorley, no plaques or public places where his poetry is enjoyed. I think this should be rectified. No better start could be made than to raise a modest cairn on the Moll road as Kinlochainort comes into view, with a brass plaque inserted declaiming his poem, Ceann Loch Aoineart:

A company of mountains, an upthrust of mountains
a great garth of growing mountains
a concourse of summits, of knolls, of hills
coming on with a fearsome roaring.

Poem: The New Road

We do not want your charity
your pity or your piety;

just a road that's smooth and broad
a clear highway of wider baud -

from misty isle and furthest glen
this land will thrum again.

Tuesday 24 June 2008

An t-Eilean Siar

Sunshine, pristine empty beaches, nary a midge in the wind; a sandstorm racing across the dunes and water at Scarista, sunset at the Lady of Our Isles, a glorious tailwind, wild camping and friendly people. Get the right weather - and it has been dry for an unusually long time recently - and a cycling holiday in the Western Isles can't be beat.

At Scarista dunes:

Pictures and updates to follow.