To mark the vernal equinox, Duncan Ferguson’s ode to the coming of spring in the West Highlands ranges in cultural references from the Latin of the Roman poet Horace (translated by A E Housman) to an old tale of Kintail, where the Five Sisters wait in vain for their promised Irish suitors.

SALVE, O VER! /A SALUTE TO SPRING

‘Diffugere nives’ sang the bard:

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thanks to Horace and Housman –

from Sabine hills to Shropshire rills –

we have that ode to spring

classical and Saxon;

but in Highland vernal climes

we chant our little equinoctial ode

as we recall that legend

of sailors aground

from ‘The Lady Shamrock’

on a western shore

with suitors due to return

for that day not so long from

St Patrick’s feast (or Paschaltide)

while again the grand Five Sisters of Kintail

look seaward in vain for those Irish grooms

as the daffodil and primrose will surely bloom.

~

SALVE, O VER!/ FAILT’ AIR AN EARRACH

‘Diffugere nives’ sheinn am bàrd:

le taing do Horace ‘s Housman –

fear Sabinach ‘s balach na siorramachd sin -

tha dàn beag don earrach  againn

clasaigeach ‘s Sasannach;

ach air a’ Ghàidhealtachd sa Mhàirt

seinnidh sinn ar fàilt air an earrach

deagh  chuimhn’ air seann sgeul

seòladairean air na creagan

bhon bhàta Èirinneach

air a’ chosd an iar

‘s dùil ris na bràithrean

air là nach eil cho goirid – no fada bhon

là Naoimh Phàdraig (no àm na Càisge)

nuair a bhios Peathraichean bhrèagha Chinn t-Sàile

feitheamh gun dòchas air fleasgaich a Eirinn

na lotaichean làn fhlùraichean ‘s uain.