Last Saturday's Herald offered insights into contemporary Scottish poetry from the McCash Prize. Today features a powerful reflection on love from Scotland's other great linguistic roots, Gaelic.

The poem, by Gaeldom's twentieth-century master, Sorley MacLean, is translated by fellow Gael, Iain Crichton Smith.         



If we were in Talisker on the shore

where the great white foaming mouth of water

opens between two jaws as hard as flint - 

the Headland of Stones and the Red Point - 

I'd stand forever by the waves

renewing love out of their crumpling graves

as long as the sea would be going over

the Bay of Talisker forever;

I would stand there by the filling tide

till Preshal bowed his stallion head.


And if the two of us were together

on the shores of Calgary in Mull

between Scotland and Tiree,

between this world and eternity,

I'd stand there till time was done

counting the sands grain by grain.

And also on Uist, on Hosta's shore,

in the face of solitude's fierce stare,

I'd remain standing without sleep,

while seas were ebbing, drop by drop.


And if I were on Moidart's shore

with you, my novelty of desire,

I'd offer this synthesis of love,

grain and water, sand and wave.

And were we by the shelves of Staffin

where the huge joyless sea is coughing

stones and boulders from its throat,

I'd build a fortified wallainst eternity's savage howl.