Aig Cladh Hallain

Aig Cladh Hallain
Tha mi tadhal air m’ athair’s mo mhàthair,
‘s tha iad a’ cur fàilt’ orm,
ged nach robh dùil aca rium
‘s ged nach eil sìon deiseil.

Tha aparan oirre-se ‘s i fuinne
‘s a’mhin a’ còmhdachadh a gàirdein,
‘s tha e fhèin na sheasamh aig a’ bheinge
a’ locradh pìos fiodh: uinneag.

Tha an doras fosgailte agus troimhe
cluinnidh mi an ceòl: pìobaireachd
a’ tighinn a-nuas an cnoc, agus saoil
nach e siud Fear a’ Chòta Ruaidh?

Bu mhath leam a bhith sàmhach,
ach tha m’ athair ah ràdh nach e seo
an t-àm. Seo an t-àm, tha e ag ràdh,
urram a thoirt dha gach nì tha beò.

Mar an t-eun beag ud thall air a’ bhalla.
Tha e falbh, ‘s mar as àirde dh’èireas
e ‘s ann is soilleire an ceòl. Dùisgidh
na mairbh nuair a dh’èireas na beò.

Tha sinn gar call fhèin a’ còmhradh.
Tha iad ag iarraidh orm fuireach, oir
tha an tì gu bhith dèanta, ‘s an leabaidh
uile deiseil, le cuibhrigean ùra blàth

ach tha mi ag ràdh gum feum mi falbh
is gun tadhail mi latha eile. Tha iad
a’ seasamh aig an doras ‘s a’ smèideadh,
fhad ‘s tha mi dùnadh a’ gheat’ às mo dhèidh.
Angus Peter Campbell

from 'To Honour Everything That Is Alive', in Northwords Now, Issue 31 (Spring 2016; p. 13), reproduced by permission of the author.

At Hallan Cemetery
I call by to see my mother and father
and they welcome me in,
though they weren’t expecting me
and nothing’s ready.

She’s wearing an apron and is baking,
the flour covering her arms,
and he’s standing at the work-bench
planing a piece of wood: a window.

The door is wide open and through it
I hear music: piping coming
down hill, and isn’t that someone
singing Fear a’ Chòta Ruaidh?

I’d like to be silent,
but my father says this is not
the time. This is the time, he says,
to honour everything that is alive.

Like that little bird over on the wall.
It flies, and the higher it ascends,
the clearer the song. The dead shall
awaken when the living arise.

We lose ourselves talking.
They want me to stay, for
the tea is about ready, and the bed
all made, with new warm covers

but I tell them I must go away,
and will call back some other day.
They stand at the door, waving,
as I close the gate behind me.
translated by Angus Peter Campbell
Angus Peter Campbell

Poet and novelist Angus Peter Campbell was born in South Uist and now lives in the Highlands, where he works in the media.

Read more about this poet
About Aig Cladh Hallain

This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2016. Best Scottish Poems is an online publication, consisting of 20 poems chosen by a different editor each year, with comments by the editor and poets. It provides a personal overview of a year of Scottish poetry. The editor in 2016 was Catherine Lockerbie.

Editor's comment:

This is a poem of quiet and lovely poignancy. I found it eagerly rifling through editions of Northwords Now, one of our finest literary magazines, which continues in the spirit of the late editor Angus Dunn, to whom many poems were dedicated in 2016. My own Gaelic, alas, is still limited to beginner level and I am grateful to have the poet’s own translation of the work – a moving visit to his dead parents’ grave, a deep sense of continuity as well as leave-taking.  The title of the whole sequence, taken from this poem, might be a manifesto for poetry itself: 'To Honour Everything That Is Alive', and that includes, in Angus Peter Campbell’s loving and precise visualisation, the deceased who are still with us – holding our hands, as Jackie Kay has so touchingly written elsewhere.