Hallaig

Hallaig
‘Tha tìm, am fiadh, an coille Hallaig’

Tha bùird is tàirnean air an uinneig
trom faca mi an Àird Iar
’s tha mo ghaol aig Allt Hallaig
’na craoibh bheithe, ’s bha i riamh

eadar an t-Inbhir ’s Poll a’ Bhainne,
thall ’s a-bhos mu Bhaile Chùirn:
tha i ’na beithe, ’na calltainn,
’na caorann dhìrich sheang ùir.

Ann an Sgreapadal mo chinnidh,
far robh Tarmad ’s Eachann Mòr,
tha ’n nigheanan ’s am mic ’nan coille
a’ gabhail suas ri taobh an lòin.

Uaibreach a-nochd na coilich ghiuthais
a’ gairm air mullach Cnoc an Rà,
dìreach an druim ris a’ ghealaich – 
chan iadsan coille mo ghràidh.

Fuirichidh mi ris a’ bheithe
gus an tig i mach an Càrn,
gus am bi am bearradh uile
o Bheinn na Lice fa sgàil.

Mura tig ’s ann theàrnas mi a Hallaig
a dh’ionnsaigh Sàbaid nam marbh,
far a bheil an sluagh a’ tathaich,
gach aon ghinealach a dh’fhalbh.

Tha iad fhathast ann a Hallaig,
Clann Ghill-Eain’s Clann MhicLeòid,
na bh’ ann ri linn Mhic Ghille Chaluim:
chunnacas na mairbh beò.

Na fir ’nan laighe air an lèanaig
aig ceann gach taighe a bh’ ann,
na h-igheanan ’nan coille bheithe,
dìreach an druim, crom an ceann.

Eadar an Leac is na Feàrnaibh
tha ’n rathad mòr fo chòinnich chiùin,
’s na h-igheanan ’nam badan sàmhach
a’ dol a Clachan mar o thus.

Agus a’ tilleadh às a’ Chlachan,
à Suidhisnis ’s à tir nam beò;
a chuile tè òg uallach
gun bhristeadh cridhe an sgeòil.

O Allt na Feàrnaibh gus an fhaoilinn
tha soilleir an dìomhaireachd nam beann
chan  eil ach coitheanal nan nighean
a’ cumail na coiseachd gun cheann.

A’ tilleadh a Hallaig anns an fheasgar,
anns a’ chamhanaich bhalbh bheò,
a’ lìonadh nan leathadan casa,
an gàireachdaich ‘nam chluais ’na ceò,

’s am bòidhche ’na sgleò air mo chridhe
mun tig an ciaradh air caoil,
’s nuair theàrnas grian air cùl Dhùn Cana
thig peilear dian à gunna Ghaoil;

’s buailear am fiadh a tha ’na thuaineal
a’ snòtach nan làraichean feòir;
thig reothadh air a shùil sa choille:
chan fhaighear lorg air fhuil rim bheò.
Sorley MacLean

from Caoir Gheal Leumraich / White Leaping Flame: collected poems in Gaelic with English translations, edited by Christopher Whyte and Emma Dymock (Edinburgh: Polygon, 2011)

Reproduced by kind permission of Carcanet Press
Hallaig
‘Time, the deer, is in the wood of Hallaig’

The window is nailed and boarded
through which I saw the West
and my love is at the Burn of Hallaig,
a birch tree, and she has always been

between Inver and Milk Hollow,
here and there about Baile-chuirn:
she is a birch, a hazel,
a straight, slender young rowan.

In Screapadal of my people
where Norman and Big Hector were,
their daughters and their sons are a wood
going up beside the stream.

Proud tonight the pine cocks
crowing on the top of Cnoc an Ra,
straight their backs in the moonlight – 
they are not the wood I love.

I will wait for the birch wood
until it comes up by the cairn,
until the whole ridge from Beinn na Lice
will be under its shade.

If it does not, I will go down to Hallaig,
to the Sabbath of the dead,
where the people are frequenting,
every single generation gone.

They are still in Hallaig,
MacLeans and MacLeods,
all who were there in the time of Mac Gille Chaluim:
the dead have been seen alive.

The men lying on the green
at the end of every house that was,
the girls a wood of birches,
straight their backs, bent their heads.

Between the Leac and Fearns
the road is under mild moss
and the girls in silent bands
go to Clachan as in the beginning,

and return from Clachan,
from Suisnish and the land of the living;
each one young and light-stepping,
without the heartbreak of the tale.

From the Burn of Fearns to the raised beach
that is clear in the mystery of the hills,
there is only the congregation of the girls
keeping up the endless walk,

coming back to Hallaig in the evening,
in the dumb living twilight,
filling the steep slopes,
their laughter a mist in my ears,

and their beauty a film on my heart
before the dimness comes on the kyles,
and when the sun goes down behind Dun Cana
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.
translated by Sorley MacLean
Sorley MacLean

Sorley MacLean's mastery of his chosen medium and his engagement with the European poetic tradition and European politics make him one of the major Scottish poets of the modern era.

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