The Hill Burns

The Hill Burns
So without sediment
Run the clear burns of my country,
Fiercely pure,
Transparent as light
Gathered into its own unity,
Lucent and without colour;
Or green,
Like clear deeps of air,
Light massed upon itself,
Like the green pinions,
Cleaving the trouble of approaching night,
Shining in their own lucency,
Of the great angels that guarded the Mountain;
Or amber so clear
It might have oozed from the crystal trunk
Of the tree Paradisal,
Symbol of life,
That grows in the presence of God eternally.
And these pure waters 
Leap from the adamantine rocks,
The granites and schists
Of my dark and stubborn country.
From gaunt heights they tumble,
Harsh and desolate lands,
The plateau of Braeriach
Where even in July
The cataracts of wind
Crash in the corries with the boom of seas in anger;
And Corrie Etchachan
Down whose precipitous
Narrow defile 
Thunder the fragments of rock
Broken by winter storms
From their aboriginal place;
And Muich Dhui’s summit,
Rock defiant against frost and the old grinding of ice,
Wet with the cold fury of blinding cloud,
Through which the snow-fields loom up, like ghosts from a world of eternal annihilation,
And far below, where the dark waters of Etchachan are wont to glint,
An unfathomable void.
Out of these mountains,
Out of the defiant torment of Plutonic rock,
Out of fire, terror, blackness and upheaval,
Leap the clear burns,
Living water,
Like some pure essence of being,
Invisible in itself,
Seen only by its movement.  
Nan Shepherd

from In the Cairngorms (Edinburgh: The Moray Press, 1934)

Reproduced by permission of the Estate of Nan Shepherd.
Nan Shepherd

In the Cairngorms is both the title of Nan Shepherd's single book of poetry, and a useful shorthand for where the heart of this remarkable novelist, teacher and mountaineer lay. 

Read more about this poet