from Under the Eildon Tree

from Under the Eildon Tree
XII. Orpheus	                   

Wi sang aa birds and beasts could I owrecome,
    Aa men and wemen o’ the mapamound subdue;
    The flouers o’ the fields,
Rocks and trees, boued doun to hear my leid;
Gurlie waters rase upon the land to mak
    A throwgang for my feet.
I was the potent prince o’ ballatrie,
My lyre opened portes whareer I thocht to gang,
    My fleean sangs mair ramsh nor wine
At Beltane, Yule or Hogmanay
    Made wud the clans o’ men –
There wasna my maik upon the yerth
    (Why should I no admit the fack?)
A hero, demi-god, my kingrik was the hert,
    The passions and the saul –
        Sic was my pouer.
 – Anerlie my ain sel I couldna bend.
   “He was his ain worst enemie,”
    As the auld untentit bodachs say –
    My hert, a leopard, ruthless, breme,
    Gilravaged far and near
Seekan sensatiouns, passions that wad wauken
    My Muse whan she was lollish.
No seenil the hert was kinnelt like a forest-bleeze …
I was nae maister o’ my ain but thirlit 
    Serf til his ramskeerie wants
 – And yet I hained but ane in the hert’s deepest hert. 

    She, maist leefou, leesome leddy
   – Ochone, ochone, Euridicie  –
Was aye the queen of Orpheus’ hert, as I kent weill,
    And wantan her my life was feckless drinkin,
        Weirdless, thieveless dancin,
            Singin, gangrellin. 
	                           – And nou she’s gane. 	
Sydney Goodsir Smith

from Under the Eildon Tree (Serif Books, 1948), and included in Collected Poems 1941-1975 (John Calder, 1975, 2010)

(c) Calder Publications 1975, 2010. Reproduced by permission of One World Classics.
Sydney Goodsir Smith

Born in New Zealand, Sydney Goodsir Smith nevertheless became one of the most interesting of poets writing in Scots in the mid twentieth century. 


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