Pu awa the endill scheit o winter.
Yank it aff fae the pikes an runkled scruif
for the canny moment. Fae the green wame
o the mither hills, a rosie toun is
kittled, oan her heid, a braw seelyhoo.
Lay her in the maffled lap o Tinlaw.
Craidle her atweesh Auchenfad an Craigs,
an nourice her oan the vane o the Nith.
She’s fun hersel in the land o Rheged
wi Devorgill, Comyn and Maccuswell.
Wee rosie bairn, she rubs the sleepie men
fae her een, an, queem in her skinklan bed,
she raxes her airms an legs. Let snawdraps
scintill; the gillet turn her grushie face
tae the sun; the glaizie lift dissle licht
oan purpie crocuses an yella glens.
Crouse catkins prinkle in the peronall
sauchens, an the gean scatters its pink
confetti tae the wun, as it slavers
an reams ower the river, skimmeran
lyk sheepsiller. Oan the Mill Green, gowans
are dayamonds, dainty-lions are gowd,
an thegither they dance the shamit reel.
Sic a kaleidoscope o butterflies –
slives o jesp oan the buddleia. Hollin-
berries an roddens glim lyk royn corneill.
– The rosie toun is a kist o jowels.
Rattlestanes o quartz an glancy spitters
dunt the gray-o-the-eenin capper leves.
Windlestraes camshachle in the watter.
The eemis lift cleres intil a starnie nicht.
Gaitheran tae itsel, the rosie toun
souchs an hauds intil its hairt thirty-five
thoosan sperks o leevan sowls. In the derk
star o the middil ee, ilka ane leams.
About this poem
This poem was commissioned by Elaine Murray, MSP for Dumfries, in 2005. It was part of the second stage of the SPL’s Holyrood Link project, through which poets and MSPs were partnered and explored areas of mutual interest.
Douglas Lipton comments:
We talked about that view of Dumfries, looking down from the high part of the A75 as it approaches the town. There are other places, too, where Dumfries can be appreciated - day or night - from above: thehills around, the Lockerbie road incoming from Torthorwald.
I was thinking about the appearance of the town from such locations. I was also thinking about its development and history and wanted barely to touch upon these, to give a sense of the passage of time - so the poem does it by oblique reference to the seven ages of woman and to the seasons.
Another strand of imagery is gemstones: like you, I too feel it is easy to overlook Dumfries's beautiful aspect, so I wanted to re-dress that imbalance.
Another thing which often strikes me is the town's flora - so I take what I feel are some of the most prominent growing things and use them to refer to the other lines of thought.
The Scots is consciously dense, but I hope approachable. I write aloud, so my hope is that the poem feels and sounds right even if, at first reading, some of its language is a bit obscure. Sound is important to me.
I like the sound of Scots and its feel - better sometimes than English - and, as we said, Scots is still quite prevalent in the South-west generally. I have gone for a kind of 'modern academic Scots', in that I draw on many eras - nothing too archaic, I think - and tried to give it a contemporary voice.
Finally, the 'meaning' is more the feel than anything that can be literally 'translated' - and I wanted, at the end, something spiritual, because I think we all fear the erosion of that part of life: I needed, I think, to reassert it, in some sense.