fur Dennis Canavan MSP wha defendit
the inalienable richt o Scottish folk
tae mak free progess ower the land
She birls tae her ain sang
ay haudit shair by birthin staur star
whit bairned the burnin hert o her.
Turnin time pit oan her flesh,
glaciers chippit oot her glens,
saft rains timmed fu her lochs.
Whaur bens fauld ahint sherp nicht
an mune keeks oot fae watter,
yin giant alane stalks staury heichts
yit onybody kin walk the yirth
fur we are born tae her breist,
nae pooch nor micht will chynge it.
Nae mannie reart thae mountains,
conceivit yit yin blade ae gress;
it isnae we are cried oan
when she waants a shift o claes.
Mind oan that afore yeese try
tae thirl her tae fawse law
wha filled oor bellies, slaked
oor thirst, wha gied us shelter,
set oor hauns an minds tae wark.
Wha weets oor bairnies heids,
wha is it lifts oor een an herts,
redd oot the grund ablow oor feet?
Nae thievin wratch in foosty haw
connivin tae fence aff the warld;
hoo wee an feart they are wha think
a poke o siller wid even dunt
the yirth oan which we staun.
Like fitprint merk in saun or snaw
when oor short stook is cut,
we are taen back intae the dirt,
oor hauf-meenut done. Think oan
doon burn, strath, brae an sea
as watter tummles tae braid firth,
we are aw ettled tae stravaig
birlin tae oor ain bit sang
while land itsell maks birth, braith,
bluid, bane, daith, an ay bides oan.
Translations of this Poem
Translator: Janet Paisley
for Dennis Canavan MSP for his defence
of the inalienable right of Scotland’s people
to free, unfettered access to her lands
She dances to her own song
held close by the birthing star
that fired her burning heart.
Shifting time formed her flesh,
glaciers carved her valleys,
soft rain filled up her lakes.
Where hills fold behind sharp night
and moon stares up from water,
one giant alone stalks starry heights
yet anyone can walk the earth
for we are born to her breast,
no pocket or might will change that.
No human raised those mountains,
nor yet conceived one blade of grass
and we are never called on
when she wants a change of dress.
Remember that before you would
subject her to false law
who filled our stomachs, slaked
our thirst, who gave us shelter,
set our hands and minds to work.
Who wets our children’s heads,
who is it lifts our eyes and heart,
spread the ground beneath our feet?
No thieving wretch in dusty hall
conspiring to fence in the world;
how small and scared they are to think
a bag of silver can impact on
the earth on which we stand.
Like footprint made in sand or snow
when our short stalk is cut,
we are drawn back into the dirt,
our half-minute done. Think on
down stream, plain, slope and sea
as water rushes to estuary,
we are all meant to roam
dancing to our own brief song
while the land owns birth, breath,
blood, bone, death, and will live on.
About this poem
This poem was commissioned by Dennis Canavan, MSP for Falkirk West, 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.
The poet commented:
Dennis and I had settled on the theme of land ownership as an issue we both felt strongly about. Dennis believes the 2003 Land Reform Act is the most radical and progressive act that Parliament has passed and, at the time we met, the pending Sewel motion was threatening his hard won amendment to it. The motion was withdrawn but, by then, the poem was written and we both felt it still stood as a universal statement of the relationship between land, people and law.