’S e rathad geal a bha ruighinn na mara
ri mo chiad chuimhne,
is a’ chairt ga thachais,
a’ chairt ga phronnadh ’s a’ chairt ga ghearradh,
’s tha fàileadh nan each thar na fichead bliadhn’ ud
trom air mo chuinnlean,
gach fallas is eile,
is dealbh ’nam inntinn
air cairt làn todhair is balach ’na shuidh’ innt’,
is leanaidh fàileadh an todhair is fàileadh an fhallais
a chaoidh mi.
Is chì mi mhòinteach air traoghadh,
mar nach fhaic fear-tadhail
a chì dà throigh de riasg sgaoilte ’na mhòine
ri oir an rothaid—
an rathad dubh a bha geal an uair sin.
A’ mhòinteach air seacadh ’s a’ mhòine air a losgadh,
’s an rathad ag èirigh suas fo bheum an tairsgeir.
Is minig a riamh a chunna mi crodh air taod air,
cailleach ga slaodadh ’s bò le cabhag dàir oirr’,
ceum socair ciùin a’ tilleadh am beul na h-oidhche,
is chunna mi laoigh gu tric a’ falbh gu Dròbh air.
Ceum Sàbaid is sadadh ruidhle
a’ pronnadh morghan mìn nan iomadh bliadhna
gus nach criathraich
mi a dhubh bho a gheal,
’s nach lèir dhomh air mòinteach m’ òige
ach srianag fallais a’ brùchdadh bho chneas m’ eòlais.
Translations of this Poem
A white road
Translator: Jackie Kay
A white road stretches to the shore:
My first memory,
Cartwheels scraping it,
Carts pounding and cutting the long road.
And the smell of horses twenty years back
Across the rough road of the past
Is as strong as the smell of the sweat.
And a picture in my mind
Of a cart full of dung and a boy sitting in it
And the smell of the dung and the smell of the sweat will
always follow me.
And I see the dry, cracked moorland
As a stranger can never see it,
A stranger who only sees two feet of fibre
Spread out as peat by the edge of the white road.
The black road was white then.
The moorland withered, dried, shrunk and the peat burnt.
And the road rising up under the glint of the peat knife.
Often before I saw cows pulled by a rope on the white road,
An old woman being dragged by a cow, hurrying to beat time,
Easy quiet steps returning at nightfall.
And I frequently saw calves on the road going to the fair.
Sabbath steps and a reel’s slinging and spinning
Battering, rushing, crushing, grinding, pounding the fine
Powdery gravel of all those years.
Until I can’t sift
The black from the white —
All I can see on the moorland of my youth
Is a stripe of sweat belching bursting gushing rushing
From the fountain of my knowledge.
About this poem
This poem and the translation or ‘response’ were published in Dreuchd An Fhigheadair / The Weaver’s Task: a Gaelic Sampler, edited by Christopher Whyte, and published by the Scottish Poetry Library in 2007. Seven Scottish poets with no knowledge of Gaelic were offered literal versions of contemporary Gaelic poems. Their responses were published alongside the Gaelic originals in the book, and can also be read on the website collected under the tag: The Weaver’s Task.