I da dizzied hoose, a strum of flechs baet
endless drums fornenst a frenzied window.
Belligerent, dey want nedder in nor oot.
Apö da broo, ahint a wheeshtit chapel,
twa windmills spin new soondscapes owre
da laand, kert-wheelin alleluias.
Cloistert granite hadds a orchestration
o birds, a oorie whirr, a vimmerin
o whaaps an peewits. Da wind
troo da grind is a spaekin in tongues
wi da bruckit feed-hoop tunin in:
idder-wirdly, intimately insistent.
Aa dis music ta lö tae, ta slip inta:
a aald organ nönin, a hushie hubbelskyu.
Up owre da hill, airms turn, da haert lifts.
Translations of this Poem
In the dizzied house, a strum o flies beat
endless drums against a frenzied window.
Belligerent, they want neither in nor out.
On the brow of the hill, behind a silent chapel,
two windmills spin new soundscapes over
the land, cart-wheeling alleluias.
Cloistered granite holds an orchestration
of birds, an eerie whirr, tremulous sounds
of curlew and lapwing. The wind
through the metal gate is a speaking in tongues
with the broken feed-hoop tuning in:
other-worldly, intimately insistent.
All this music to attend to, to slip into:
an old organ droning, an uproarious lullaby.
Up over da hill, arms turn, the heart lifts.
About this poem
This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2015. Best Scottish Poems is an online publication, consisting of 20 poems chosen by a different editor each year, with comments by the editor and poets. It provides a personal overview of a year of Scottish poetry. The editor in 2015 was Ken MacLeod.
Dialect has this year proved a remarkably apt medium for meditations on the new, and in particular on technological change. The chapel is silent, but the landscape rings with its own church music, sung by machines.
I wrote this poem while staying in Shetland. It’s about the rich world of sound which surrounded me, contrasting silence with hubbub; natural sounds with man-made; inexplicable sounds with imagined sounds. (The wind whistling through a disintegrating aluminium feed-hoop was out of this world.)
References to movement contrast from the captive houseflies, to the birds, to the steady hum of the windmills. The windmills’ arms allude to love, both spiritual (kert-wheelin alleluias) and human (airms turn, da haert lifts). There are other references to spiritual space (chapel, its old organ, cloister, ‘speaking in tongues’).
The five stanzas have no rhyme scheme but significant internal rhyme and sound patterns e.g. while stanza 1 has a lot of hard sounds (belligerent, strum/ drum), stanza 4 contains lots of light ‘i’ sounds, and the final stanza slows. Onomatopoeia is a feature of Shetlandic.