a poem for Nigel Tranter
He walks for miles in waxed coat, cap and breeches.
He follows a familiar route, twelve miles perhaps,
of dunes and bents, shining acres of unmarked sand.
With the keen east wind in his still-sharp eyes
he looks towards the Bass, where covenanters
shiver and die; ten thousand gannets scream.
Then he stops to note down a thought or two,
as the firth provides a rhythm, an eternal
punctuation; his chapter is unfolding.
Later, as the sun grows weak, he marches
westwards, seeing green Inchcolm, where canons
ponder manuscripts, drift silently to prayer.
He’s been walking now for centuries, yet knows
a lifetime’s work is very far from finished:
histories have no ends, and no beginnings.
At times the beaches teem with kings and queens –
and ordinary folk. He paces Scotland’s edge
while searching deep into his country’s heart.