Categories

PART OF THE Revolution ISSUE

‘the devilish revelry would drown / the voice of the wise and cry of the tortured’

MacLean’s extended political poem ‘An Cuilithionn’ (‘The Cuillin’) is featured here. Taking the iconic mountain range in Skye as a symbol for the international revolutionary movement, the poem has a significance which echoes far beyond time, country and language. An extract from this powerful poem is published here in Gaelic and English.

Extract from An Cuilithionn: The Cuillin 1939 & Unpublished Poems
By Somhairle MacGill-Eain | By Sorley MacLean
Published by ASLS

Please note: the poem below is in Gaelic and English

From An Cuilithionn 1939

Agus anns gach coire fòdhpa
gach breugaire sodail chum riù còmhnadh,
a choisinn bàrr am mòr-dhuaisean,
gach bàillidh, fear-lagha is uasal,
a dh’ith ’s a dh’imlich mun cuairt,
a shlaod ’s a spùill agus a ruaig:
bho gach coire agus sgurra
bhàrc an aon laoidh cuideachd:
“An ceann beairteis agus uaisle
gheibhear a-chaoidh ùidh nam buadhmhor;
thig is bheirear dhaibh mar dh’iarrar;
siud an comain ’s an lagh sìorraidh.”
Bhrùchd orm gàir chruaidh an iolaich:
“Tuath na leisge ’s na droch ghiullachd,
claoidh iad, tog iad agus sguab iad,
brist iad, iomain iad is ruaig iad.”
Thòisich na manaidhean air dannsa
’s gum b’ e i siud an iomairt sheannsail,
corranach an t-sluaigh a’ fàgail
an ceann gliongarsaich nan àrmann.
Thar farsaingeachd cuain agus àrainn
fhreagair Franco na Spàinne,
agus Pàp glas na Ròimhe
agus Chamberlain na seòltachd
agus caithream iolach Òdain.
Dhiùchd Bhinn is Barsalòna,
Seangaidh, Hamburg agus Hàirbinn,
Calcat, Boraraig is Lunnainn,
Pràtha is Napalais agus Muinich;
gach seòmar truagh fo roisg na grèine
don tig gaoir nam bochd ’s an èiginn,
mar a’ ghaoir air feadh an t-Sratha
a chuala Geikie is a bhrath e.
’S ged sgoilteadh guth eile an ceathach,
Lenin, Marx no MacGhill-Eain,
Thaelmann, Dimitrov, MacMhuirich,
Mao Tse Tung no a chuideachd,
bhàthadh an caithream diabhlaidh
guth nan saoi is glaodh nam piantan.
’S ged bhiodh neart is misneachd Stàilin
agamsa ri uchd na h-àmhghair,
chlaoidhteadh le sgread na fuaim mi
’s an Cuilithionn mòr a’ dol ’na thuaineal.

Air Sgùrr Alasdair ri lainnir
’s àilleachd airgid na gealaich ,
lean an glaodh ud ri mo chlaistneachd
dhrùidh is mhill e smior mo neairt-sa.
’S ged sheasadh ar Beinn Lì an uachdar
thar gach sgùrr agus bruaich dhiubh,
’s ged a chithinn creagan Bhaltois
a’ toirt bàrr air rèis na h-ealtainn,
’s ged bhiodh Beul Àth nan Trì Allt
mar a’ Bholga làn is mall,
leanadh sgread cruaidh a’ Chuilithinn
ri mo chlaistneachd ’na dhuilghinn.
’S ged chuala mi oidhche an talla
Phort Rìgh mo ghaoil, m’ eòil is m’ aithne
an seann seud, Dòmhnall MacCaluim,
siud a’ ghaoir a-mhàin a mhaireas;
is gus am bi an t-Arm Dearg còmhla
ri caismeachd tarsainn na Roinn Eòrpa,
drùidhidh iorram na truaighe
air mo chridhe ’s air mo chluasan.

Mìltean de dhaoine bochd air cnàmh
’nan closaich lobhte anns an Spàinn,
’s na ceudan mìle anns an t-Sìn,
ìobairt air am faide brìgh.
A liuthad Thaelmann anns a’ Ghearmailt
is “John Maclean” no a dhà an Albainn,
Mac a’ Phearsain fo ùir Chille Chòmhghain
’s an t-Eilean mòr glè rongach,
mise an seo air creagan spòrsa,
Alba a’ lobhadh an suain bhreòite.

From An Cuilithionn 1939 (English translation by Sorley MacLean)

And in every corrie under
every fawning liar who helped them,
who earned the cream of the big rewards,
every factor, lawyer and gent
who ate and licked around,
who stole and drove and plundered.
From every corrie and sgurr
surged the one hymn in unison:
“With wealth and rank
ever goes the devotion of the talented;
all they want will come and be given to them;
‘noblesse oblige’ and eternal law.”
Burst on me the hard cry of their slogan:
“Lazy, inefficient peasants,
oppress them, clear them and sweep them,
break them, drive them and rout them.”
The ghost band began a dance
and that was the auspicious exercise,
the coronach of the people leaving
mingled in the din of the gentlemen.
Over width of sea and march
answered Franco of Spain
and the grey Pope of Rome
and wily Chamberlain
and the revel-shout of Odin.
Appeared Vienna and Barcelona, Shanghai,
Hamburg and Harbin,
Calcutta, Boreraig and London,
Prague, Naples and Munich –
every poor room under the sun’s eye
to which comes the cry and extremity of the humble,
like the wail throughout Strath
which Geikie heard and did not conceal.
And though another voice split the fog,
Lenin, Marx, Maclean,
Thaelmann, Dimitrov, MacPherson,
Mao Tse Tung and his men,
the devilish revelry would drown
the voice of the wise and cry of the tortured.
And though in the face of distress
I had the strength and courage of Stalin,
the screeching noise would oppress me
while the great Cuillin reeled dizzily.

On Sgurr Alasdair, in the glitter
and silver loveliness of the moon,
that cry clung to my hearing,
pierced and spoiled my strength’s marrow.
And though our Ben Lee stood towering
above every sgurr and brae of them,
and though I saw the rocks of Valtos
excelling the birds’ career,
and though the Ford of the Three Burns were
like the Volga, full and slow,
the hard screech of the Cuillin
would cleave to my hearing, a distress.
And though one night in the hall
of my beloved well-known Portree
I heard the old hero Donald MacCallum,
that cry alone will remain;
and until the whole Red Army together
comes battle-marching across Europe,
that song of wretchedness will seep
into my ears and my heart.

Thousands of poor men rotting,
mouldering carcasses in Spain,
and hundreds of thousands in China,
a sacrifice of most distant effect;
the many Thaelmanns in Germany
and the one or two John Macleans in Scotland,
MacPherson in the earth at St Congan’s
and the Great Island languishing,
and I here on sporting rocks,
and Scotland rotting in sick slumber.


 An Cuilithionn: The Cuillin 1939 & Unpublished Poems by Sorley MacLean is out now published by ASLS priced £12.50.

Share this

ALSO IN THIS ISSUE

Putting the ‘R’ in Evolution click Putting the ‘R’ in Evolution

‘I suggest that Homo sapiens is an offshoot of an older form of humans called Homo passiens’

READ MORE

A Petrol Scented Spring click A Petrol Scented Spring

‘The women who come to speak at the Suffrage Society are the sort of women she would like to be’

READ MORE