‘We surge forward, and hear someone sing,’
Poems taken from Quines: Poems in Tribute to Women of Scotland
By Gerda Stevenson
Published by Luath Press
Isabella MacDuff, Countess of Buchan, 1286–c.1313, Fife; in defiance of her husband, she crowned Robert the Bruce as King of Scots at Scone in 1306, during the Wars of Scottish Independence;
captured by Edward I of England, and imprisoned for four years in a cage hung on the walls of Berwick Castle.
Strange, the wey ye get yaised tae a thing –
the wund whuppin its braith through the baurs,
sun slingin its spears, hail hurlin its flanes,
year ower year. I dinna feel the cauld ony mair
in ma tatterwallop goon; the day, I sweir
I hae a norrie that ma limbs are growin hair,
saft, lik the down o a doo – mibbe I’ll hae wings
by morn, an flichter awa…
Aftentimes I dwaum, aye the samin dwaum:
I’m layin my hauns on the saucrit Stane
tae gaither its pooer, layin them, again an again,
Comyn’s stowen meir on the cobbles ootby,
her braith a reek in the nicht, she’s champin at the bit.
Syne we’re heidit North fae Lunnon Toon,
her hooves dirlin ablow an eldritch mune.
It’s dawin fair whan we win the Border,
tho by Scone, we’re droukit wi dounfaw an swelt;
an he’s there, pacin the palace grun – furrit an back,
back an furrit – Bruce, waitin fur ma hauns alane.
The dwaum, the dwaum, the samin dwaum,
I lay my luif, first ane then t’ither, on the saucrit Stane,
oor braw Stane that Edward daured tae rieve;
ma clan alane can croon oor nation’s king.
I hae the pooer; on his pow I place the gowden ring.
Cages are lang-kent tae me;
lang, lang afore noo, fae the day
I ettled tae flee the bield, a lowp
in ma spang, howp in ma hert,
a hale rowth o time aheid o me;
but claucht an hapshackled
in a union biled in hell, aa wrang,
a line leal tae Edward, thirled
tae yon auld Comyn carl, agin ma will.
He hoasts an he hirples,
The weary day lang,
Maids, when ye’re young,
Niver wed an auld man…
I hae a hoast in ma lungs the day –
berkin like a dug – an unco hirple an aa,
sae I’m telt by yon wumman wha casts
the brock tae me – cauld kail an parritch
that maks ma kyte bowk.
A skimmer o licht on the waves ablow.
Scotland tae the North, England tae the Sooth.
The samin mune abuin us aa, that hus nae care
fur stane or nation, croon or king. I’m hingin heich
amang the sterns; am I dwaumin? The baurs
o ma cavie hae fell awa, the down on ma limbs
gies a fissle, a reeshle, ma feathers prick,
ma wings are spreid oot wide, they lift me,
slaw and strang intae the glisterin nicht.
Scotland Celebrates 3-0 at Easter Road
Ethel Hay (goal), Bella Osborne and Georgina Wright (backs), Rose Rayman and Isa Stevenson (half-backs), Emma Wright, Louise Cole, Lily St Clair, Maud Riweford, Carrie Balliol, and Minnie Brymner (forwards), wearing nickerbockers in the style of the Rational Dress movement, played and won the first recorded women’s international football match, Scotland v England, Saturday, 7th May, 1881, Easter Road, Edinburgh.
The wind was against us – but wasn’t it ever?
We had all to play for, and nothing to lose;
we kicked off with gusto, no matter the weather,
two thousand, the crowd, their jeers couldn’t bruise
our spirits; red stockings and belts a kindling flicker
across the turf, then flashes of fire, flames fanned
by self-belief, we were bonded as one, slicker
than our English sisters, that day; we spanned
the field, every inch covered, Ethel hardly required
in goal – but when her moment came, oh, the spring
in her fearless lunge to save – the whole team fired!
We surge forward, and hear someone sing,
a lone voice, at first, Daughters of Freedom Arise,
then more and more: Yield not the battle till ye have won! –
our striker takes possession, her mind on the prize,
Lily St Clair, talk about flair! – a meteor cast from the sun –
dancing and dodging, she blazes to the box, and bends
the ball in – a goal for Scotland! We weep and cheer,
Scotia’s Eleven makes history, sends
a message to the world: have no doubt, we are here,
scaling the heights, new horizons in our sights
and the ball is rolling for women’s rights.
The Living Mountain Addresses a £5 Banknote
Nan Shepherd, born Peterculter, 1893, died Aberdeen, 1981; novelist, poet and writer of non-fiction, lecturer in English at Aberdeen College of Education; her non-fiction work, The Living Mountain, written in 1941 but not published till 1977, describes the Cairngorms; first woman to appear on a Royal Bank of Scotland banknote, 2016.
You cavorted through my corries, capered about my braes,
careened between my coiling clouds, played
hide-and-seek on my plateau, glinted as you skipped
across my ruffled secret loch – a butterfly, I thought –
a Silver-studded Blue brought back from extinction;
till the wind dropped, and you came to rest,
snagged in moss campion – a plastic rectangle
pulsing on the tail of a breeze.
I dislike litter, especially your kind – polymer particles
that issue in blizzards from careless markets, slip
from pockets, won’t perish in rain or melt with snow;
though in your case, I’ll make an exception, because
you bear her face: the woman who never rushed
to my summits, but walked into me, took time to learn
my every line – schist, gneiss and granite – and heard
my braided voice. You’ve brought her to light again,
all I contain, nurture and sustain, held in her steady gaze.
Quines: Poems in Tribute to Women of Scotland by Gerda Stevenson is published by Luath Press, priced £9.99