Dàin do Eimhir / Poems to Eimhir (2001)

Something of a mystery was attached to MacLean’s celebrated cycle of love poems, first published in 1943 with 12 items missing, then from 1979 as individual items with no apparent connection between them.
Whyte’s authoritative edition with commentary reassembled all but one of the original 61 poems, setting this masterpiece firmly in the context of its time and place.
Here are four of the translations which Whyte supplied in cases where no English version by the poet was available.
Maybe the variously swift lyric art
is not part of my predicament,
eloquent as the clamour of bagpipe drones,
with sounding strings, or mild and restful,
though there came to me as much love,
as many restless thoughts,
as much anxiety, as much pain
as would suffice a band of poets,
as would suffice the band lacking stillness,
lacking succour, patience or rest,
who are assigned a place here
together with Yeats and William Ross.
There were four to whom I gave love,
four allegiances triumphing in turn:
the great cause and poetry,
the beautiful island and the red-haired girl.
What does my place matter to me
among the poets of Scotland
even if I put into Gaelic
a transient elegance and beauty?
You will not understand my love
or my lofty vain prattling,
beautiful yellow girl,
though you are my transient beauty.
In my ten years of labour
I never happened upon a treasure poem
as serene as your branching head of hair,
as beautiful and open as your face.
buy a copy

‘The book is clearly an act of love, beautifully produced, with a helpful introduction and encyclopedic notes on the social and political context of the poems.’
– Richard Holloway, The Herald

© 2021 Christopher Whyte. All Rights Reserved | Designed by Jarka Jones

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