Please Sign In | Register
Google pluspinterestShare on Stumble UponShare on RedditFacebookShare on Tumblr
TITLE
'If it weren't for you the Cuillin'
EXTERNAL ID
AB_LL_SORLEY_MACLEAN_ENG
PLACENAME
Raasay
DISTRICT
Skye
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
INVERNESS: Portree
DATE OF RECORDING
2008
PERIOD
2000s
CREATOR
Sorley MacLean
SOURCE
Am Baile
ASSET ID
1446
KEYWORDS
poems
audio
literary landscapes

Get Adobe Flash player

This is an English translation of the poem 'Mur b'e thusa bhiodh an Cuilthionn' ('If it weren't for you the Cuillin') first published by Sorley MacLean in 1943 as part of the collection, 'Dain Do Eimhir agus Dain Eile' (Poems to Eimhir and Other Poems).

More recently, the poem was set to music by Donald Shaw of Capercaille and released in 1998 as 'Am Mur Gorm' (The Blue Rampart) on the group's cd 'Beautiful Wasteland'.

The poem is read by a pupil from Plockton High School. (Image by kind permission of Dr. Julian Toms.)

'If it weren't for you the Cuillin would be
a level of olive blue
encircling with its tight belt
my heart's barbarous retinue.

If it weren't for you the numerous sand
that lies on Talisker's compact shore
would be the tablet of my wishes
without the sting of salt desire

If it weren't for you the huge seas
both in their motion and their rest
would raise the sea foam of my mind
to a monument on a calm coast.

While the flat brown and brindled moorland
and my clear intellect would be drowsing together
if it weren't for the sovereign force
of your degree'

The poet Sorley Maclean is one of the key figures in modern Scottish literature. Born at Oscaig on the island of Raasay in 1911, he attended Raasay Primary School and Portree High School before going on to study English at Edinburgh University. He took up teaching and held posts in Tobermory, Hawick and Edinburgh before being promoted to headmaster of Plockton High School where he remained until his retirement in 1972.

Having been born into a family of traditional singers and pipers, and brought up within a community steeped in Gaelic language and culture, Sorley Maclean appropriately chose Gaelic as the medium for his poetry. However, he later translated much of his work into English opening it up to a much wider audience. He was also brought to the public's attention with the publication of Gordon Wright's 'Four Points of a Saltire' (1970).
Maclean was influenced by the metaphysical poets as well as ancient Celtic literature and traditional Gaelic song. His seminal work, 'Dain do Eimhir agus Dain Eile' (Poems to Eimhir and Other Poems), written in the late 1930s, addresses issues of love, as well as political injustice. Maclean had similar Communist and Nationalist leanings as his friend, Hugh MacDiarmid, and events such as the Spanish Civil War and the rise of Facism influenced his work. His major collection of poems, 'Reothairt is Contraigh' (Spring Tide and Neap Tide), was published in 1977.

As well as sparking off a revival in Gaelic literature Sorley Maclean was instrumental in the promotion of Gaelic language teaching in Scottish schools. Amongst his awards was the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry in 1990. He died in 1996 at the age of 85, survived by his wife and two daughters.

For guidance on the use of images and other content, please see the Terms and Conditions page.
High Life Highland is a company limited by guarantee registered in Scotland No. SC407011 and is a registered Scottish charity No. SC042593
Powered by Capture

'If it weren't for you the Cuillin'

INVERNESS: Portree

2000s

poems; audio; literary landscapes

Am Baile

Literary Landscapes: Sorley MacLean

This is an English translation of the poem 'Mur b'e thusa bhiodh an Cuilthionn' ('If it weren't for you the Cuillin') first published by Sorley MacLean in 1943 as part of the collection, 'Dain Do Eimhir agus Dain Eile' (Poems to Eimhir and Other Poems). <br /> <br /> More recently, the poem was set to music by Donald Shaw of Capercaille and released in 1998 as 'Am Mur Gorm' (The Blue Rampart) on the group's cd 'Beautiful Wasteland'.<br /> <br /> The poem is read by a pupil from Plockton High School. (Image by kind permission of Dr. Julian Toms.)<br /> <br /> 'If it weren't for you the Cuillin would be<br /> a level of olive blue<br /> encircling with its tight belt<br /> my heart's barbarous retinue.<br /> <br /> If it weren't for you the numerous sand<br /> that lies on Talisker's compact shore<br /> would be the tablet of my wishes<br /> without the sting of salt desire<br /> <br /> If it weren't for you the huge seas<br /> both in their motion and their rest<br /> would raise the sea foam of my mind<br /> to a monument on a calm coast.<br /> <br /> While the flat brown and brindled moorland<br /> and my clear intellect would be drowsing together<br /> if it weren't for the sovereign force<br /> of your degree'<br /> <br /> The poet Sorley Maclean is one of the key figures in modern Scottish literature. Born at Oscaig on the island of Raasay in 1911, he attended Raasay Primary School and Portree High School before going on to study English at Edinburgh University. He took up teaching and held posts in Tobermory, Hawick and Edinburgh before being promoted to headmaster of Plockton High School where he remained until his retirement in 1972.<br /> <br /> Having been born into a family of traditional singers and pipers, and brought up within a community steeped in Gaelic language and culture, Sorley Maclean appropriately chose Gaelic as the medium for his poetry. However, he later translated much of his work into English opening it up to a much wider audience. He was also brought to the public's attention with the publication of Gordon Wright's 'Four Points of a Saltire' (1970).<br /> Maclean was influenced by the metaphysical poets as well as ancient Celtic literature and traditional Gaelic song. His seminal work, 'Dain do Eimhir agus Dain Eile' (Poems to Eimhir and Other Poems), written in the late 1930s, addresses issues of love, as well as political injustice. Maclean had similar Communist and Nationalist leanings as his friend, Hugh MacDiarmid, and events such as the Spanish Civil War and the rise of Facism influenced his work. His major collection of poems, 'Reothairt is Contraigh' (Spring Tide and Neap Tide), was published in 1977.<br /> <br /> As well as sparking off a revival in Gaelic literature Sorley Maclean was instrumental in the promotion of Gaelic language teaching in Scottish schools. Amongst his awards was the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry in 1990. He died in 1996 at the age of 85, survived by his wife and two daughters.