Alexander Scott: 1949

from  The Latest in Elegies; Caledonian Press, Glasgow

SEAMAN'S SANG (Frae the West Saxon)


Anent mysel I'll tell ye trulie:

hou, stravaigan the sea in trauchlesome days,

aye tholan the dunts o time,

I've borne strang stouns i the breist,

kennan my ship the hame o monie cares.

Amang the coorse girn o the swaws I've ta'en my pairt,

keepan the nichtwatch close i the ship's bows

whan she drave alangside craigs. Nippit wi cauld

my feet were lucken in frost

by chynes o ice, tho wae was greetan then

het roun my hert, and hunger scartit tae threids

my sea forfochten saul. Och, thon's whit he daesna ken,

him that bides happy at hame,

hou I, weariet and waesome, amang the icecauld sea,

traivelled throu the winter far awa,

far frae my kinsfowk,

and hung about wi ice and hard hail's onding,

naething tae hear but the scraich o the sea,

the icy faem, and whiles the caa o the swan,

and aa the glee I got was the gannet's sang,

the soun o the seal instead o menfowk's lauchter,

the sea-maw's maen instead o the drinkan o drams.

Storms gaed duntan the stanie scaurs, and back the tirricks sung

wi icy feathers, and aye the eagle scraiched,

droukit in faem. Then nane o my kinsfowk

micht lowse the sairness frae my hert.

Little he kens, that ains life's guidliness,

bydan at hame wi scantlin o hardship,

and purpie-proud frae the booze, hou aften weariet

yet I maun byde on the breist o the sea.

The nicht cam doun wi snaw frae the north,

the warld was chyned by ice, and hail was faain,

cauldest o corn. Yet nou gang tyauvan thegither

the thochts o my hert, on the muckle watters

tae set mysel agin the stramash o the sea.

Heat i my hert foriver forces

my saul tae traivel far frae hame

and find the lands o fremmit fowk.

There's nane sae heich o hert i the warld,

sae guid at the giein o gifts, sae swack in's youth,

in deeds sae dauntie, the laird's delyte,

bit aye he yearns tae stravaig the sea,

dreean whitiver the weird o the fates micht be.

He haes nae hert for the clarsach, nor for the winnin o gowd,

nor joy o a wife, nor joy o the warld,

nor in aucht forbye the jowan swaws,

for aye a yearnin yarks him awa til the sea.

Branches tak flouer, the burghs graw bonnie,

the parks look braw, the warld newbricht again,

and aathing steers the gleg young hert

tae traivel (him that hauds sic thochts)

far awa ayont the howes o the sea.

The gowk is makkan his greetan maen,

simmer's herald sings and bodes o dule,them wi the siller, whit some maun thole

whas traivel taks them furdest weys awa.

But nou my thochts hing ower my hert,

my saul wi the sea

gangs far ower the haunts o the whales

til the ends o the yirth, comes back til me

hungert and yearnan, the lane stravaiger scraichs

and forces my hert tae fare til the faem

ower the streitch o the sea.

[Scottish Poetry Library; Edinburgh]

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