Poem introduction

This is an English version of a Gaelic poem. I don't know Gaelic, but I saw this poem written up on a wall somewhere in a heritage centre on the island of Skye, and I was fascinated by its clear, repetitive pattern – not just the fact that it follows the Gaelic alphabet, but also that it had a clear syntactical pattern. My friend, the Gaelic poet Meg Bateman, read the poem aloud for me and I could hear when she read it that it also had a very distinctive acoustic pattern. So, using a crib, I tried to make a version that caught those aspects of the shape of the poem. The poem is said to date from the Battle of Harlaw, which was fought in 1411 by the Clan Donald. The poem is a battle incitement poem, in other words it's a kind of chant to rev up the troops before they go into battle.

Clan Donald's Call to Battle at Harlaw

after the Gaelic of Lachlann Mor MacMhuirich (fl. 1411)

You Clan of Conn, remember this:
Strength from the eye of the storm.
Be at them, be animals,
Be alphas, be Argus-eyed,
Be belters, be batterers,
Be bonny, be batterers,
Be cool heads, be caterans,
Be clashers, be conquerors,
Be doers, be dangerous,
Be dashing, be diligent,
Be eager, be excellent,
Be eagles, be elegant,
Be foxy, be ferrety,
Be fervid, be furious,
Be grimmer, be gralloching,
Be grinders, be gallopers,
Be hardmen, be hurriers,
Be hell-bent, be harriers,
Be itching, be irritants,
Be impish, be infinite,
Be lucky, be limitless,
Be lashers, be loftiest,
Be manly, be murderous,
Be martial, be militant,
Be noxious, be noisiest,
Be knightly, be niftiest,
Be on guard, be orderly,
Be off now, be obdurate,
Be prancing, be panic-fress,
Be princely, be passionate,
Be rampant, be renderers,
Be regal, be roaring boys,
Be surefire, be Somerleds,
Be surgers, be sunderers,
Be towering, be tactical,
Be tip-top, be targetters,
Be urgent, be up for it,
In vying be vigorous,
In ending all enemies.
Today is for triumphing,
You hardy great hunting-dogs,
You big-boned braw battle boys,
You lightfoot spry lionhearts,
You wall of wild warriors,
You veterans of victories,
You heroes in your hundreds here,
You Clan of Conn, remember this:
Strength from the eye of the storm.

 

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Robert Crawford

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1Advice

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2Ah Waant

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3Alba Einstein

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4Anne of Green Gables

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5Camera Obscura

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6Chaps

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7Clan Donald's Call to Battle at Harlaw

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8Credo

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9Daveheart

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10Declaration

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11Fiat Lux

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12God Save The King

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13Guide

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14Levity

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15Mons Meg

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16Nightingale Floor

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19Reveille

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20Rounding

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21Scotch Broth

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23Spartan War Dead, Thermopylae

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24St Andrews

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25The Criticism

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26Total

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27Us

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28Writer

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Books by Robert Crawford