The Three Kings / Die heil’gen drei Könige aus Morgenland

Greeting card_African Three Kings bearing gifts for the Christ child.....The Three Kings,
a Scots Vernacular poem, based on Heinrich Heine’s
Die heil’gen drei Könige aus Morgenland:
There were three kings cam frae the East;
They spiered in ilka clachan:
“O, which is the wey to Bethlehem,
My bairns, sae bonnily lachin’?”
O neither young nor auld could tell;
They trailed till their feet were weary.
They followed a bonny gowden starn,
That shone in the lift say cheery.
The starn stude ower the ale-hoose byre
Whaur the stable gear was hingin’.
The owsen mooed, the bairnie grat,
The kings begoud their singin’.
. . .
Scots words used – and their Standard English equivalents:
spiered = asked
clachan = village
bairns = children
lachin’ = laughing
starn = star
lift = sky
gear = equipment
owsen = oxen
bairnie = baby
grat = cried
begoud = began
. . .
Heine’s poem in the original German:
Die heil’gen drei Könige aus Morgenland
Die heil’gen drei Könige aus Morgenland,
Sie frugen in jedem Städtchen:
Wo geht der Weg nach Bethlehem,
Ihr lieben Buben und Mädchen?
Die Jungen und Alten, sie wußten es nicht,
Die Könige zogen weiter;
Sie folgten einem goldenen Stern,
Der leuchtete lieblich und heiter.
Der Stern blieb stehn über Josephs Haus,
Da sind sie hineingegangen;
Das Oechslein brüllte, das Kindlein schrie,
Die heil’gen drei Könige sangen.
. . . . .

Winter Solstice poems in Scots and Gaelic

Winter Solstice_photograph by Hakukamizaki

December Gloaming (poet unknown)
In the cauld dreich days when it’s nicht on the back o four,
I try to stick to my wark as lang as may be;
But though I gang close by to the window and glower,
I canna see.
But I’m sweir, rale sweir, to be lichtin’ the lamp that early;
And aye I wait whiles there’s ony licht i’ the sky.
Sae I sit by the fire and see there mony a ferly
Till it’s mirk oot-by.
But it’s no’ for lang that I sit there, daein’ naething;
For it’s no’ like me to be wastin’ my time i’ the dark;
Though your life be toom, you can aye thank God for ae thing –
There’s aye your wark.
But it wadna be wark I wad think o’, if you were aside me.
I wad dream by the ingle neuk, wi’ never a licht;
The glint o’ your een wad be licht eneuch to guide me
The haill forenicht.
I wadna speak, for there’s never nae sense in speakin’;
By the lowe o’ the fire I wad look at your bonny hair.
To ken you were near wad be a’ that my her’t wad be seekin’ –
That and nae mair.
. . .
The above poem (December Gloaming) uses Scots Vernacular. Here are a few of its words and phrases with their Standard English counterparts:
dreich = dreary
on the back o four = after 4 p.m.
gang close = stare darkly
sweir = unwilling
mony a ferly = many a strange thing
oot-by = outside
toom = empty
aye = always
ingle neuk = chimney-side
forenicht = evening
lowe = gleam
. . .
William Neill (Prestwick, Ayrshire, Scotland, 1922-2010)
Solstice Wood
There is a spinney on the ridge
and I am certain
that it was always there.
When the winter solstice comes
and a red sphere falls behind trees,
I like to think
I am not entirely alone
but that other eyes across time
are with me, and show the same pleasure
that this is the shortest day,
as the druid wheel of the sun
rolls swiftly towards Springtime.
. . .
Solstice Wood, in Neill’s original Gaelic:
Doire A’ Ghrianstad
That doire bheag air an druim
is that mi cinnteach,
gu robh i an còmhnaidh ann.
Nuair thig grianstad a’ geamhraidh
is cruinne ruadh a’ tuiteam air cul chraobh
is caomh leam creidsinn
nach eil mi gu tur nam aonar
ach tha sùilean eile thar tìm
maille rium, is an aon tlachd aca
on is e sin an là as giorra
is roth draoidheil na grèine
na rolladh gu luath dhan Earrach.
. . .
Derick Thomson (Ruaraidh MacThòmais)
(Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, Scotland, 1921-2012)
When This Fine Snow is Falling
When this fine snow is falling,
climbing quietly to the windows,
dancing on air-currents,
piling itself up against walls
in lovely drifts,
while my son leaps with joy,
I see in his eyes the elation
that every winter brought to my people:
the reflection of snow in my father’s eyes,
and my grandfather as a boy snaring starlings.
And I see, through the window of this snowdrift,
and in the glass that dancingly reflects it,
the hill-pass cutting through the generations
that lie between me, on the scree,
and my ancestors, out on the shieling,
herding milk-cows and drinking buttermilk.
I see their houses and fields reflected
on the lonely horizon,
and that is part of my heritage.
When their boyhood came to an end
they strove with the land, and ploughed the sea
with the strength of their shoulders,
and worshipped, sometimes;
I spend their strength, for the most part,
Ploughing in the sand.
. . .
When This Fine Snow is Falling, in Thomson’s original Gaelic:
Troimh Uinneig a’ Chithe
Nuair that ‘n sneachda min seo a’ tuiteam,
a’ streap gu sàmhach ris na h-uinneagan,
a’ mirean air sruthan na h-iarmailt,
ga chàrnadh fhéin ri gàrraidhean
‘na chithean sàr-mhaiseach,
is mo mhac ‘na leum le aoibhneas,
chì mi ‘na shùilean-san greadhnachas gach geamhradh
a thàinig a riamh air mo dhaoine:
faileas an t-sneachda an sùilean m’ athar,
‘s mo sheanair ‘na bhalach a’ ribeadh dhìdeigean.
Is chì mi troimh uinneig a’ chithe seo,
‘s anns an sgàthan that mire ris,
am bealach that bearradh nan linntean
eadar mise, ‘s mi falbh nan sgàirneach,
agus mo shinnsrean, a-muigh air àirigh,
a’ buachailleachd chruidh-bainne ‘s ag òl a’ bhlàthaich.
Chì mi faileas an taighean ‘s am buailtean
air fàire an uaigneis,
‘s that siud mar phàirt de mo dhualchas.
Iadsan a’ fàgail staid a’ bhalaich,
‘s a’ strì ri fearann, ‘s a’ treabhadh na mara
le neart an guaillibh,
‘s ag adhradh, air uairibh;
is mise caitheamh an spionnaidh, ach ainneamh,
a’ treabhadh ann an gainneamh.
. . . . .

Poems for Saint Andrew’s Day: Bruce & Neill & Thomson

Macro-photograph of a snowflake_taken on November 25th 2014

George Bruce (Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, 1909-2002)
Why the Poet makes Poems
(written to my dentist, Dr. K. P. Durkacz,
to explain why I failed to keep an appointment)
When it’s all done and said
whether he is smithing away by the mad sea,
or, according to repute, silvering them in a garret
by moonlight, or in plush with a gold nib,
or plain bourgeois in a safe bungalow with a mortgage,
or in a place with a name, Paris, Warsaw, Edinburgh,
or sitting with his heart in the Highlands,
or taking time off at the office to pen a few words,
the whole business is a hang-over from the men in the trees,
when thunder and sun and quake and peas in a pod
were magic, and still is according to his book, admitting
botany is OK for the exposition of how the buds got there,
geology for how the rocks got just like that,
zoology for the how of the animals,
biology for us kind – but that’s not his game:
he’s after the lion playing around with the lamb for fun.
He doesn’t want to know the how, the why. It’s enough for him to say:
‘That’s what’s going on. The grass is jumping for joy,
and all the little fishes are laughing their heads off.’
. . .
William Neill (Prestwick, Ayrshire, 1922-2010)
Skeich wes the hert i the spring o the year
whan the well-sawn yird begoud tae steer
an the plewlan’s promise gledened the ee
atween Balgerran an Balmaghie.
The lang het simmer cam an rowed
the haill Glenkens in a glent o gowd
an the gangan fit on the hill gaed free
atween Balgerran an Balmaghie.
Hairst an the cornriggs flisked i the wun
like a rinnan sea i the southan sun;
then ilka meeda peyed its fee
atween Balgerran an Balmaghie.
Nou the lang year’s dune, an the druim grows stey
an the snaa liggs caal ower Cairnsmore wey;
the crannreuch’s lyart on ilka tree
atween Balgerran an Balmaghie.
. . .
Distant Snow
I see in the distance today,
a cloak of snow atop Meall Liath,
Why do I not sae Millyea,
the more Lowland name?
Though there is many a Gaelic name
on the natives of this district
many generations have caused a separation.
Am I blessed or cursed
with too much vision?
. . .
Distant Snow – in the original Gaelic:
Sneachd Air Astar
Chi mi an diugh air astar
fallain sneachd air Meall Liath.
Carson nach theirinn Millyea
ainm is motha Gallda?
Ged that iomadh sloinneadh Gàidhlig
air muinntir dùthchasach an àite
rinn iomadh linn eadar-dhealachadh.
Am beannaichte mise no mallaichte
le tuilleadh ‘sa chòir de lèirsinn?
. . .
On Drumconnard now, only the curlew calls.
Sadly a body may stand on that high place
beside bare gable end and scattered walls
to think of old magic tales and a vanished grace.
Foolish, they say, are the praisers of time past:
a wise man turns his face and hails the new,
but bricks of hucksters hall will turn to dust
while Drumconnard’s ruin whispers to the few.
*Larach – Gaelic word for ruin or foundation
. . .
Deodorant Advert
(inspired by Catullus’ Latin poem LXIX)
Don’t you know, Rufus, why those lovely creatures
won’t let you bed ’em for those gifts laid out
of diamonds, dresses, jewels – things that feature
much in your wooings? There’s a tale about
that says your armpits have a horrid pong
like something dead – and that’s what makes ’em scared.
There’s no good-looking bird will come along
to get her nose filled when your armpit’s bared
– so get some stuff to chase that stink today
or pretty darlings just won’t come your way.
. . .
Deodorant Advert – in Scots:
Weill, Roy ma laddie, hou can ye no see
nae bonnie lass will ligg aside yir thie,
for gifts o silen claith an glentin stanes
while yon reek frae yir oxters aye remains?
It stangs yir hairt, ye say, yon nestie tale
that says a gait wad hae a sweeter smell.
Gin oor nebs runkle at yer stink’s rebuff
whit douce wee thing can thole yir manky guff?
Sine oot yon ugsome yowder eidentlie
or dinnae wunner hou the weemin flee.
. . .
Derick Thomson (Lewis/Glasgow, 1921-2012)
Return from Death
When I came back from death
it was morning,
the back door was open
and one of the buttons of my shirt had disappeared.
I needed to count the grass-blades again,
and the flagstones,
and I got the taste of fresh butter on the potatoes.
The car needed petrol,
and love sat sedately on a chair,
and there was an itchy feeling at the back of my knee.
And if you believe, as I do,
that one who reads can understand half a word,
you can see that I’ve mentioned
Only a couple of things I felt then.
. . .
Return from Death – in the original Gaelic:
Tilleadh Bhon a’ Bhàs
Nuair a thàinig mi air ais bhon a bhàs
bha a’ mhadainn ann,
bha an doras-cùil fosgailte,
is bha putan dhe na bha ‘na mo lèine air chall.
B’ fheudar dhomh am feur a chùnntadh a-rithist,
is na leacan,
is dh’fhairich mi blas an ìm ùir air a’ bhuntàt’.
Bha ‘n càr ag iarraidh peatroil,
‘s an gaol ‘na shuidhe gu stòlda air seuthar,
is tachais anns an iosgaid agam.
‘S ma tha thu creidse mar tha mise
gun tuig fear-leughaidh leth-fhacal,
chì thu nach tug mi iomradh
ach air rud no dhà a dh’ fhairich mi.
. . . . .

Robbie Burns: “To a Louse”

Filippo Bonanni_Drawing of a louse observed under a microscope_1709

Filippo Bonanni_Drawing of a louse observed under a microscope_1709

“To a Louse*:

On Seeing One on a Lady’s Bonnet, at Church”



Ha! whaur ye gaun, ye crowlin ferlie?

Your impudence protects you sairly;

I canna say but ye strunt rarely,

Owre gauze and lace;

Tho’, faith! I fear ye dine but sparely

On sic a place.

Ye ugly, creepin, blastit wonner,

Detested, shunn’d by saunt an’ sinner,

How daur ye set your fit upon her-

Sae fine a lady?

Gae somewhere else and seek your dinner

On some poor body.

Swith! in some beggar’s haffet squattle;

There ye may creep, and sprawl, and sprattle,

Wi’ ither kindred, jumping cattle,

In shoals and nations;

Whaur horn nor bane ne’er daur unsettle

Your thick plantations.

Now haud you there, ye’re out o’ sight,

Below the fatt’rels, snug and tight;

Na, faith ye yet! ye’ll no be right,

Till ye’ve got on it-

The verra tapmost, tow’rin height

O’ Miss’ bonnet.

My sooth! right bauld ye set your nose out,

As plump an’ grey as ony groset:

O for some rank, mercurial rozet,

Or fell, red smeddum,

I’d gie you sic a hearty dose o’t,

Wad dress your droddum.

I wad na been surpris’d to spy

You on an auld wife’s flainen toy;

Or aiblins some bit dubbie boy,

On’s wyliecoat;

But Miss’ fine Lunardi! fye!

How daur ye do’t?

O Jeany, dinna toss your head,

An’ set your beauties a’ abread!

Ye little ken what cursed speed

The blastie’s makin:

Thae winks an’ finger-ends, I dread,

Are notice takin.

O wad some Power the giftie gie us

To see oursels as ithers see us!

It wad frae mony a blunder free us,

An’ foolish notion:

What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,

An’ ev’n devotion!



*Louse = the singular of Lice

.     .     .     .     .

Robbie Burns: “A Bottle and Friend”

Balblair Distillery in Scotland

Balblair Distillery in Scotland

“A Bottle and Friend”



There’s nane that’s blest of human kind,

But the cheerful and the gay, man,

Fal, la, la, &c.

Here’s a bottle and an honest friend!

What wad ye wish for mair, man?

Wha kens, before his life may end,

What his share may be o’ care, man?

Then catch the moments as they fly,

And use them as ye ought, man:

Believe me, happiness is shy,

And comes not aye when sought, man.



.     .     .

Scotland’s “Bard”,

Robert Burns (1759-1796),

was born on

this day –  January 25th.

.     .     .     .     .

Auld Lang Syne: Tonight at Midnight



Auld Lang Syne



Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And auld lang syne!


For auld lang syne, my jo,

For auld lang syne.

We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.


And surely ye’ll be your pint stowp!

And surely I’ll be mine!

And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.


For auld lang syne, my jo,

For auld lang syne.

We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.


We twa hae run about the braes,

And pou’d the gowans fine;

But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,

Sin’ auld lang syne.


For auld lang syne, my jo,

For auld lang syne.

We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.


We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,

Frae morning sun till dine;

But seas between us braid hae roar’d

Sin’ auld lang syne.


For auld lang syne, my jo,

For auld lang syne.

We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand, my trusty fere!

And gie’s a hand o’ thine!

And we’ll tak a right gude-willie waught,

For auld lang syne.


For auld lang syne, my jo,

For auld lang syne.

We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,

For Auld Lang Syne.





“Old Long Past” (For the Sake of Times Gone By)



And for old long past, my joy*,

For old long past,

We’ll take a cup of kindness yet,

For the sake of times gone by.


CHORUS:    Should old acquaintance be forgot,

And never brought to mind?

Should old acquaintance be forgot,

And days of old long past.


And surely you’ll pay for your 3-pint-vessel!

And surely I’ll pay for mine!

And we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,

For the sake of times gone by.




We two have run about the hillsides

And pulled wild daisies fine;

But we’ve wandered many a weary foot

Since old long past.




We two have paddled in the stream,

From morning sun till noon;

But seas between us broad have roared

Since old long past.




And here’s a hand, my trusty friend!

And give me a hand of yours!

And we’ll take a right good-will drink,

For the sake of times gone by.


CHORUS:    Should old acquaintance be forgot,

And never brought to mind?

Should old acquaintance be forgot,

And days of Old Long Past.




*joy — “joy” means sweetheart, but “dear” or “friend”

may also be sung




Robert Burns (1759-1796) wrote his poem “Auld Lang Syne”

in 1788.  It is in Scots’ dialect which is not, strictly speaking,

a hybrid of Gaelic and English, since it is derived also from

other linguistic strains.

A variant is spoken in Northern Ireland, where it is known as

Ulster Scots.

“Auld Lang Syne” has become a New Year’s Eve favourite,

the words sung to a traditional folk melody at the stroke

of midnight and into the first minutes of January 1st.