Poem of the Week: 21 November

the-book-of-highland-verseI’ve chosen this week’s poem for its autumnal sense of longing – it’s a Scottish poem, but fits the ‘untranslatable’ Welsh concept of ‘hiraeth’ – nostalgia, homesickness, grief or sadness for things which you are exiled from, through time and/or distance.  So, a very Celtic poem.

‘Tell how their lost child fares’

This one, like Walter de la Mare’s a couple of weeks ago, has a story behind it …

The title page from my first edition …

I’ve owned a first edition of The Book of Highland Verse for at least a quarter of a century. One of my bookmarks in it is a train ticket from Perth to Edinburgh dated 26 May 1991, so I might even have bought it in Scotland.  But it’s only now that I’ve been able to find out who wrote ‘A Wind From The West‘, thanks to the internet.  It’s the first poem in the collection, actually in the Introduction, where Dugald Mitchell talks of the ‘pathos and longing and intense love of country, which find such full expression [in this collection], stir our hearts to the depths.’  Hiraeth, indeed.  But he does not name the poet whose work he finishes with …


Anyway, here’s the poem, by Lauchlan Maclean Watt.  I hope you like it as much as I do.


To-day a wind from the West out over the hills came blowing –

Ah, how it made dim dreams and memories start!

And I thought that I smelt in my room the wild thyme growing,

And the scent of the sweet bog-myrtle filled my heart.


Go back, O breath of the hills!  Would that we went together!

Tell how their lost child fares.

Whisper among the bracken, and say to the broom and the heather

That still my heart is theirs.

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