Sorley MacLean; Calvary…


Poet’s Pub by Sandy Moffat

The ‘Poets’ Pub’ painting shows those writers known as the ‘Big Seven’ – arguably the most influential Scottish poets of the post-war era – Norman MacCaig, Hugh MacDiarmid, Sorley Maclean, Iain Crichton Smith, George Mackay Brown, Edwin Morgan and Robert Garioch.

Sorley MacLean wrote this in his grapple with the religion of his childhood. I heard a version of it tonight sung by Karen Matheson at the Beacon Arts Centre in Greenock. And though I lack the knowledge of the fair tongue, the effect was spine chilling.

And the words too…


My eye is not on Calvary
nor on Bethlehem the Blessed,
but on a foul-smelling backland in Glasgow,
where life rots as it grows;
and on a room in Edinburgh,
a room of poverty and pain,
where the diseased infant
writhes and wallows till death.


Chan eil mo shùil air Calbharaigh
no air Betlehem an àigh
ach air cùil ghrod an Glaschu
far bheil an lobhadh fàis,
agus air seòmar an Dùn Èideann,
seòmar bochdainn ’s cràidh,
far a bheil an naoidhean creuchdach
ri aonagraich gu bhàs.

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