I’ve been reading scots poetry recently for a possible commission. My favourites are those with an elegaic quality – of course, these remind me of my favourite welsh poets.
Here’s two verses from Hallaig by Sorley Maclean, written in 1952, originally in scots gaelic, here in the poet’s own transaltion:
coming back to Hallaig in the evening,
in the dumb living twilight,
filling the steep slopes,
their laughter a mist in my ears,
and their beauty a film on my heart
before the dimness comes on the kyles,
and when the sun goes down behin Dun Cana
a vehement bullet will come from the gun of Love;
I find translation very interesting, both across languages and across media. I suppose I feel I’m translating pots from kitchen to the gallery, and poetry into pots. I grew up speaking welsh, but now think in english, so it’s also for me about recovering something, having another chance at understanding. So it was great to find a second translation of the scots gaelic Hallaig, this one by Seamus Heaney, quoted in the Guardian. He translates
‘a vehement bullet will come from the gun of love’ as
‘Love’s loaded gun will take aim’.
I like the idea of multiple valid translations – it’s like repetition in throwing porcelain, there’s a richness in the multiple similar variations.