from Water Music

(To William and Flora Johnstone)

Wheesht, wheesht, Joyce, and let me hear   
   Nae Anna Livvy’s lilt,
But Wauchope, Esk, and Ewes again,   
   Each wi’ its ain rhythms till’t.


Archin’ here and arrachin there,   
   Allevolie or allemand,
Whiles appliable, whiles areird,   
   The polysemous poem’s planned.

Lively, louch, atweesh, atween,   
   Auchimuty or aspate,
Threidin’ through the averins   
   Or bightsom in the aftergait.

Or barmybrained or barritchfu’,
   Or rinnin’ like an attercap,   
Or shinin’ like an Atchison,
   Wi’ a blare or wi’ a blawp.

They ken a’ that opens and steeks,
   Frae Fiddleton Bar to Callister Ha’,   
And roon aboot for twenty miles,
   They bead and bell and swaw.

Brent on or boutgate or beshacht,   
   Bellwaverin’ or borne-heid,
They mimp and primp, or bick and birr,   
   Dilly-dally or show speed.

Brade-up or sclafferin’, rouchled, sleek,   
   Abstraklous or austerne,
In belths below the brae-hags
   And bebbles in the fern.

Bracken, blaeberries, and heather
   Ken their amplefeysts and toves,   
Here gangs ane wi’ aiglets jinglin’,
   Through a gowl anither goves.

Lint in the bell whiles hardly vies   
   Wi’ ane the wind amows,
While blithely doon abradit linns   
   Wi’ gowd begane anither jows.

Cougher, blocher, boich and croichie,
   Fraise in ane anther’s witters,   
Wi’ backthraws, births, by-rinnin’s,
   Beggar’s broon or blae—the critters!

Or burnet, holine, watchet, chauve,
   Or wi’ a’ the colours dyed
O’ the lift abune and plants and trees   
   That grow on either side.

Or coinyelled wi’ the midges,   
   Or swallows a’ aboot,
The shadow o’ an eagle,
   The aiker o’ a troot.

Toukin’ ootrageous face
   The turn-gree o’ your mood,   
I’ve slimmed until I’m lost   
   Like the sun ahint a clood.

But a tow-gun frae the boon-tree,
A whistle frae the elm,
A spout-gun frae the hemlock,
And, back in this auld realm,
Dry leafs o’ dishielogie
To smoke in a ’partan’s tae’!

And you’ve me in your creel again,
   Brim or shallow, bauch or bricht,   
Singin’ in the mornin’,
   Corrieneuchin’ a’ the nicht.
Hugh MacDiarmid, excerpt from “Water Music” from Selected Poetry. Copyright © 1992 by Alan Riach and Michael Grieve. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.
Source: Complete Poems (Grove/Atlantic Inc., 1993)
More Poems by Hugh MacDiarmid