This month’s featured poem is ‘Hallaig’. This intense and visionary poem is about Hallaig, one of the cleared townships on Raasay. It was composed by Sorley MacLean in 1952, and was first published in Gairm in 1954. The poem is perhaps the best known of Sorley MacLean’s work, and a translation of ‘Hallaig’ by Irish Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney was published by Urras Shomhairle in 2002.
The esteemed Gaelic scholar Dr John MacInnes has said of ‘Hallaig’: ‘…something of that traditional apperception that links people and landscape in one humanised environment remained alive in the Gaelic view of the world, and from it ‘Hallaig’ draws part of its strength and its poignancy. Yet equally palpable is the Romantic sensibility of the poem. What Sorley Maclean has done here, as elsewhere in his poetry, is to fuse these disparate elements of two cultures in an utterly new statement which is emotionally subtle and powerful, unsentimental, and wholly Gaelic. Through his genius, both the Gaelic sense of landscape, idealised in terms of society, and the Romantic sense of communion with Nature, merge in a single vision, a unified sensibility.’ (John MacInnes, ‘Sorley Maclean’s Hallaig: a note’, in Dùthchas nan Gàidheal: Selected Essays of John MacInnes, ed. Michael Newton. Edinburgh: Birlinn Limited, 2006, p. 420.)