Sorley MacLean

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The aim of the Somhairle MacGill-Eain Web Portal is to provide a comprehensive range of information for the study of the work of the acclaimed Scottish Gaelic poet Sorley MacLean (1911-1996), and to introduce his work to new audiences across the world.

Sorley MacLean is one of Scotland’s poets of national and international stature, and one of the most distinguished of all Gaelic poets. Born on the island of Raasay, which lies off the east coast of the Isle of Skye, his upbringing was rooted in Gaelic culture and in its rich song tradition. His poetry is characterised by its innovation and boldness, both in its approach and subject matter. In his seminal work Dàin do Eimhir , his poetry speaks of love, choice, suffering and injustice, and simultaneously considers the seismic political events that were to shake Europe to its foundations in the 1930s and 1940s. Events such as the Spanish Civil War and the rise of Fascism were welded together with his own intense personal feelings to produce poetry that has attracted national and international acclaim.

Sorley MacLean’s canon of work, although relatively small, contains some of the best, and best known, of modern Gaelic poetry, which at times achieves a lyrical peak unrivalled in Gaelic verse. In many ways he brought Scottish Gaelic poetry into the modern era, and he is a key figure in modern Scottish literature.

* Read this text in English here.
* * Read more about this month’s featured poem ‘Hallaig’.

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Choisich mi cuide ri mo thuigse
a-muigh ri taobh a’ chuain;
bha sinn còmhla ach bha ise
a’ fuireach tiotan bhuam.

An sin thionndaidh i ag ràdha:
a bheil e fìor gun cual
thu gu bheil do ghaol geal àlainn
a’ pòsadh tràth Di-luain?

Bhac mi ’n cridhe bha ’g éirigh
’nam bhroilleach reubte luath
is thubhairt mi: tha mi cinnteach;
carson bu bhriag e bhuam? * *

read the full poem

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