Wednesday 16 September 2020

Shetland Poem by Rhoda Bulter: 'Ebb draemin'



Dir a clear lift da-day an a fresh wind blaain,

Sicca day whin A’m blyde ta be here be me len,

Lookin at Dury Voe risin an faain,

As da saat-brak loops high ower da point a da Taing.

An sittin doon idda ebb wi da maas an da shaalders,

A’m a bairn again, an da years faa awa,

For hit seems Faider Time is jöst faalded his airms,

An hardly been laevin a fit-mett avaa.


I draem a da days whin I linkit ower Hjaarawil;

Da scent a da hedder, da smell a da mör;

Days whin me hert wis as light as a fedder,

An me heaviest burdeen wis da claes at I wör.

Or caain da kye at da height a da simmer,

Swappin a gowan ta nug dem alang;

Playin furt till da light wis nae mair as a glimmer,

Makkin maist a da bounties at every day brang.


Whin da voe lay platt calm wi a fine voar moarneen,

As da dew wis still glansin ower wub an ower girse,

I wid staand klined alang da aest gavel, een glinderin,

An lö ta da dunters layin-aff below wirs.

Nae discontentment an nae towts a langer,

Nae kyempin or töllyintöllyin or da unken ta faer,

An nae need ta lay up da skabbilaas edder,

For aa at I sowt wis aside me right dere.


I can mind seein da fok kerryin waar ta da middeen,

An dellin da rigs – mebbe fower till a paet;

Dan idda hömin, ootmaagit, an wi löfs haet an sweein,

Dey med hame-ower at last for a weel aerned saet.

Or oot skreevlin coarn wi da mönlight in hairst-time,

Da sprees an da gaffin at aye lightened wark,

Dan da wyshin an penkin an gyaain oot coortin,

At trave every year wi da nights gittin dark.


I mind da coorse days an da gola-laek wadder,

Whin da sea wid be faksin an gyaan idda green,

Dan in ta da fine waarm ön a da fire,

Ta tird da weet soss for a shift dry an clean.

Sae wirsit ta wind an a sok ta be makkin,

Or a kishie a lambs’ kell ta cut fine an smaa,

Keepin time wi da gramophone up idda coarner,

Playin hill-billy music an fiddlers anaa.


Tho da blackbird still kyemps wi da laverik singin,

Da bröls a da kye is lang geen fae da Lea,

Yit here for a meenit da pendulum stops swingin,

Pittin new life an strent gyaan mirlin trowe me.

For everyeen man hae his ain bonhoga,

Dat steede at wis led whin his life wis begun,

Da boo-sten at staands tho da waas might be roanin,

Aert-fast, an aye dere ta be biggit apun.


An love böst ta be dere ta hadd aa-thing tageeder,

Ta light up da gaet fae da cradle ta grave;

An still on, ta dat Light at’s beyond understaandin;

Oot-lestin Time, an da scars he might laeve.

An tho monny dear faces be geen fae aroond me,

An nae langer dir fit-stramp be heard idda wye,

Dir love still gies strent ta geng on, an be keenan,

Dat alto oota sight, dir jöst waitin ower-by.



There’s a clear sky today and a fresh wind blowing,

Such a day when I’m glad to be here on my own

Looking at Dury Voe rising and falling,

As the spray-foam runs high over the point of the Ness.

And sitting on the foreshore with the gulls and the shallows,

I’m once more a child, and the years far away,

For its seems Father Time has just folded his arms,

And hardly been leaving a footprint at all.


I dream of the days when I strode over Hjaarawil;

The scent of the heather, the smell of the moor;

Days when my heart was as light as a feather,

And my heaviest burden the clothes that I wore.

Or calling the cows at the height of the summer,

Swishing a ragwort to nudge them along;

Playing outdoors till the light was no more than a glimmer,

Making the most of the bounties that every day brought.


When the inlet lay dead-calm on a fine spring morning,

While the dew was still sparkling on cobwebs and gorse,

I would stand right up against the east gable, eyes peering,

and listening hard to the eider conversing below our house.

No discontentment and no doubts or longings,

No competing or quarrelling or fear of the unknown,

And no need to build castles in the air either,

For all that I sought was beside me right there.


I recall seeing folk bearing kelp in the afternoon,

And digging the fields – maybe four at a time;

Then in the twilight, exhausted, and with palms hot and stinging,

They at last made for home for a well-earned rest.

Or out stacking corn in the moonlight at harvesting,

The gaiety and guffawing that always lightened the work,

Then the wishing and preening and going out courting

That thrived every year when the nights became dark.


I recall the rough days of stormy skies and wild weather

When the sea had great waves breaking right up to the grass,

Then in to the fine warmth of the fire,

To throw off wet clothes for a shift dry and clean.

Then woollen yarn to be twining and socks to be making,

Or a straw basket of lamb’s fleece to cut fine and small,

Keeping time with the gramophone up in the corner,

Playing hill-billy music and fiddlers and all.


Though the blackbird still vies with the lark at singing,

The lowing of cows is long gone from the Lea,

Yet here for a minute the pendulum stops swinging,

Sending new life and strength quivering through me.

For everyone must have his own childhood homeplace,

The cornerstone laid when his life was begun,

The stone that still stands though the walls might be crumbling,

Earthfast, and always there to be built upon.


And love must be there to hold all things together,

To light up the footpath from cradle to grave;

And further, to Light that is past understanding;

Outlasting all Time, and the scars it might leave.

Though many dear faces be gone from around me,

And no longer their footsteps be heard in the way,

Their love still gives strength to keep on, and be knowing,

That though out of sight, they are just waiting close by.


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