Alasdair Roberts & Robin Robertson - Hirta Songs

Leaving St Kilda

Clouds stream over the edge of Mullach Mòr, pouring
into the valley as we sail against the sun from Village Bay,
rounding the Point, and the Point of the Water,
north under Oiseval and the Hill of the Wind, and round
past the Skerry of the Cormorants, the Cleft
of the Sea-Shepherd, and out around the Yellow Headland
to The Hoof, and the Cleft of the Hoof, to The Gap
where the fulmars nest in their sorrel and chickweed;
and on to Stac a’Langa, the Long Stack
also called the Stack of the Guillemot, and Sgeir Dhomnuill,
place of shags, who are drying their wings like a line
of blackened tree-stumps, to Mina Stac and Bradastac
under the deep gaze of Conachair the Roarer
and Mullach Mòr the Great Summit,
and the White Summit and the Bare Summit beyond;
from there to the Cleft of the Leap, of the Ruinous Fall,
and round the promontory, and its tunnels and arches
to Geò nan Plaidean, the Cleft of the Blankets,
and Geò nan Ròn, the Cleft of the Seals, to rest
by Hardship Cave and the deep doorways in the cliffs
of wide Glen Bay; the air still, the Atlantic flat as steel.
Southwards lies Gleann Mòr, the Great Glen, which holds
the Brae of Weepings, the House of the Trinity
and The Amazon’s House, The Well of Many Virtues,
and also, it’s said, above The Milking Stone, among
the shielings, a place they call The Plain of Spells.
Here also, the home of the great skua,
the bonxie, the harasser: pirate, fish-stealer,
brown buzzard of the sea who kills for the sake of it.
And on past the Cleft of the Lame and the Beach of the Cairn
of the Green Sword and the Chasm of the Steep Skerry
to the crest of The Cambir, and round its ridge to Soay.
Three great sea-stacks guard the gateway to the Isle of Sheep:
the first, Soay Stac, the second, Stac Dona – also called
The Stack of Doom – where nothing lives. The third – kingdom
of the fulmar, and tester of men who would climb
her sheer sides – the Pointed Stack, Stac Biorach.
Out on the ocean, they ride the curve of the wave; but here
in the air above their nests, in their thousands, they are ash
blown round a bonfire, until you see them closer, heeling
and banking. The grey keel
and slant of them: shearing,
planing the rock, as if their endless
turning of it might shape the stone –
as the sea has fashioned the overhangs
and arches, pillars, clefts and caves, through
centuries of close attention, of making its presence known.
Under the stacks, the shingle beach at Mol Shoay,
filled with puffins, petrels, shearwaters, and on the slopes
up to The Altar, the brown sheep of Soay graze.
Above the cliffs, and round again past the Red Cleft
to the rocks of Creagan, Am Plaistir, the Place of Splashing,
under the grey hill of Cnoc Glas, to the Point of the Strangers,
the Point of the Promontory, Flame Point, and beyond that
the Skerry of the Son of the King of Norway.

                                                                                                                                  Poem: Robin  Robertson
Music: Alasdair Roberts


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