18mh linn / Uilleam Ros


Taghadh à lèirmheasan a chaidh a sgrìobhadh mun bhàrdachd aig Uilleam Ros, cuide ri beachdan air an clàradh air bhidio agus ann an earrainnean fuaim.

Gillies, W. (2008)

"'Merely a Bard'? William Ross and Gaelic Poetry", Aiste, 1, dd. 150, 166-167

In terms of poetic persona, one thinks most readily of Ross as the sensitive, self-analytic, even confessional figure projected by his most famous love poems. But his thematic and textual range tells another story, revealing a wider and more typical pattern of thoughts and modes. His works include poems of praise and dispraise, in which bardic objectivity replaces the personal, confessional note. Amongst the poems of praise, as we have noted, are poems in praise of his own land (nos. 11 and 13), and in praise of drink (nos. 14 and 15). He takes part in poetic disputation (nos. 15 and 21-23) and he produces a mock satire on toothache (no. 30). He is, in short, perfectly capable of donning the mantle of the local bard to capture moments of communal experience in verse for his local audience: e.g. nos. 27, 31, 32 and 33. This alternative picture of Ross as a sort of bard baile is echoed by local traditional accounts of his doings, including anecdotes of his poetic jousting with his contemporary Alasdair Buidhe. An orally collected account of his meeting with Donnchadh Bàn may be apocryphal, but is nevertheless meaningful and significant as meta-linguistic testimony to the fact that he was regarded as a 'regular' poet in Gaelic tradition. It is true that the Mòr Ros sequence of poems sets him apart from his contemporaries, and indeed from his own more conventional representations of love (e.g. in nos. 7 and 8); and the local traditions that circulated about him after his death suggest that those who knew him were aware of that. But in many other respects he was a pretty normal bard.

Maclean, S. (2008)

"Five Gaelic Poems – Regional, National or European?", Aiste, 2, dd. 24-26

'Òran eile anns a' Mhodh Cheudna' is one of the saddest poems ever conceived. Its sadness is not the sadness of disillusionment and world weariness which is the sadness of Shakespeare, nor the torture of the world itself, which is the sadness of Baudelaire [1821-1867] the great French poet. It is the farewell to life of a young man terribly in love with life. It has in it the most passionate and hopeless of love[s], the full consciousness of disease and the near approach of death. It has no romantic irrelevancies, and its poignancy is controlled by its musical elaboration and its chiselled perfection of line. Possibly the key to its almost unnatural blending of anguish and art is the theme which is to be noticed in 'Òran Mòr MhicLeòid' too. That is Ross's splendid pride in his own art. He is very conscious that he is a fine poet, as every fine poet, of course, is. It is this pride that constitutes a great part of its artistic dynamic.

  • Gach anduine chluinneas mo chàs
  • Tha cur air mo nàdar fiamh,
  • A' cantainn nach eil mi am bhàrd
  • 'S nach cinnich leam dàn as fiach –
  • Mo sheanair ri pàigheadh a' mhàil
  • Is m'athair ri màileid riamh;
  • Chuireadh iad gearrain an crann
  • Is ghearrainnsa rann ro chiad.

This proud affirmation is central to the poem's greatness. I think the poem's greatness depends on it...as it sustains artistically the anguish of hopeless love and disease and imminent death and the bitter feeling that this poetry is not appreciated. Otherwise the sophisticated art of the poem would be unnatural.

Thomson, D. S. (An Gearran 1959) & (Am Màrt 1959)

"Gaelic Poets of the 18th Century: (4) William Ross", An Gaidheal, t.d. 27

An Gàidheal

There is no reason to doubt that the 'Oran Cumhaidh' was composed shortly after Mòr Ros's marriage in 1782. But it is not merely a passionate outpouring of the poet's grief. He has taken his time to construct the "argument" of his poem, introducing, like the earlier classical bards, an analogy from Gaelic history or legend, the story of the love-sick harper Cormac. The purpose of this section, which takes up twenty-eight lines, is to highlight the account of his own grief, which begins:

This central portion of the poem, in the version in which it has survived, contains some of the most lyrical poetry that has been attributed to Ross, as in the stanzas which begins -

  • Ach cha d' fhuair mise sgeul
  • Ann am Beurla no Gàidhlig,
  • A dh' innseadh dhomh mar dh' fheudainn
  • An gaol ud a smàladh.


  • Carson nach d' rugadh dall mi,
  • Gun chainnt no gun lèirisinn.

In this section Ross indicates that Mòr ros had rejected him because of his poverty and his humble station, and he says that he is going to leave his own country i.e. Gairloch) to help himself to forget his love and grief. He then wishes Mòr Ros a safe sea-passage to àite nam mòr-sheòl or Liverpool, where she was to make her home. The last verse reverts to the story of Cormac. It seems to me that the poem is not entirely successful because the Cormac ursgeul is not fully assimilated to the main theme.

Of the slightly dramatic striving for effect in the "Oran Cumhaidh" there is none in "Oran eile air aobhar cheudna," the most despairing of all Ross's poems. These indeed are lines written in dejection, and revealing a mood of general disillusionment. It is in this poem that Ross moves furthest from the mood and tone of the Gaelic poetry of his century, indulging freely in the subjective, introspective poetry which seems foreign to the Gaelic eighteenth century. It is perhaps worth remembering here that none of his fellow-poets of note died of consumption. What I am suggesting is that his depression is not to be attributed solely to his rejection by Mòr ros, although his lines imply that.

Thomson, D. S. (1993)

An Introduction to Gaelic Poetry, td. 214

An Introduction to Gaelic Poetry

The barest, most desolate of his love-songs, the one most firmly pruned of extraneous ornament is the "Oran Eile" ("Another Song" [on the same theme]). This has no elaborate analogy, such as mars the "Song of Lament", nor classical and fashionable adornment such as we find in "Feasgar Luain". It is a song without bravado either. It is short, and tightly reined, so that the emotion which sets it in motion is kept compact and compressed. The emotion declares itself in the use that is made of language, which is disturbed and pressed into unusual shapes, as happens when the imagination's temperature rises. There is a telling example of this in the third line of the first verse, where he refers to a maggot or grub hatching its eggs within him: these eggs from which disease comes. In one sense the word which he uses for hatching, gur, is a homely, everyday word which would be used of a hen hatching its eggs, but its is used here in a dark threatening, macabre sense, as of bacteria multiplying in a diseased body. Ross died of TB, and perhaps knew he was dying. The image, however, is one which has the power to expand, to fill and jolt the imagination. He plays elsewhere in the poem with the double meanings of words, in a more obvious but still a very effective way, as where he refers to Mór Ros's journey over sea fo bhréid, which means (1) under sail and (2) under kerch, the headgear that was the badge of the married woman. Again, he plays with the sense of dàn, (1) poem and (2) destiny. People say of him that he is a mere poet, and that no poem/destiny that is worth while will come his way. And throughout he is drawn to images and thought that suggest to us that things which were alive and in motion are now proceeding to dumbness, immobility and death.


Tha e uabhasach brèagha mar òran

Chan eil mise uabhasach eòlach air an eachdraidh beatha aige agus chan eil fhios 'am, tha mi buailteach stoiridh a' chluinntinn agus tha e fuireach leam, agus an seòrsa ìomhaigh a th' agam air nam cheann, fear a bh' ann an troma ghaol, ach cuideachd a bha fulang leis a' chaitheamh ach a bha 's dòcha coimhead air a' chaitheamh mar gum biodh e fulang air sgath 's gun do chiall e boireannach, 'S dòcha a' cur an dà rud còmhladh. Agus tha thu a' gabhail truas leis an duine bhochd agus cha robh fhios 'am roimhe gu robh e cho òg nuair a chaochail e, agus cha b' urrainn dhut ach truas a' gabhail ris an duine.

Air adhart gu


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