Themes

Conflict

Military language is regularly used throughout the poem. This serves a number of purposes:

  • MacLean uses the landscape as both an echo and reflection of its violent past. MacLean writes of a rising of glens and a cavalry of mountains. This gives the reader an image of the centuries of conflict that have taken part in that Highland landscape. Perhaps this suggests that it is impossible to separate the conflict from the land.
  • military language serves to emphasise the power and potential of the landscape. A key example of this is a great garth of growing mountains. The harsh sound of the alliterative 'gr' giving an air of menace and strength to the landscape.

Nature

In Kinloch Ainort, man is absent. Through his absence, man is portrayed as being insignificant when compared to nature, yet infinitely connected to it. This has much in common with Hallaig, when MacLean regularly uses imagery to bring people and place together.

In Kinloch Ainort, MacLean uses plural nouns that sound like they refer to animals in his descriptions of the mountains, perhaps most notably in the opening stanza when he writes of:

quote
a company of mountains

He goes on to consistently humanise the landscape throughout the poem, using verbs that portray the mountains as humans:

  • a rising of glens
  • a lying down

This shows that nature is malleable and adaptable like humans. Whereas in Hallaig we see trees being compared to (and connected to) humans, we see a similar idea here with mountains: they are variable and adaptable.

The poem also includes several references to animals, with horse-riding summits personifying the mountains again. This time they are presented as working in unison with man, perhaps suggesting that the land and man are not fighting against each other, but with each other.

The poem also refers to the antlered bellowing, implying the noisy hollering of deer.

Romance

The poem might not appear to be overtly romantic on first reading. But there are implications of a traditional Highland landscape being presented. In particular, the antlered bellowing of the stag gives a stereotypical image of a Highland landscape that is both romanticised and romantic. This time, MacLean’s admiration and devotion is perhaps directed towards place rather than people.

Time and place

Like in Hallaig, MacLean uses present tense in ‘Kinloch Ainort’ to highlight the enduring nature of place. Despite suggestions of decay in the final stanza (most obviously through the word crumbling), the poem ends with MacLean referring to the:

quote
barbarous pinnacles of high moorlands

This is a final reminder of the land’s imposing power, irrespective of how much time has passed.

The use of the word corrie, helps to root the poem in Scotland – it is a word that refers to a hollow in the side of the mountain, and originates from Scots Gaelic. Like we see in Hallaig and Shores, MacLean uses words/place names of Gaelic origin to establish the poem's themes to specific place.