Themes

Love

From the opening stanza of the poem, the girl of the red hair is addressed as love. When MacLean goes on to describe her as my pursuit, the reader assumes that the girl does not love him back.

Like in I Gave You Immortality, the idea that MacLean’s love is unrequited is the driving force behind the grief and sorrow that surrounds the poem – at the end of the second stanza, MacLean writes that:

quote
my hopes are gone, gloom overshadows me

Though MacLean’s love and affection is not returned, that does not seem to lessen his strength of feeling.

MacLean makes several references to his pursuit of the woman, and the apparent futility of this pursuit does not dissuade the speaker from maintaining it. Perhaps MacLean’s emotions trump his logic, summarised with his statement:

quote
my heart is dumb

Though this is chiefly a poem about love, it is a poem that captures the desolation that love can bring.

Place

Dun Caan and Churchton Bay, Island of Raasay
Dun Caan and Churchton Bay, Island of Raasay

Even in a poem as personal as this, a sense of place is central to the poem. MacLean references two places directly:

  • the Sound of Raasay
  • Dun Caan

These places are used as a springboard for the speaker’s emotions, which are consistently pessimistic.

It is interesting that in this poem, the places that MacLean describes are never glamourised or presented in a positive way. This re-enforces the sense of pessimism that runs throughout the poem. It also links MacLean to the landscape in which this poem is set. Even during dark times like this, the poet and the place are inseparable.

At times in MacLean’s poetry, he is presented as an extension of place. Here, it is the negative depiction of place that reflects the speaker. None of Rasaay’s beauty is captured in this poem.