Language and form

The poem takes the form of an epigram and fourteen regular verses. Rhyme is more obvious in the Gaelic rather than in the translation into English. However MacLean’s translation retains much of the flow and rhythm of the language.


MacLean's use enjambment stresses the universal connection between people and nature before grounding these in specific settings:

  • and she has always been/ between Inver and Milk Hollow
  • their daughters and sons are a wood/ going up beside the stream


MacLean uses oxymoron to contrast the physical present with his vision:

  • the dead have been seen alive
  • in the dumb living twilight

He uses oxymoron again in his final violent image of the gun of Love. This effectively reflects his mixed feelings of anger and love.

Word choice

Word choice is simple. The places and people named are real and specific, keeping the poem deeply personal:

  • In Screapadal of my people
  • Where Norman and Big Hector were
  • Between the leac and Fearns
  • From the Burn of Fearns to the raised beach

Adjectives are simple. They are used sparingly but are highly evocative:

  • a straight, slender young rowan
  • straight their backs, bent their heads
  • the road is under mild moss
  • sniffing at the grass-grown ruined homes
  • From the Burn of Fearns to the raised beach


The poet establishes effect through compelling imagery. The repeating beautiful images of people as native trees link the two throughout the poem. In contrast, the artificial plantation of pines is reflected in harsh sounding words:

Proud tonight the pine cocks/ crowing on top of Cnoc an Ra

Cnoc is pronounced ‘croc’ adding to the effectiveness of the phrase - onomatopoeia reflects the call of the pine cocks (crows)