From early times the bards of Gaelic culture composed verses of praise and lamentation. Very often they referred to features of nature to express emotion.
MacLean sticks to this tradition in Hallaig. In doing so, he creates an atmosphere which is intensely sad yet at the same time beautiful in its expression.
The last line of each verse strikes a mournful tone in many instances:
they are not the wood I love
every single generation gone
go to Clachan as in the beginning
without the heartbreak of the tale
their laughter a mist in my ears
In the final verses the sorrowful mood becomes passionate and angry:
a vehement bullet will come from the gun of Love;
and will strike the deer that goes dizzily
Here MacLean is defiant- he sees desolation in front of him but refuses to be intimidated by it or the oppression which caused it. He lays claim to his own land and his own people.
Through reviving the bardic tradition, albeit in modern form, he revives the spirit of his place and gives a voice to the dispossessed everywhere.
An atmosphere of mystery and loveliness permeates the poem. By mixing images of Hallaig as it is and as he sees it in his mind's eye, MacLean creates a mood that is ghostly and mystical - he suggest strength of both his own feelings and the spirit of the place itself.