I'll explain what the poem is about - I'm going to read you one or two very short poems in Scots which will be quite unintelligible I think to all of you unless I explain them. 'The Watergaw' - a watergaw is a broken rainbow, a broken shaft of a rainbow that you can see sometimes between clouds - not a complete arc, the broken shaft of the rainbow. And this poem says:

The Watergaw

One wet, early evening in the sheep-shearing season
I saw that occasional, rare thing –
A broken shaft of a rainbow with its trembling light
Beyond the downpour of the rain
And I thought of the last, wild look you gave
Before you died.

[the next two lines are very difficult idiom – ]

The skylark’s nest was dark and desolate,
My heart was too
But I have thought of that foolish light
Ever since then
And I think that perhaps at last I know
What your look meant then.

Now in Scots, in my Scots, that reads this way:

The Watergaw

Ae weet forenicht i’ the yow-trummle
I saw yon antrin thing,
A watergaw wi’ its chitterin’ licht
Ayont the on-ding;
An’ I thocht o’ the last wild look ye gied
Afore ye deed!

There was nae reek i’ the laverock’s hoose
That nicht – an’ nane i’ mine;
But I hae thocht o’ that foolish licht
Ever sin’ syne;
An’ I think that mebbe at last I ken
What your look meant then.

from Complete Poems Volumes 1 & 2 edited by Alan Riach (Carcanet, 1993), Hugh Macdiarmid 1993, by permission of Carcanet Press Ltd. and New Directions Publishing Corporation. Recording used by permission of the BBC.

The free tracks you can enjoy in the Poetry Archive are a selection of a poet’s work. Our catalogue store includes many more recordings which you can download to your device.