The Scots language lends itself to emotional intensity, as these two poems demonstrate. The lines by Alexander Scott (1920-1989) have the sizzling immediacy of a John Donne; while the short piece by George Campbell Hay (1915-1984) charts the implacable nature of a passion, however unjustified it may seem to onlookers.‘Gyte’ means crazy with longing or desire.

            CONTINENT O VENUS

She liggs ablow my body’s lust and luve,

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A country dearlie-kent, and yet sae fremd

That she’s at aince thon Tir-nan-Og I’ve dreamed,

The airt I’ve lived in, whaur I mean tae live,

And mair, much mair, a mixter-maxter warld

Whar fact and dream are taigled up an snorled.

~

I ken ilk bay o aa her body’s strand,

Yet ken them new ilk time I come tae shore,

For she’s the unchartit sea whar I maun fare

Tae find anither undiscovered land,

Tae find it fremd, and yet tae find it dear,

Tae seek for’t aye, and aye be bydan there.

           STILL GYTE, MAN?

‘Still gyte, man? Stude I in yere claes

I’d thole nae beggar’s nichts an’ days,

chap-chappan, whidderan lik a moose,

at ae same cauld an’ steekit hoose.’

~

‘What stane has she tae draw yere een?

What gars ye, syne she aye has been

as toom an’hertless as a hoor,

gang sornan kindness at her dure?’

~

‘Though ye should talk a hunner year,

the windblown wave will seek the shore,

the muirlan watter seek the sea.

Then, wheesht man. Sae it is wi me.’