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This review is taken from PN Review 73, Volume 16 Number 5, May - June 1990.

AUSTERE INTOXICATION Sorley MacLean Somhairle MacGill-eain, O Choille gu Bearradh: Dàin Chruinnichte - Sorley MacLean, From Wood to Ridge: Collected Poems - (Carcanet) £18.95
Somhairlie MacGill-eain, R is a' Bhruthaich, the Criticism and Prose Writings of Sorley MacLean (Acair, Stornaway, Isle of Lewis) £8.95
Raymond J Ross & Joy Hendry (editors), Sorley MacLean: Critical Essays (Scottish Academic Press, Edinburgh) £16

'Gaelic poetry that is published with English translations cannot be assessed on its translation alone even by the most honest and perceptive critics who do not know Gaelic' - thus Sorley MacLean in an essay included in Ris a' Bhruthaich. The first thing I must say is that I have next to no Gaelic, and am therefore in no position to assess justly MacLean's poetry. I hope, however, that I can be reasonably honest and reasonably perceptive.

Some bibliographical facts: This Collected Poems has the Gaelic originals and English translations by MacLean himself on facing pages, and contains twenty seven more poems than were included in the 1980 Selected Poems published by Canongate. Among these are a 'somewhat' curtailed version of the longish poem Craobh nan Teud ('The Tree of Strings' - curtailed because it depends greatly on qualities of sound not reproducible in translation, though this seems rather hard on those Gaelic-speakers who may be expected to buy the book); some extra poems - though still not all - from Dàin do Eimhir agus Dàin Eile, the 1943 collection that established MacLean's reputation and that was translated in part by Iain Crichton Smith (Poems to Eimhir, Northern House, 1972); as much as MacLean considers 'tolerable' of the never-completed long historical and political poem An Cuilithionn ('The Cuillin'), which was abandoned in 1939; translations into Gaelic of the first verse-paragraph of Paradise Lost and of John Cornford's 'Heart of the heartless world'; and a number of recent ...


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