Sorley MacLean was the greatest Gaelic poet of our time, and his ideas reinvigorated 20th century Gaelic literature and language. Packed with the key themes and critical insights of a lifetime, and also including three original Gaelic short stories, the writings in this book form the closest to a critical autobiography we may ever see.
The essays vary greatly in subject matter, from the folk-songs of the 17th century to the parallels between the instigators of the Clearances and the fascists of Germany. Throughout his collection, MacLean constantly strives towards an understanding of the ‘obscure territory between the explicit and the implicit’, and an accurate means of describing the essence of Gaelic. It is essential reading for all students of Gaelic and lovers of poetry, by the most influential practitioner and scholar of our age.
Sorley MacLean was born on the island of Raasay in 1911. He was brought up within a family and community immersed in Gaelic language and culture, particularly song. He studied English at Edinburgh University from 1929, taking a first-class honours degree. Despite this influence, he eventually adopted Gaelic as the medium most appropriate for his poetry. He translated much of his own work into English, opening it up to a wider public. He fought in North Africa during World War II, before taking up a career in teaching, holding posts on Mull, in Edinburgh and finally as Head Teacher at Plockton High School. Amongst other awards and honours, he received the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 1990. He died in 1996 at the age of 85.