Shetland Dialect
This poem is an example of modern Shetland writing. It prefaces the reprint of Jakob Jakobsen's The Place-Names of Shetland (1936; reprinted Lerwick, 1993). The poem is reproduced here by the kind permission of John Graham.
Jakobsen by John Graham

Jakobsen by John Graham

A hunder year sin syne
Shetland men sailed der smacks
Nort ta da Faroe Bank.
Dere dey shot der lang-lines
Deep i da green dyoob,
Doon amang da steedin cod.
Da mirl an da yark on da line
Liftet der herts as dey haeled --
"Licht i da lum"
"White upo white"
Owre da heildin gunnel
Dey cam sprikklin.

Day efter pinnishin day,
Disjaskit i da face o a haagless sea,
Half-dead on der feet,
Dey haeled till da fish whet takkin;
An dan da skipper said, "Boys,
I tink yon'll dö.
We'll get on da full sail,
Trim her weel doon,
An mak fir hame."

A hunder year sin syne
A Faroe man cam dis wye
An vaiged trowe wir isles
Ta spör oot da wye at we spak
An gadder tagidder
Da brucks o da aald Norn tongue
Eence alive on da lips o da folk.

Aaber ta geng
Dey wir aye an amp at his hert
Ta win ta da fires
O da ordinar folk
At spak da aald wye.
An as he lö'd ta da wirds an da soonds,
An skrittit dem doon in his book,
His hert stoondit wi joy,
Fir here was a tongue sib tae his ain
Bit, less-a-less, near da end o its days --
Da hidmost lisp o a deein bairn.

He trampit da isles fae Unst ta da Ness
An vaiged oot ta Foula,
Hentin da wirds at cam frae da Norn.
Whaarever he göd
Folk laekit dis man wi his hamely wyes:
"He could jöst be ane o wirsels," dey said.
"It's no aften ye fin a body at's uncan
Draan tae da wye at we spaek,
Whin da sköls and da kirk
Look doon on wir midder-tongue
An want wis tae spaek mair perskeet."

Dem at he met aye mindit him weel
Lang efter he'd gien;
An noo, a hunder year on,
Laek da men i da smacks,
He's pairt o wir past,
A pairt at spaeks veev ta wis still
Spaeks trowe his muckle wird-book
Whaar he gaddered
Da röts of wir speech
An da wirds we still ös ta dis day.


Glossary

mirl quiver; tremble
sprikklin wriggling
vaiged wandered
amp alertness
yark tug
haagless remorseless
spör oot investigate
listen intently
heildin tilting
whet stop
aaber keen
perskeet prim


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