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“A defiant affirmation of Gaelic cultural pride, it’s a political call to arms as well [...] It’s hard, all those decades later, to recapture the feeling that all will be well if only the red flag flies over the Black Cuillin. Yet it’s difficult too to resist the ingenuous eloquence of a poem which – in a single Neruda-esque sweep – takes in the beauties of the country and the sufferings of its poor and then sets both against a vastly wider historic background. An Cuilithionn proclaims the utter centrality of the utterly parochial. A triumph.”
— The Scotsman
“... it communicates intense intellectual and emotional excitement by way of breathless syntactical structures and tumbling, seemingly inexhaustible rhymes.”
— The Times Literary Supplement
The work of Somhairle MacGill-Eain (Sorley MacLean), the greatest Gaelic poet of the 20th century, has a significance which echoes far beyond the confines of his time, his country and his language.
His extended political poem ‘An Cuilithionn’ (‘The Cuillin’), taking the celebrated mountain range in Skye as a symbol for the international revolutionary movement, has hitherto been known only in an abridgement, made fifty years after its initial conception in 1939 on the eve of World War II.
Christopher Whyte’s edition of the original manuscript includes 400 lines never before published, along with MacLean’s own English translation from the time of writing, and an extended commentary.
Forty-five other previously unpublished poems by Sorley MacLean also appear here for the first time, with facing English translations.
Christopher Whyte, whose edition of MacLean’s love poetry Dàin do Eimhir was met with acclaim in 2002, left his teaching post at the University of Glasgow in 2005 to write full-time. Himself a Gaelic poet, with four collections to his credit, he is also the author of four novels in English.
- An Cuilithionn 1939
- Coisrigeadh (Dedication)
- Earrann I (Part I)
- Earrann II (Part II)
- Earrann III (Part III)
- Earrann IV (Part IV)
- Earrann V (Part V)
- Earrann VI (Part VI)
- Earrann VII (Part VII)
- Textual Commentary
- Glossary of Placenames, Personal Names, Historical Events and Abstract Concepts mentioned in ‘An Cuilithionn’
- Unpublished Poems
- Notes on the unpublished poems
The Poetry of Sorley MacLean
by Emma Dymock
A study guide to Sorley MacLean’s poetry, for students at all levels.
15 Poems of Sorley MacLean
Readings by Sorely MacLean, with commentary by Iain Crichton Smith
These recordings of Sorley MacLean reading his poems, with commentary by that other great poet, Iain Crichton Smith, cover major themes of MacLean’s work, including social, political and religious issues and an exploration of Gaelic culture and the problems of its revival in a modern age.
Last updated 23 July 2012.