T.S. Law & Uys Krige at TSL's house in Dunfermline, 1952

Krige completed his book The Dream and the Desert here during a two-month visit in that year.

THE WYS O THE DESERT

 

THE SODGER

 

Fae the Afrikaans o Uys Krige

 

In siccan a dreech ootlin orrie airt

ane wurld an groo but growthieness

that skyles in aa its sairie stanes

or the groo gangs lirt i the luft

sae nane may lippen ont,

his leefou lane

alang the stoorie pad

traiks

the lane sodger lad.

 

Abuin is the furst nicht staur,

abuin Fort Wajier liggin awo sae faur.

 

Alanerlie

the lane sodger lad

his leefou lane.

His leefou lane

wi a wurld o dool an luve

yirdit apairt

in the howff o his ain hert

that nane save he can prove.

 

His leefou lane

dreechlie in the desert dayligaun

that sweels aroond him lik the groo scaum

o the sperflin stoor

as the haevie ammo buits plowter the saund attoore.

 

An Fort Wajier

 - oasis alane in this haill wilderness

whaur ilka bink an rowe o the camel pad maun gang,

whaur nuintyde murls amang the leafs in the sooch o a saft wuin,

whaur aathing cawed tae the hunkers wi heat funds beild tae byde

ane airt alanerlie whaur the palms skinkle siller i the muin, an

whaur deep, deep, doon aneath the stye black waas, the whyte

waal watters hain in;

anerlie the yin snode airt

whaur leerielicht, guid watter an scran, an the crack o men

pleesure the hert -

aneath the furst nicht staur

liggin awo sae faur.

 

Wi his helmet on his heid,

bandolier roond his breist,

watter-bottle on his hip,

rifle ower his shoother,

he traiks amang the stoor:

a groo-graithit taet

againss the mair groo

o the ondeemas luft

o the doore orrie erd

in sicna groo border

whaur the nicht

mells a weird wi the bricht

as the licht aye maun sperfle

amang the groo scadda.

 

Abuin is the furst nicht staur,

abuin Fort Wajier liggin awo sae faur.

 

A groo-graithit taet

gainss groo-graithit creatioun.

An the sodger traiks on,

traiks on

aye traiks on

alang the stoorie desert pad,

and his scadda raxin slawlie an siccarlie,

cawed attoore the groo pad

ower a binsh o broon lavastane,

intil the thorn buss.

 

The sodger’s scadda

faas ower the desert.

 

The sodger’s scadda

faas ower Africa .

 

Stievelik an sterklik an black wi aa dreedour,

ower the haill wurld

faas the sodger’s black scadda.

 

Abuin is the furst nicht staur,

abuin Fort Wajier liggin awo sae faur.

 

On the Somaliland border,

December 1940.


THE DESERT PAD

 

Fae the Afrikaans o Uys Krige

 

The desert pad’s a gyan lang, lang gaet.

 

A scart o quartz, grush, saund or lavastane,

gyan lang’s the desert pad, a gy lang gaet.

 

Pitmirklik, bluidruidgowdlik, or chalkwhytelik,

lang enyeuch the desert pad, enyeuch o a gaet.

 

Athorte donga an dook, and howe an knowock,

gy lang the desert pad, lang enyeuch o a gaet.

 

Athorte thon droothie hauch o grun

whaur the stoorie wuin skails ower itsel;

athorte thon sairlik sunscoort sautpan, brynewhytelik,

the yae braid myle-lang sautpan,

brodflet an scoort as bare’s

the wheech o the wuin, athooten tree or buss,

or even the yae bit, wae bit blade o gress,

athoot even the yae bit stane tae brekk yon yae alaneness,

the desert pad’s a gyan lang, lang gaet.

 

Athorte thon deep daurk pit o a langdoverin crater

amang the wuinherried gullies o black volcanic mountains,

raxin whaur hethotterin fever sotters i the busses,

syne heech alang cliff aidges, laich bi the flet o the sea plain,

a traik, the desert pad, an awfie gaet.

 

Atween droothtaiglt, withert thornbusses,

whaur thon illfaured flechfangit vulture

frames itsel i the fork o a tree, whyles glowerin

even-on, but syne garrin rax its sapsie hause,

gowpin, thae wing fedders flappin braid

atween bare branches groowbyte as leprosie thare,

an awfie traik, this desert pad o a gaet.

 

Thru birlaboot wuins, heech as steeples staunin,

saundeevils thegither lik a lyne o set dancers,

a yella upscoorin o stoor garrin thon sun dwyne tae’t,

this desert pad’s an awfie traik o a gaet.

 

Thru thon faurboond caller an sauchtlik meerage

that promises the yae quaet wattersyde o easement an rest

alow the waarslin tree fronds bi thon pown lik a siller flett,

the desert pad’s a gyan lang, lang gaet.

 

Ower the hard wy o lymestane, granite or sunpan dy,

ower the saft o the poother o airnstane or lava-ase,

a sair wy, the desert pad, a sairgaun gaet.

 

Whyles granitepurpour, airnstaneorange whyles,

or else clybroon, but the colour o a lion maistlie,

a sairgaun wy, the desert pad, a sair gaet.

 

Alow thon fylit, lowerin luft,

bealyella, tawnie an tuim as this haill wilderness,

faur, furder nor the furdest boond,

furder nor yon haarhappit mountain,

furder nor the luft itsel can hain,

the desert pad’s a sairgaun wy o a gaet.

 

As groo’s an auld whang, the desert pad jooks on.

Stacher yon wy — is this the end o the ayebydein stoor?

Stotter this wy — is thon the bit clachan furrit thare?

But the desert pad’s a gyan lang, lang gaet.

 

The desert pad’s a gyan lang, lang gaet.

 

Man’s dool is gyan lyke the desert pad.

 

Lang enyeuch an gyan lang at that

is the dool o fowk, lang enyeuch tae gae’t.

 

 

In front o El Wak, December 1940

 

 


THE END O THE PAD

 

Fae the Afrikaans o Uys Krige

 

Suddentlyke, thare’s an end tae’t,

suddentlyke an end tae this desert pad o a gaet.

 

Suddentlyke — as the yae man losst i the wilderness

stachers, hauf-faain, yovein,

syne doonwechtin, the grun tae prove,

the-tyme his endmaist strenth ootwith can dwyne —

it’s here the pad itsel can pyne

i the boond the ondeemas wyld can hyne.

 

As watter pickles throch the saund,

as the whyte scansin o the skliff o snaw-faem can tyne itsel i the straund,

as howp itsel can foze awo fas lichtlied laun,

as the hinmaist forfochen lowe o the ingyne flauchters i the cawin,

sae the desert pad can pyne

i the boond the ondeemas wyld can hyne.

 

Suddentlyke, thare’s an end tae’t,

suddentlyke an end tae thon desert pad o a gaet;

no the yae howff wi onie fire for tae blink

sherp an quicksillerlyke tae wink;

no even the bittockie o newspaper here

sydedykein wi the wuin, noo faur, noo near;

no even the sillerglisk o a sweetiepaper pirlin

its Capegrozet trademerk in the birlin;

naewhaur fanbelt, nor cartridge case attoore,

aa langsyne happit alow the saund an stoor;

naither the skeleton o three-ton larrie

strippit bare fae aixle tae ruif as the wuin can herrie,

nor the yae fuitmerk, nor onie mair

witness o us in aa the airt o oor braidspreid airmie;

no even the scad o a fuitpad on this yird bare

an hardpackit bi the camel hoofs back an furrit thare,

vaigin i the desert, for the oasis watter sair forfairn

— alanerlie this bare laneliness, alane as terror, a wilderness alane,

this same laneliness o desolatioun as endless again

as the heech braid buch o the heevens, ayebydein, birlin an birnin abuin.

 

The daurkest day maun dwyne i the hinnerend

as the ilka last licht ot sperfles awo i the dayligaun.

The langest nicht o mirk maun syne be spent

as the constellatiouns skail i the blue abyss o the sun.

 

Lang last’s an end lik the end o the desert pad,

even as the desert pad ends itsel at that.

 

But tae the plainyie o the wurld,

an the keenin o the erd,

tae fowklik wae an fowklik weerd,

tae the hunger o everilk hert,

ilka saul maun aye hae caad

for yaeness, britherlie saucht on erd, an blytheheid yit;

that ilka mairch in ilka airt

man maks tae pairt

natiouns, peoples, an men,

sall scaum awo as cloods i the birsslin sun can dwyne;

an syne, whaur frontiers sit,

sall rise thare yae day yit,

Luve, lyfie, sterk as onie stell,

an eemage stanewrocht bi a mell

(nocht dwaiblie, nor nesh nane avas

but stoore, steelhertit, stieve an aa)

— syne sae!

this gy auld-eildit craikin, freen,

this dreme o saucht ower man can grein,

syne sae

(caa this baith dreme an widdreme tae)

thare ‘ll be yae end tae’t,

yae end tae this kinna pad o a gaet.

 

 

Dibbandibba, on the Abyssinian Frontier,

2 Februar 1941

 

 


FLOOERS IN THE BOLAND

 

Fae the Afrikaans o Uys Krige

 

Thare’s nocht here

— juist saund an black lavastane

wi vulture burds

amang leafless thornbusses

and aagaets

the desert

aawhaur aathegither

yellie as the jaundies

or lik some auld

het bealin byle.

 

And here

flet alangsyde the lava pad

a lane bit crosse

abuin the yirdin

o a sodger laddie,

juist this yae crosse

timmert thegither

fae twaa bit brodes

o an airmie petrol-kist.

 

The crosse-piece cairriet

the name o the sodger,

the date o his lane deid,

his nummer

and his unit.

 

The desert wuin waff-waffit

athorte the desert

noo and again, wabbit

whyles, sair forfochen, baet

wi its comein an gaein

ower this braid desert.

 

Fykie aroon the lowsse flap ahint

oor muckle troop-cairrier,

it fankles in a smaa bing o lava-ase

athin a toorockin birlaboot,

syne liggs at peace.

But noo it sterts again,

draiglin thru the saund,

ootraivelin itsel upon the hauf-peelt bass

— that luks lik strips o spirlie scraps o paper —

aroon the bluegreen stem

o the whyte-thorn,

syne soochs in saucht ben the sklits

atween the lava-ruckies

happit upon the mool.

 

Jan van Niekerk,

say the cruikit black letters.

 

Jan van Niekerk,

lance-bombardier,

whaa cam fae the Cape .

 

Jan van Niekerk,

sae awfie semple, sae naitural,

yit yaisual-nane at that, byordnar

in the chyce the Guid Lorde Gode

made Jan’s the wale o graves.

 

Whit will gang maun gang

i the middis o the desert.

A sodger chippt awaa a tuim C to C

fag-packet on the pad.

The wuin wafft the packet aipen,

an ruggit-oot its sillerpaper

and yin o its fag-cairds wi’t.

The sillerpaper skinkit sillerlik

the mair i the skelp o the suinlicht,

an the caird, gaein birlin ower and ower,

syne fund a beild bi a lavastane,

wee pictur uppermaist:

fower blue bit gowans

that daunce i the wuin,

fower blue bit gowans

nod meadies abuin.

 

Fae the larrie, a sodger sklims doon

sae he’ll can rax a bit.

He taks a bit daunner.

Then turns back again.

Noo he staunds alangsyde the grave

the-tyme the twaa daurk scaddas o the crosse,

lik lang, nerra crepp ribbans,

rax ower the mools for a daurker mort-claith.

 

Again the wuin waff-waffs the fag-caird,

an skytes it wi yae suddent skoosh

nearhaun the sodger lad,

lats it faa, then skaigin it yince mair,

caws it against his buit.

 

Slawlie the sodger bous doon,

lufts the fag-caird

an places it on the grave

wi the eemage uppermaist,

creddlt atweesh twaa stanes,

liggin laevel alow the crosse.

He claummers back

intil the muckle three-tonner,

an slawlie, aa

the lang, gear-grunshin convoy

at last gets gaun again.

 

In this whyte-skimmerin airt,

this boond o sic het-trimmelin gleed,

abuin the waanrif mools

yon lythelik lane crosse staunds

againss the black lava-rigg.

 

Fower blue bit gowans yonder,

daunce you athin the wuin!

Fower blue bit gowans yonder,

nid-nod yer meads abuin!

 

 

 


GUITAR

 

(Efter Lorca)

 

Fae the Afrikaans o Uys Krige

 

Noo the fingers begin

tae reeshle the strings:

five whyte murners

thegither sing.

Noo the plainyie

o the guitar dings.

 

I’ the gloamin oor

an the tassies stoond.

Thur purple draps glink

as they jaup i the roond,

an the day’s bluidie daith

is the gowp o a wound.

 

The still o the nicht,

o ilka leaf an flooer,

the still o the furst staur,

the strings’ still doverin oor,

the hiddlins o stillness ben stillness,

and aathegither in pooer.

Ower aa, the plainyie

o the guitar dings.

 

 

Nae yuiss avaa

tae quaten him.

Ye cannae help

i the plainyie o him.

He greets, aye greets

as watters plain

again, again

til saund or stane,

an the rain

or the gulls blaw

laich’s the wuins plain

ower the snaw.

 

He murns wi the waanhowp

saft ingyne til aa brings.

He greets wi the daith

whilk is lerkin in aa things.

Nae yuiss

tae quaten him!

Ye cannae help

i the plainyie o him!

 

He greets aboot thae things

fey awaa yonder:

the dreams, an the sichin, the wae things

an fonder

unspakken whan yae man forlorn

alane, aa alanerlie daunders.

 

He greets aboot thae things

fey awaa yonder:

saund o the waarm Sooth

for gardenias greinin.

Mosshags o the gray North

an sunflooers ilk eenin.

He murns for the flane athoot target,

boat wi nae haven, lass wi nae waen,

heech-nuin wi nae mornin,

the freemit athoot freen,

aa prayers, an sabbin, an sichin

that sperfle athorte the fower wuins.

 

Guitar, daurk guitar,

aa dool i the wurd!

Hert throch-thirlit

bi five swords......

 

 


THE BALLAT O THE WATTERS O THE SEA

 

(Efter Lorca)

 

Fae the Afrikaans o Uys Krige.

 

The sea

laich lachs faur ayont:

whyte teeth o faem,

waan lips o the luft.

 

“Whit gauderan hae ye tae sell,

ma gallas bit lassie,

wi yer wyld ongauns

an yer sherp keekans,

yer prood, yer soondan

het ying breists?”

 

“Freen,

I hae naethin tae sell

cep the watters o the sea.”

 

“Whit’s the weerd ye hae ben ye,

ma quate mannie,

yer heid doon bent

an yer een glaumert,

sombre wi aa kennt;

yer langtholean smyle

bittersweet?

Whit rowes i yer veins, aye pairt

o yer blüde yit?”

 

“There rowes i ma veins aye

nocht but saut o the waves aye,

o the watters o the sea.”

 

“ But whye,

wee mither,

is yer sang

— hoo sauchtlik or saft — aye

a plainyie?

An the wairsh saut o yer tears,

Whaur dae they come fae,

hovean i yer een aa day?”

 

“Freemit-yin,

the waves are aye singan.

Thur sang

is aye sairlang.

Thur leid

— throch aa tyme syne —

is aye dool an deid

an waanhowp an wae.

Freemit-yin,

ma een greet the bryne

o the watters o the sea.’’

 

“Oh hert,

an siccan bitterheid

wi blytheheid an stert-reid

— growean til hate aye an envie a weed —

whilk aye maun rax ma mense an gowps

agin ma wrangous howps:

an ootower yer deeps lik stowps

reeman ower, lik tassie or gourd

fae whaur did ye lowp?

Fae whitna weerd?”

 

“Ower aathing they rowe

an the saut rowes slee,

mair whyte, aye whiter....

til aa growes bitter wi

the watters o the sea.”

 

The sea

laich lachs faur ayont

whyte teeth o faem,

waan lips o the luft.

 

 


BALLAT                                             

 

Fae the afrikaans o Uys Krige

 

The staurs are thrang

whaur baith wuid stan,

the muinlicht thairs

at Malelaan.

 

— “Ma dear, for aye

yer hert and han?”

— “For aye, ma dear,

till aa sall gan...”

 

Muinlichtit flooers

are dichtit waan.

Waarm wintlin wuins

sooch ower the lan.

 

And aa the staurs

waanweirdlik stan

i the wattersheen

at Malelaan.

 

*    *    *    *

 

Anither year,

anither sang,

an the reever rowes,

aye rowes alang...

 

Noo i the gloamin

but juist the tane.

— “Syne we were twae

an noo ma lane.”

 

“Maun ilka thing

aagaets aye gan

lik the snawwaan flooers

at Malelaan?”

 

Dowf i the boond

the peeweeps cass,

laichlie the wuins

i the rashes blaw:

 

“Ay, aa man maks

aye mells wi daith

as esperance

an blytheheid baith

 

aye struissle wi

waanhowp an dool,

as rinnin watter

meets the pool...”

 

Aye the sooch o the wuin

i the rashes, till

the reeshlin bydes

an the nicht growes still,

 

and aa is sterk

an the muinlicht waan

alow the staurs

that skinklin, gan

 

baenwhyte an cauld

ower Malelaan

ower Malelaan

ower Malelaan...

 

 

 


THE SEA-MAW

 

I

 

Fae the Afrikaans o Uys Krige

 

Atween tooer

an whyte tooer

o the cloodfauld

ower kyle an craig,

siller an blae,

hichtin abuin the sea,

siller an blae,

skliffin the luft

abuin the boond o the swaw,

sklimmin an scoorin,

the yae sea-maw

sklimmin an scoorin

its lane.

 

Whit can the sea sooch

but the wuin maun lament

an the sea-maw maen

its lane?

 

The sea soochs,

the wuin laments,

the sea-maw sabs:

atween tooer

an whyte tooer

o the cloodfauld

ower kyle an craig,

siller an blae

abuin i the cleir licht,

siller an blae,

yon hert maun maen

its lane.

 

 


THE SEA-MAW

 

II

 

Efter the Afrikaans o Uys Krige

 

     Whit skraichin’s yon fae the sea-maw, cawin againss

     the blue aa thru the luft, againss the whyte

     lik skymin o the licht ootthru the clood,

cawin againss the groo o haar aa ower

the ben, fae yon sea-maw, whit is yon skraichin?

 

     Whit skraichin’s yon fae the sea-maw?  Fae yon

     sea-maw, whit is yon skraichin ower the groo

     o the dune, ower snaw-whyte straund lik the faem o the sea?

 

     Atweesh the luft an the laund for a soondin-brode,

     atweesh the ben an the bay for echo-stoond,

atweesh whyte clood an whyte clood for notes heecher,

     atweesh green swaw an green swaw for laicher notes,

     it skraichs an skraichs an skraichs as the wuin skraichs wi’t,

     lik the skraich o the sea tae’t the-wy the skraich o the hert

intaet is aa alane, apairt, yit measurt

     lik yon blue hicht o the luft, lik yon daurk daipth

o the soondin sea, lik eeriness as groolik

as haar aa ower the ben that smoors the skraichin.

 

     Dool, ay, dool, dool fae’t, and athooten saucht

yon caumer taet i the prood hert lyke a blissin,

for aa the skaith up-hichtit lyke a tholein,

     or sair doon-wechtit, loondert wi the fricht

abuin the deemin ginn tyme maks accoontment —

abuin the need athin the breid the fautor

the-tyme breid’s haill athin itsel in needment,

     abuin the tyle lik torment tulyies us

wi sweit intaet oot ot as in a brulyie

     an the skaith o the greed intae the bitter chrism

     aa soored athin the stoond o humanness.

 

     Naw, naw, an naw I daarsay!  I say neer

     sall yon dool-wechtin gan the faur awaa

     until the blissit caa thur lyfe haill freed

or athooten trimmelin, athooten dreedour

lik murrain puit upon man for langtholance.

 

 

     Naw, naw I daarsay, I say naw!  An neer

     sall yon skraich mell wi saucht avaa!  Ay, ben

its ainsel lat it caw, as tho ilk scurroch

     ben its ainsel was scart-scart-scartit sair,

     tae gar it yelloch for a saucht tae skraich!

     Neer lat its skraich be ocht but intilt aa,

no haill its ainsel intil, for divvident

     as it is, it is nae sang lik melodie

says mair for measure nor the singin soochs,

but wi the grace-notes tint, rhythm ahint is.

 

     I say naw, naw I daarsay, naw for ocht

     o some guid-fortune faa yon skraichin on,

nor blytheheid, lyke a smyte as peentie-peerie,

tae sing a sang anent it for its measure

     wuid say anent the singin mair nor sooch,

nor lyfieness lik ben ingyne gan vaigin,

     nor in the waarslin wi’t, wi blissins melled,

     nor staurlicht thon daurk orbit for tae ken,

nor stuidie grun for fuit tae staun, no staucher,

     and aathing aathegither an for aye,

for aye, for aye that was and is the ayeways

     that maun be fae noo on, fae noo on, ay,

     thru aa tyme fae noo on, ayebydein, ay.

 


EFTERTHOCHT ANENT THE WYS O THE DESERT

 

 

     Efter bringin thegither the wark made aroond yae swaatch

o the prose o Charles M. Doughty, prose byordnar

an muckle intil itsel as in the airtin

     attoore the Arabia he telt us o,

I taen a thocht, the hunner year in makkin,

that I haed duin some ither desert verses

an puit in Scots a wheen o weiretimm poems

     Uys Krige made in his ain Afrikaans,

thon leid o his that fairlie yit gans traikin

     ootthru his pages lyke the ilka pad

     aagaets and oniegaets in Africa .

 

     Thinkin I micht as weel yaise thaem fornent

     the Arabian wark, lik contar bookein’s wecht

for man alane athorte yon boond ondeemas,

     an myndin hoo I’d puit some sea-chynge verse

     againss the Arabian desert , anither thocht

     I taen anent a puckle o ‘watter’ poems,

again Uys Krige’s wark, that micht weel even

     the weibauk o poetic veesioun made

gin I micht yaise them duin the Scots leid intilt,

soondin the wy the-tither verse was wechtit.

 

     At the hinneren, tho, thare was juist yon smaa bit

     mair wechtin puitten on the Arabian airt,

a kinna contar-kennin cawin the keekin

     at the veesioun agly, a wee thing skellielyke,

     sae noo bi giein masel a culliecoad

     on Afrikaans, I haed tae mak aa peels

upon Die Seemeeu (II),  garrin

     it gan fuhll flicht wi the same kinna cawin I gied

the desert baestial for thair ain wheeshin

upon the desert pages o thur poem.

 

 

 

Auchterarder

Decemer 1986