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Poetry: History

 

Keltoi III: The Highland Clearances (1750-1850)

We hardly noticed their leaving:
it was not abrupt.     Rather,
the busyness seemed to ebb, unevenly,
and over generations; the circulation
of armies slowed, changed complexion,
and tongue, as waves relax in whispers
when the sea relents.
                       Building and
rebuilding flooded the land, and then
withdrew, exposing fortifications,
familiar to our children, and roads,
made habitual by use.
                      Thus, we found
our selves, self-governing, charged,
it seemed, with our own defense.

What hope for those, vanquished by
Rome, against those who had
overwhelmed the Romans?     Nonetheless,
we fought.     Gathering arms
abandoned to us, and
scraps of tactics, we built again
the strongholds of our ancestors, revived
the warriors' pride, and bent
a new language to clothe old institutions.
Our High Kings savaged the Scandinavians,
and even their conquerors remember Arthur.

Do not sneer: we were the last to be
scattered, and then by our own. After
the Norse were civilised, we remained,
turbulent and proud, in northern fasts
and the mountains of the west,
unable to win, unwilling to surrender,
displaced at last not by soldiers, but
by sheep.
                 Do not sneer: treachery
is not victory.    Ours was a noble defeat.
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