A Ballad for Harald
Is there no ballad made for Harald,
paying his respects to Haakon
to such excellent effect
that he won a royal daughter
for his bride, and bore her homeward
over the too unruly seas
to perish in a shipwreck off
the Shetlands, every soul aboard
going to God with dripping hair?
Climbing steeply out of Glen Maye,
the Trout begins to falter. Foreign
voices intervene, chatter
from across the water.
Is anybody there? The sleek
outline of a larger island
comes into view, as though a veil
was lifted. Hence the interference,
the breaking up of Radio 3,
its urbane appreciation
of the Viennese Romantics,
by snatches of information
like bits of ancient DNA
pulsing and crackling
out of the ancestral west.
What did the Romans ever do for us?
Their boats, fastidious, rowed on
to berths more pulchritudinous,
No time for bumpkin island.
Perhaps they asked, made discreet enquiries.
'No, nothing there worth worrying about.
A dank, misty place
and sluggish folk, tongue-tied and shy.
The seals despair of intelligent conversation.'
On excited beaches, woaded to the IX's,
my aboriginal ancestors might have been waiting
with fresh herrings
or our excellent blaeberries.
Caesar could have had some jam for tea.
David Callin lives on one of Britain's offshore islands but not, regrettably, for tax reasons. His poems have appeared in Orbis, Other Poetry and Envoi among others, and in a number of online magazines, including Message in a Bottle, Snakeskin and Antiphon.