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Nominalist – Poem by Norman McCaig

Achiltibuie
[58.019860, -5.345308]
Abigail Anne Campbell
North West Highland Geopark

Achiltibuie – there’s a name to speak. Once by alarmed withs foundered into Greek. But bobbed up later, sea-changed. Once they found Latin was mud and marble. Now a name Hands me a landscape in one trickling sound. And if a landscape then a people. Five Syllables keep a history alive –  Habits of love…

Achiltibuie – there’s a name to speak.

Once by alarmed withs foundered into Greek.

But bobbed up later, sea-changed. Once they found

Latin was mud and marble. Now a name

Hands me a landscape in one trickling sound.

And if a landscape then a people. Five

Syllables keep a history alive – 

Habits of love and violence, modes of song, 

Heroes and rascals all revealed in this

Encyclopaedia eleven letters long

An exaggeration, of course. The truth is that

The name has chosen itself to stand for what

I know of Gaeldom (why?) and is all these – 

Symbol, Messiah, lost Leader of a host, 

The sword of Eden and seventeen cottages.

A symbol I can walk in: where it rains.

An Eden, with its serpent. – What remains

When these stolen forces are all stripped away

Is syllables where men look up and see 

The Summer Isles impossible in the bay.

Image: Ullapool Museum