It is 38 years since I visited Orkney, and can recall that visit as if it was yesterday. Skara Brae is truly as beautiful as the photo above shows. In my last post I mentioned in passing the poet and novelist Owen Sheers. This prompted me to pull from my shelf his book A Poets Guide to Britain: How the Landscape Inspired Our Greatest Poems. I have not been fortunate to view the BBC 4 TV series of the same name – some of you might have access to this program. It is to a poem of Edwin Muir (1887-1959) I turn, he himself born in Orkney and lived on the island until he was 14 when the family moved to Glasgow. This move was traumatic for the young Muir, he later described it as “being expelled from Eden into the fallen world”
I lived in the far north of Scotland for five years and there experienced the never ending daylight, or so it seemed, in the summer months. After an evening round of golf one could come home at 9.30pm and there would still be plenty of daylight to mow the grass! However, the reverse was also true in the long dark days of winter, when daylight ended closer to 4.30pm! Muir’s poem The Northern Islands is written in the summer and describes the never ending daylight. For us now in the month of April the days are beginning to lengthen, bringing with it the joy of springtime and the promise of summer. Please pause and ponder these words and enjoy every line. My favorite two lines – “These islands have the sun all to themselves” and “While the tranced waves run wavering up the sand.”
The Northern Islands
In favoured summers
These islands have the sun all to themselves
And light a toy to play with, weeks on end.
The empty sky and waters are a shell
Endlessly turning, turning the wheel of light,
While the tranced waves run wavering up the sand.
The beasts sleep when they can, midnight or midday,
Slumbering on into unending brightness.
The green, green fields give too much, are too rank
With beautiful beasts for breeding or for slaughter.
The horses, glorious useless race, are leaving,
Have the old ways left with them, and the faith,
Lost in this dream too comfortable and goodly
To make room for a blessing? Where can it fall?
The old ways change in the turning, turning light,
Taking and giving life to life from life. Edwin Muir
from the rising of the sun
to the going down of the same
your name is to be praised.
You, O Creator God
have set the sun, moon and stars in their place.
I rejoice in the gift of day and night.
Holy God be present to all who pray,
and especially so to those who sense
their days are few due to illness or frailty.
Comfort those who comfort the weak,
provide strength to those who offer comfort
in the midst of so many demands and challenges.
Bless us all in this mortal life that we might live
conscious of this precious gift of life. Amen.