It was a day peculiar to this piece of the planet,
when larks rose on long thin strings of singing
and the air shifted with the shimmer of actual angels.
Greenness entered the body. The grasses
Shivered with presences, and sunlight
stayed like a halo on hair and heather and hills.
Walking into town, I saw, in a radiant raincoat,
the woman from the fish-shop. ‘What a day it is!’
cried I, like a sunstruck madman.
And what did she have to say for it?
Her brow grew bleak, her ancestors raged in their graves
as she spoke with their ancient misery:
'We'll pay for it, we'll pay for it, we'll pay for it!'
from Weathering: poems and translations (Edinburgh: Canongate, 1978)
Scotland, as a country, has moved on since he wrote the poem in
1971, and so has he: after reading it at StAnza 2007, he announced that he would never read it again and gave an alternative to the final “We’ll pay for it” line - “We’re free of it, we’re free of it, we’re free of it!” Proclaiming that this was the end of the old Scotland, he took a cigarette lighter from his pocket and set fire to the manuscript….