Another for Hector

We had intended to assault gentle reader with expostulations of Scotch chauvinism on the occasion of Saint Andrew’s Day, then our “DOS Devil” took the site down again. (From Glasgow, perhaps?) But as Lord Jowls insists, we cannot let the occasion pass without some Caledonian gesture. Let us therefore belatedly resort to YouTube, recommending this old Capercaillie chestnut, “Canan nan gaidheal,” which laments the loss of the Gaelic language in the Scottish uplands:

          It wasn’t the snow from the North
          It wasn’t the chill from the East,
          It wasn’t the gale from the West,
          But the disease that blanched from the South
          The blossom the foliage the stem & the root
          Of my language, my race, & my people. …

As we were given to understand, while rising & falling on the knee of Annie Graham, our beloved Cape Breton grandmother, Gaelic is unlike English. It is spoken & sung with the full mouth & throat. (“There can be no Gaelic ventriloquists.”) This would seem to be how they can cluster or “dipthong” consonants together — four or five of them into a single sound. Notice how the adored Karen Matheson’s lips curl as she is forming the words, first left then right, as if she were Jean Chrétien on both sides. That cannot be an affectation, for our grandma did it, too. Mrs Matheson was evidently born into the language, & the near impossibility of mastering the physical means to Gaelic, for those not acculturated from birth, helps explain why so much Celtic fringe music sounds shallow & inauthentic. Or so we opine: that God is in such details. The band are prob’ly all commies & nationalist hooligans, of course, but who bloody cares so long as they are singing?

It is in this version by our fellow Torontonian, John McDermott, that we are inclined to present the Scots’ anthem. The alternative lyrics are priceless, for they start with gratuitous insults to foreigners, then descend through degrees of glowering aggression to what we might call the full Scottish “psychopathos,” steeped in gore:

           Let Italy boast of her gay gilded waters,
           Her vines & her bowers & her soft sunny skies;
           Her sons drinking love from the eyes of her daughters,
           Where freedom expires amid softness & sighs. …