A hunner year syne this year, the European warld wis tearin itsel tae targets. In Scotland, the hoodies had been croakin fir the brave kiltit lads tae leave their faimlies an ging aff the fecht in the Great War. Reid burns o bluid flowed oot the glens o Angus, Aberdeenshire, Ross, tae slake the drouth o French an Belgian fields. Maist o these puir wee laddies widnae come back fae the carnage hail, neither in body nor mind. Ilka clachan in Scotland seems tae hae a monument tae “the Glorious Deid”, wi a leet o nemmes langer nor the nummer o fowk that bide there the day.
This gloaming-hour o man’s mercy wis brichtened by a licht fae the east. The Tsars were ousted, an the provisional governement cowpit. The bluidy ruination o the Russian fowk unner the wecht o thae black-hertit Tsars was owre. Fir aince, the doon-hauden fowk had thrown aff their yoke an lit a fire in the hoose o their maisters.
It wis hope, hope in aa the derkness o the age.
Fir aa that Russian Socialism hasnae wrocht the future it ettled tae, the fire an the hope o thae days can inspire us yet. Be radical, be bauld. Gin a thoosan years o serfdom can be dinged-doon in a puckle years by a few engaged Communists, whit can we acheieve here?
Nou’s the day, ma brithers an sisters. An nou’s the hour. Pit yir shooders tae the cause. Ane mair muckle shove an the British stane will at last be shiftit.
Edwin Morgan giftit us in Scotland a braw owresettin o Bolshevik poet Mayakovsky. Here’s Billy Kay, readin To the Bourgeoisie. A poem like a gunshot, soundin the stert o the Revolution.
[Forty-four years after their first publication, Edwin Morgan’s versions of the great twentieth-century Russian futurist Vladimir Mayakovsky are back in print. Wi the haill voice collects twenty-five of Morgan’s translations into Scots, accompanied by his own introduction and glossary. Buy it from Carcanet Press here]
See also the Edwin Morgan Archive here.