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W.K. Buckley

The Red Heather of Stenness

Across from the Firth of Pentland,
where the rough green seas still blow
in the blue, Orkney deep nights,
you will see the Stenness Stones.*

There men and women find love
in the cold and fearless heather.
They look for the gleaming foxglove,
locking hands to the Stenness together.

The winds are cold and horizons dim,
stone houses brood on the hills,
but the voices heard in the mountain streams,
bring lovers to the valley fulfilled.

In her robes the girl to the Temple of Moons,
where she kneels and prays to Woden.
She prays to fulfill her promises made,
and vows on the heather of Odin.

In his kilt the boy to the Temple of Suns,
where he falls on his knees before her.
he prays to Woden for his promises to woman,
and vows on the red glowing heather.

Then both lovers go to the Holed Stone
and pledge faith to each other’s souls.
They clasp their hands through the hole,
and look out at the green, raging sea
as it roars to the Firth of Pentland.

But the ghost of dead lovers, in Callanish hills,
who made pledges to the Ring of Brodgar,
moan in the lochs and dark magic cairns,
and look for their hearts in the crofts.

Scotland is hard. Scotland is hard
on its young and wild women of Pentland.
They take vows on those gods in the stones
while Woden demands both courage and fear

in its men from the cold loch of Broom.
Oaths that are sworn, are taken alone,
in the fields and mountains of Scotland.
So sing for the lovers, who pledge to the stones,

for they brood in their duties together.
Sing to the Pentland. To the terrible quick love.
To the hills in their glowing, red heather.



*An early Bronze Age stone ring (Ring o’ Brodgar) that is located in the parish
of Stenness on the Orkney Islands of northern Scotland.