The Mausoleum, Dumfries

His crypt sealed by stones made by mother earth,
A soft voice: This is where Robert Burns lies,
Yon granite gaol is unmoved, unchanged,
Tourists trek on through the graveyard, a dearth
Of sound until they leave his hallowed cries
Behind, written in black and well arranged;
Winter’s bite has no place here, Spring’s new face
Is turned towards the warmth of noonday’s sun,
Daffodil and crocus don bright sarongs,
Snowdrops care not for their cold corner place,
Bunched up, battling against oblivion,
Mouths agape, no one hears their muted songs:

Burns’ bronzed lips are compressed in dour dismay,
Stilled, forever, within immortal clay.


Conversation with John Keats

John Keats looks at me from a book cover,
And in this cheerless night-chamber what now?
The suppliant’s prayer, or perhaps a dream?
Fact is, I viewed you as a spurned lover,
Daring damnation by your beetled brow,
This thick night aesthetic pleasure died, with a scream.

“Of all the lilting lilies in my care,
Why you, stranded upon an Elysian shore,
With’ring, shivering as you elegize,
A farthing’s fortune, bathed in silv’ry light,
The moon’s a grave companion, troubled troubadour,
Wilt thou court cold waves, ere ermine’s sunrise?”

Suckle at the sea’s bright breast – not this bard!
“Sing then, poor fool, hoist the poet’s petard!”

Unlike Landor, my gifts bring no Gebrir,
The ageless university of verse
Brought forth magnificent thoughts, forged in faith,
Tho I saw Alba’s literati sneer,
We teem with tongues, including Scots and Erse;
Bring down Babel, so Christ, the saviour say’th.

“Peerless poetry self-perpetuates,
Breeds a bewild’ring multitude of clones,
Whilst we poor serfs play triumph’s tardy game,
Oft as lowly undergraduates;
Plebs sate earth, with dust from decaying bones,
Think not to muse upon a poet’s fame.”

I muse at how a minstrel seeks revenge!
“Seek not carven name, on a mossy henge!”


MacDiarmid’s Grace

‘Poetry, the greatest power amongst men.’
Hugh MacDiarmid’s grace,
Then I shall let you know
That is not the case,
Perhaps I am beholding to him,
Just the same,
And Scotland’s still as grim
In all but name!

MacDiarmid’s Grace


‘Poetry, the greatest poo’er mangst men.’
Hugh MacDiarmid’s grace,
Syne I’se let ye ken
That’s no’ the case,
Aiblins A’m behaudin tae ‘im,
Juist the same,
An Alba’s still as grim
In aa but name!

© Sam Gilliland

Residing in Scotland, Sam Gilliland is a champion of Lallans (the Scottish language) poetry and a recipient of Sangschaw’s prestigious MacDiarmid Tassie. With three previous collections of poetry published his work in Scots includes A Rickle O Banes (Penny Wheep Press). Founder/Secretary of Ayrshire Writers & Artists Society the organisation became the home of The Scottish International Open Poetry Competition, to which he devoted twenty eight years of his life as co-administrator and judge.

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8 Responses

  1. Satyananda Sarangi

    Greetings Sir!

    These are gems from the master himself. I read your interview on this website the other day and all I can say is that it is quite inspiring.


  2. Joseph Charles MacKenzie

    With Gilliland we see the flowering of the Scottish Renaissance movement of MacDiarmid’s day, an efflorscence which did not, in fact, take place while the poets of the period were alive. The world has had to wait for Gilliland, the youngest of that illustrious group.

    And the richesse of language is easily apparent, the intertextuality, that characteristically confrontational meditation on death and immortality so wonderfully and even dramatically placed before us.

    Sam Gilliland’s place in the pantheon of Scottish poetry is unique and in many ways superior even to those whom the 20th century acknowledged as his own personal mentors and masters. Gilliland has surpassed all of them in turn.

    This is the power of a true barrd. Scotland’s last.

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Well, let’s hope he’s not the last. I trust Gilliland’s example will inspire other writers of Lallans in Caledonia. All it takes is one good disciple!

  3. James Sale

    The concluding couplet of the Dumfries poem is truly marvellous: the observation, the alliteration, and the paradox – the clay, not the poet or the poetry, being ‘immortal’, so cause enough for Burn’s ‘dour dismay’. Wonderful.

  4. Donna Mackert

    Sam was a good friend of mine for over 20 years. We exchanged poetry until 2019 and I had no further response. Is my friend and mentor still alive?



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