Friday, September 26, 2014

Walking through the ruins of Castle Urquhart


We wander along tidy walkways
through these ruins of Castle Urquhart,
once a 5th Century fort situate on this high mound,
overlooking the Great Glen cut through by the River Ness.

Here, battles were fought with sword and dagger
and siege for Scottish Independence.
These stone walls, strong over hundreds of years, 
held by the Scots, and then the English, 
and back again: even the Robert the Bruce fought here. 
Fierce arguments, tenuous agreements, political machinations, 
dead-of-night attack. 

Until finally, the time of battles passed, 
the people of the Glen took stones
from the castle for their cottages; 
they fished along the Ness, 
and told stories of mighty armies, 
the Earls of Moray, the Clan MacDonald, 
Lords of the Isles, that once fought here. 

Perhaps that line of rowan trees, the one that separates
the castle from the car park where tour buses wait,
will protect the history here. 
I touch the leaves of this traveler's tree, 
my first sight of a rowan tree. I wonder 
if the berries carry poison and hope 
the rowan will flower twice.

This poem began as a daily commitment to link pictures from my travels (to Scotland in 2009 for Standing Stones) with a bit of writing. But the vote for Scottish independence from Great Britain is now over. Reports suggest a time of healing will be needed as political discussions begin, for while we no longer arm ourselves with dagger and sword, families argued most fiercely whether to stay a part of Great Britain or to separate. A British commentator noted, "We didn't actually fight a war over this; we resolved it at the polls." A not-so-gentle dig at the American civil war of the 19th Century. Yes, but that comment didn't take into account those centuries of conflict between Scotland and England that yet simmer.  

Read more of Urquhart's history HERE or HERE.

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