A Poem for Remembrance

  07 Nov '20   |  Posted by: Birlinn

Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day look somewhat different this year, with the commemorations at the Cenotaph scaled back and distanced. Nonetheless, poppies are blooming on lapels and the spirit of remembrance endures as we honour all those who gave their lives in the Great War, and in many others since. 

Violet Jacob’s only son was killed at the Battle of the Somme in 1916. Her poetry is rooted in the language and landscape of her native Angus. This poem captures both the pain of loss and the shadow of remembrance:

The Brig
Violet Jacob (1863-1946)
I WHILES gang to the brig-side
That's past the briar tree,
Alang the road when the licht is wide
Ower Angus an the sea.
In by the dyke yon briar growes
Wi leaf an thorn, it's lane
Whaur the spunk o flame o the briar rose
Burns saft agin the stane.
An whiles a step treids on by me,
I mauna hear its fa';
An atween the brig an the briar tree
Ther gangs na ane, but twa.
Oot ower yon sea, throu duil an strife,
Ye tak yer road nae mair,
For ye've crossed the brig to the fields o life,
An ye walk for iver there.
I traivel on to the brig-side,
Whaur ilka road maun cease,
My weary war mey be lang to bide,
An you hae won to peace.
There's ne'er a nicht but turns to day,
Nor a load that's niver cast;
An there's nae wind cries on the winter brae,
But it spends itsel at last.
O you that flyer failed me yet,
Gin aince my step ye hear,
Come to yon brig atween us set,
An bide till I win near!
O weel, aye, weel, ye'll ken my treid,
Ye'll seek nae wird nor sign,
An I'll no can fail at the Brig o Dreid,
For yer hand will be in mine.

Discover more about Violet Jacob’s life and work at the Scottish Poetry Library. Her poems feature in our anthologies, Beneath Troubled Skies: Poems of Scotland at War, 1914-1918 edited by Lizzie MacGregor and A Gathering: A Personal Anthology of Scottish Poems edited by Alexander McCall Smith.

For those who would like to learn more about these events and the people who lived through them, we have a curated selection of books that will be of interest.

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