Morag/Carmina Gadelica

Words: © Kate Barnes   Music: © Gordon Bok


Kate Barnes of Appleton (now Poet Laureate of the State of Maine) was a young mother living in northern Mexico with 3 children when she wrote Carmina Gadelica.*  She had loved th esounds and shapes of Gaelic words as a child.  After she came to hear my musical setting of the old Norn legend, The Play of the Lady Odivere, she sent her own poem to us, which we later included in the concert-portion of production of that astonishing tale.

            The present setting that Carol and I use for Kate's poem is a tune I made for our lovely friend Morag Henriksen of the Isle of Skye.


Carol: harp                 Gordon: 'cellamba


Carmina Gadelica


Outlands remain: stony lands, moorlands, islands

The cave in the cliff with the wave running over the

            floor of it,

Mist, and shapes in the mist; tall stones in the


Wind like the bellowing bull and the bruling roar of it

     But lost is the forest the fleeing princess hurled

     Down with her comb; Middle earth

     Becomes Other-world.


Made things are found, of stone, or bone, or gold;

A few old men tell tales of the race-not-human

And of their beasts; the black bull, the bold,

Shaggy small horse, the kind seal – the doe that is



     But the white swan singing before us

     On the dark water

     Is dying as she sings –

     And she a god's daughter.


*Gaelic songs


Morag/Carmina Gadelica is recorded on the album Gatherings;  Morag is also in the songbook One to Sing, One to Haul