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The Deil an his Prize by Sheena Blackhall

9th May 2016

This new poem by Sheena Blackhall was inspired by an old map of Westmorland – now part of Cumbria. Sheena has incorporated these northern English place names into Scots, and turned the whole poem into a race with the Devil across the fells and moors. This poem has the sureness of a Border ballad and turns the ancient and ageless place names to terrifying account. A wonderful example of how the Scots language can stand on its own, in the sure hands of one of its major poets, and create an imaginative, even mythical story where there was nothing but a spread of these farm or landscape names.

The Deil an his Prize by Sheena Blackhall

As I cam in bi Bind Close
An roon bi Whittle Hole
I sweir I saw Auld Nick hissel
Ride by, tae catch a soul

He didna stop at Whelp’s Rigg
Flesh Beck or Barbon Fell
Tae Netherhaa he gaed at last
Tae claim a corp for Hell

Then up he yarked his sheltie’s heid
Tae Kirby Muir they sped
Ower Cat’s Hole an High Biggin
An eildritch daunce they led

The corp wi chitterin teeth cried oot
Bi Black Bull an Fell Gate
‘Oh Lord hae mercy. Set me free!’
Bit syne raise up Lang Thwaite

An ower the wastes o Westmorlan
He skirls yet frae fricht
The corp the Deevil reived awa
Frae Netherhaa, thon nicht

Sheena Blackhall