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The Tyger

16th February 2015

The Tyger by William Blake, owerset intae Scots by Scott Forster

Why might we translate a poem from English into Scots? Not because there is anyone in Scotland who cannot read it in English. It is more about the potential of the language, the enjoyment of words, the potential of grace and suitability of Scots to the task of translation. Here is a poem of undisputed power in English, a classic, written in London some 200 years ago and well known to all, and in an English which does not sound archaic today.

The translator of this poem, Scott Forster, has given us a surprisingly strong version of this visionary poem. Faithful to the structure of the original he relies on Scots vocabulary to bring us the burning, glowing creature of the night. Blake, a Londoner, would have been surprised to hear his poem in Scots, but I think he would have approved. Interestingly the title spelling of Tyger, offbeat as it is in the English, is perfect in Scots.

The Tyger By William Blake  1757–1827
Translated by Scott Forster


Tyger Tyger, lowin bricht,
In the wuids o the nicht;
What immortal hand or ee,
Cuid frame yer timorsome symmetrie?                                  


In whit hyne deeps or heiven.        
Burnt the fire o yer een?
Oan whit wings daur he aspire?            
Whit the haun, daur keppit the fire?      

  
An whit shouder, an whit airt,
Cuid kinch the sinnons o yer hairt?      
An whan yer hert began tae beat,                          
Whit dreid haund? an whit dreid feet?    


Whit the haimmer? whit the chain,              
In whit ingle wis yer brain?                              
Whit the stiddie? whit dreid grasp,                
Daur its deidlie terrification's clasp!                     ,


Whan the starns  hove doun thir spears                
An wattered heiven wi thir tears:
Daed he smile his darg tae see?
Daed he whae makkit the Lamb mak thee?

 
Tyger Tyger, lowin bricht,
In the wuids o the nicht;
What immortal hand or ee,
Cuid frame yer timorsome symmetrie?