Da Hermit o Gambli



Wi da rowl o da swal an da waash o da wave

da Hermit o Gambli sleeps soond in his cave,

fur da saut i’da air is a pheesic dey say,

an he’s fairly laid-by bi da end o da day

whan he oags til his bed wi his whiskers a-frush

whaur he snurkles an snores wi a snort an a snush

in a buddle o nets on a feddery mat

whaur he sloos in his böl snuggit up laek a rat,

lyin deid tae da world – wi never a care

fur der’s never a sowl at wid keen he wis dere

while he dreams o a world laek da wan at he sees

as fresh as da tides an as pure as da breeze.

His cave cuts da base o a ninety fit drap

an you can’t scrime da place lookin doon frae da tap,

while grit waurry-baas keep him safe oot o reach

frae dem at might try steerin boats fur da beach,

an der’s non at wid risk walkin roond frae below

wi da treenky o waater at cuts aff da gyo

whaur da sea funnels in wi a rummel an roar

dan it’s whilkit back oot wi a sook an a snore.

So he’s troubled by nauthin an buddered by non

an he’s blyde o da life ‘at he’s livin alon.

He’s a moot o a man an he’s always been thin

wi a guid heid o hair an a whiskery chin.

he’s as tyoch as da Tom-cat – knyiff as a troot

an he’s kramed little more as fur toothik I doot,

while da smookie he’s made frae an owld tautie sack,

haes ‘PRODUCE OF EGYPT’stamped on da back,

an he looks laek King Tutin his wipple o rags

fur hit’s years frae he fan a fine heeshian bag,

an da wan at he wears, though hit’s rivven in rints

der’s been nauthin bit plastic-bags washen-up since,

an hoo owld he might be isna aisy ta tell

bit he could be as owld as da Mummies himsel,

fur you’d never decipher da columns an raws

whaur he’s coontit da muins wi a scrit on da wau,

An hit’s been mony muins frae he grippled wi ills

fur he’s fit as a fiddle an owld as da hills.

He maks ready fur winter by gadderin wylks

in discairdit cartons o Norwegian mylk.

he keeps dem in pickle fur he keens dey’ll no spoil

while da rest o his cartons hadd cod-liver oil,

an whatever da bruck at’s been dumpit by een

da Hermit o Gambli recycles ageen,

fur he’s filled him a seckful o morroless shoes

while he waits fur da day der’s a pair he can use,

bit he uses da shoes while he waits fur da pair

as da bits in a game at dey caa Solitaire.

Da Hermit wirks herd an his wark never ends

hailin lobster an crab in old creels at he mends,

he lives helty an weel, fur he gobbles dem raw

purlin maet frae da shal – sookin juice frae da claw, 

bit he never aets mair as his lairder can spare

an by dis he maks sure hit’ll never growe bare.

he keens whit each saeson maun bring laek afore;

da simmers, da hairsts an da winters an voars,

how each passin pairt is a link in a loop

i’da circle o life laek a heevenly hoop,

an he waatches in winder as chicks frae der eegs

start simmer as nauthin bit fluff-baas on leegs,

till tottery wings, redder awkward an stiff

laanch feddery tings intae flight frae da cliff.

Fur da simmers ir short an da chick haes ta trive

afore winters onslaught, if dey hopp tae survive.

An just laek da fluff-baas he haes ta be strong

fur da winter at comes will be woefully long.

an da waas o his cave will be dreary an damp

i’da splutterin light at he gits frae a lamp.

frae a colly-lamp made frae an owld pilchard tin

full o cod-liver oil wi a week dippit in,

an mony’s da airt he might shokk wi da steek

whan da lamp fills da cave wi a tikk fishy-reek.

Da winter’ll pass wi a thunder an shakk

till he keens bi da skirls at da tirricks ir back,

an just as da last o his lamp-oil is brunt

he looks fur da birds wi da fine simmer munts,

bit da simmer at comes is a scunnersome shug

wi nae sign o a tirrick tae swoop at his lugs,

while da fluff-baas at hatched ir depooperit tings 

an dey’ll no git enyoch tae pit strent in der wings.

Noo da Hermit himsel senses sinister cheenge

as shoormals creep higher an da saesons seem streenge,

while da haet-wave at follows is werr as he towt

wi da burns up abune dryin up wi da drowt,

an da fresh-waater dreep at his cartons can save

just dries til a stainon da ruif o his cave,

whaur he lies laek ta blöv in a lapper o swaet

fur it’s closs i’da cave wi da damp an da haet,

an fearin da warst – almost certain tae come

he rigs up a raft oot o five-gallon drums

an tinks tae himsel dat it’s wise ta be faert

dan tae wirry fur nauthin an be caught unprepared,

an he stoors at da heevins at’s never been bluer

fur a tinter o wind or a plump o a shooer,

bit a wadder-eye wint wi da wyes o da wind

tinks ill o da caulm wi a swal cauvin in,

fur it growes frae a gooster at lowsed wi a snort

frae a peerie black lump settin up i’da nort.

Hit’s an ill wind fur sure as da warnin wid shaw,

An he’s teen a guid breath makin ready ta blaw.

He grabs whit he can frae da proil an da truss, 

an he bags up shoes whaur dey’re lyin in a kyuss,

dan da Hermit hoists sail, settin oot wi da tide

fur he keens deeper waater is safer tae ride,

fur dere he can bob on da sea laek a cork

while da banks taks da warst o da hurricans work.

(Part Two: Da hermit discovers dat werr things really do happen at sea)

Da Hermit feels seeker as ever he’s felt

while clingin tae hopp – an a buoyancy belt,

whaur he hings laek a mott ona moontainous wave

lost on da sea mony miles frae his cave,

as he flotts trow da froad o graet brakkers at roar

wi his face turnin green as a mödow in voar,

da Hermit hadds on as da hurricans blaw

till hit aises a day whan da wind faas awau,

an faerin der might be anidder tae come

he dreengs up da knots on his five-gallon drums.

whaurever it taks im – he haesna a clue,

perhaps tae da laund o mylk cartons and shoes.

Wi nauthin bit waater surroondin his raft

he stares at da sea in a dwaum turning daft,

though he never wis silly, or dat wye inclined,

an he keens at da sea can play tricks on da mind,

whan peerie dark dots i’da distance appear

he glowers at da dots takin shaep as dey near,

an madman or no – laek a blockeet he gaffs

‘Ah’m adrift on da sea wi a herd o giraffe!’

Faur frae da laund whaur da roustabouts toil

dreelin hols i’da seabed an sookin up oil,

whaur claggy black crude frae da wels at dey bore

is pumpit frae oil-rigs trow pipelines ashore,

makin petrols an plastics an bitumen tarsf

fur layin new rodds an fur fuelin up cars

pittin haet i’da homs, keepin planes i’da sky

pittin power tae da things at we need ta git by,

frae da rockets in space tae da kettles at boil –

dey’d drap an dey’d stop if hit wisna fur oil.

Bit da oil at dey burn fills da air ful o fumes

an every machine laeves a pooshinous plume

an high i’da sky whaur da gases collect

twiltin da eart wi a greenhoose effect

da atmosphere warms wi da haet dat it traps

meltin da ice on da twa polar caps-

so da oceans maust rise fur dey’re ful tae da brim

an dat’s whit da Hermit fan happenin tae him.

Bit I doot if da Hermit o Gambli wid gaff

at dis, which he tinks is a herd o giraffe!

Frae a distance da leegs an da neck seem da same

an da heid at da tap is a smau spootin flame;

da rigs dat ir sookin frae vast reservoirs

da crude tae mak petrols, da plastics an tars,

whaur wirk never stops, be it daylight or dark

an grit helicopters flee men tae der wark.

Da Hermit o Gambli is startin tae grasp

whit he towt wis giraffe – is da nest o da wasp

fur he watches da wasps as dey ging an dey come

whaur dey laund an dey lift, whaur dey hover an hum,

as dey nose trow da air wi da chugger dey mak

frae da whirrlygig wings bizzin roond on der backs.

bit whatever it is, he just prays tae be saved

frae wasps an giraffe or a waatery grave,

an da pikkel he’s in might be werr as he tinks

fur da drums irna tight an he’s startin tae sink.

yas, he prays laek a trooker unhumbled an brash,

while da heevins reply wi a touch o panache,

fur da Loard truly wirks in in mysterious ways

An hit’s laekly no aften he’ll answer, ‘OLÉ!’

(Part Three: Da hermit performs the miracle o da Spanish smuck)

Da Hermit looks up whaur his saviour has roared

frae da grit Spanish trawler at brails im aboard,

whaur he lies laek a turbot aa slubbit an flatched

in a hopper o tiddlers dey shuil doon a hatch,

til he hauls himself up on his tottery-pins

wi da inhad o life at he’s still hadden in,

while da fishermen styme in a fuddle o sleep

‘at da wheerest o species dey’ve trawled frae da deep,

til he oags frae da slub an dey see whit he is

an een offers his haund as a gesture o paece,

dan dey tak im below an dey kyucker im up

wi a grit muckle mug o sweet sherry ta slup.

He stivvels up splendit on omelets an rice

an dry sausage reestit wi paprika spice.

on Lentils an tapas – a fine peerie snack

‘at dey mak frae da tiddlers dey didna throw back.

dan shune eftir aetin dey aa lay dem doon

tae tak a siestain late eftirnoon,

til dey rise wi a scowl feelin raumished an worn

wi a wiss at da fishin could wait fur damoarn.

Wi da vimmer o warps and da runkle o chain

an da snyirks an da whin o da winch under strain

dey wirk an dey sleep wi da rattle an din

as da net rumbles oot an he rumbles back in,

fur da boat doesna pey wi da net sittin dry

an wi nets i’da waater shö barely gits by.

He wirks wi da cook while he’s earnin his keep

an he’s quick tae pick up whit he plöts an he pleeps,

fur he spaeks in a lingo quite simple an plain

‘at dey’re here fur da fishin is feenished in Spain.

Fur da oceans ir bare whaur dey’ve pikkit dem clean

an you’ll trawl fur a week fur a tin o sardines,

bit here, whan hit’s scarce he maun feetch a fine price

an da times der a glush hit’s aye maet fur da grice,

da Hermit replies, ‘Hit’s nae winder dey’re bare

whan you fish for da sake o da fish bein dere,

whan you trawl night an day fur da tons at you tak

wi da half o it ös – an da rest shivvelled back!’

Dey see at da Hermit haes wisdom an vynd

an da puzzlemint growes in der curious minds,

til dey röt trow his stuff fur a clue at might tell

wha exactly he is, an frae whaur he might hail,

an da cook at’s inspectin da seckful o shoes

roars, ‘Sweet Midder Mary! hit canna be true!’

(Da sam as he bruiled whan his bunions wir cured

eftir steepin his taes in da waater o Lourdes,)

which some wid caa miracles – some caa it luck,

as he waels frae da shoe-bag his long missin smuck!

A smuck at he lost wi da scuppers awaash

as he platched furt tae hoy-oot a bucket o trash.

Noo hit’s nailed tae his waa, laek a crucifix tacked

An he worships da smuck Midder Mary browt back.

So tinkin da Hermit at cam wi da smuck

wis sent bi da Saints as a sign o good luck,

da smuck turnin up wis a lottery dream

laek a sign tae retire tae da comforts o heim.

So dey tankit da Saints wi a graet muckle spread

which dey glunsh till dey’re stuggit an gantin fur bed. 

yaeh, da fishin can wait, bi da soond o da snores

as da Hermit o Gambli sets coorse fur da shore.


Whaur bulldozers flattened da forest in clumps

a sprinklin o saplings grew back atween stumps,

bit da saplings at grew wir a hazard, dey said,

at da side o da rodd whaur da motorists sped,

fur da drivers frae Aas dey traivelled tae B

might skid frae da rodd an crash intil a tree

an der’s also da risk wi a car speedin fast

‘at da driver neebs aff wi da trees whizzin past.

noo dey zip an dey zoom an dey rip an dey race

on a black tarry strip trow a wide open space.

An da rodd-planners towt as dey choppit doon trees

ta lay da rodd streyt as da craw usually flees,

bit he twists an he turns an da journey is lang

an da planners admit dey wir woefully wrang,

fur da distance is doobled – da cause o it aa – 

dey foolishly followed a zigzaggin craw!

Da laund is as grit as a hermit might pyod

til he comes til a stop at da side o da rodd,

whaur he watches da cars as he staunds at a loss

fur da chance at he tinks he’ll win safely across.

bit da traffic is tikk an da highway is pinned

as bumper tae bumper da line never thins,

an as faur as da Hermit o Gambli can see

der’s traffic frae Astreamin steady tae B,

an he watches dis line til da end o da day

whan dey turn dem at Ban heid homwards fur A,

ony gap in da traffic da Hermit can see

is as rare in dis laund as a craw in a tree.

Bit he waits fur his chance an he crosses at last

as da sun i’da sky sinks awau i’da wast, 

an just as da last o da daylight is don

da Hermit o Gambli is still staugin on

till he reaches da edge o da forest o stumps

an he staunds at da grinnd o an owld rubbish dump.

Trow a rubbery reek boalinup wi da breeze

frae da flames o a fire in da dump at he sees,

he scrimes at der’s someen at’s slockin da fire

o owld engine oil an a bald tractor tyre

dan his eyes start ta swee in da rubbery smokk

while he hausts an he hurls an he splutters an shokks,

whan da een at da fire turns his heid i’da fyunk

an draps whit he’s döin wi a stoorieo spunks,

whaur da Hermit maks oot i’da glim o da glöd

der’s a brut o an Ogre at’s birsin fur bluid.

Wi da skin o a tod, he’s warty an green

an a hoilter laek nauthin da Hermit is seen,

wi knuckles laek walnuts an lunderin knaevs

tae mak a man wiss fur a waatery grave,

he’s a raugerous roosk wi a roilt o a staff

‘at wid tak bit ae wap tae mirackle a nyaff,

bit dis gogar of an Ogre is a canty owld sowl

an he cullies da Hermit ‘at’s ready tae gowl

as he roars wi a gaff an a shakk o his heid

dat he’d faur redder sit wi some poetry instead.

So he shows im oot-waelins o poetry galore

‘at fock hae nae interest ta read ony more,

dan he bids im tae bide as he swills aff a plaet

fur da tauties he’s raustin ir ready tae aet,

an da Hermit replies he’d be blyde as his guaest

tae sit wi a tautie an aet im in paece.’

So dey reesled da ess o da owld tractor tyre

an warmin as freends bi da glöd o da fire,

dey swappit some stories an smau tittletat

whaur een laekit dis bit he couldna preeve dat,

an da freendship grew closser da deeper dey wirmed

fur somethin as bad ta mak baith o dem squirm;

marzipan, liver an celery raw,

wis stuff at dey baith couldna stamack avau,

although liver wis somethin da Hermit could thole

if he cut it up peerie dan swallied it whole,

dan da Ogre said, ‘Man, wid hit no be a truth

dat wirsit’s da warst du could pit in dy mooth?’

so dey tortured demsels wi da towt, as dey spak,

o da squeak on da teeth at da wirsit wid mak.


Da Ogre leets on at he’s pondered a plan

an he reckons twa heids ta be wiser dan wan,

(Unless ‘at dey’re sheep heids – dan it follows ta say

hit maks little differ hoo mony you hae!)

Dan he tells o a man at dey caa’d Robin Hood,

an his ill-trickit ootlaws at bade i’da woods

(Fur he reckons da Hermit’s da pictir o him

if he hed a green kep an a bit o a trim!)

An whanever da poor wir in pikkelmints drear

he spanged frae da trees an he helpit wi cheer.

so dat wis da story an dis wis da plan

tae help Midder Naiter fight back against Man,

an twa heids agreed, ‘Whatever we dö

da plan is dat Man will be better aff tö.’

So triggin da tyres o an owld tipper truck

dey stappit her ful wia hivviko bruck

dan crankin her up, wi a lodd eftir lodd

dey shiftit da rubbish an blockit da rodd

an faster as juggernaughts shuiled it aside

dey tippit it back i’da hert o da night,

an keepit da bulldozers trang wi der wark

clearin da highways frae daylight tae dark,

til Man wisened up tae da war against muck

an started recyclin da bulk o his bruck

fur he fan ‘at da less at he pat tae da dump

da less he fan lyin on da rodd in a lump,

so he hained whaur he could an tried ta mak dö

while da trees ‘at wir spared made da air fresher tö.

Da reebels wir winnin an didna sit back!

but sat an devised different means of attack

as dey dang doon da doors o da factory sheds

whaur da coo an da grice an da shicken wis bred,

dey flattened da fences an raev aff da grinnds

an left dem ta waunder as free as da wind,

jammin da traffic in lines withoot end

wi motorists hittin da brakes fur a hen!

While da fairmers, at first, brawly tirn wi da wark

frae shaestin der livestock ‘at grazed in da park;

dey wirna sae tirn as dey profited thrice 

whan a healthier coo feetched a healthier price.

an da drivers frae Awint ta journey tae B

whan idlin in traffic fur munts cam ta see,

tae traivel laek dis wi da car didna pey

so dey jamp on a train at wis gyaun onywye.

An fur dem at still drive, while dey’re girnin, I vow

der’s non o dem noticed da forest at growes.

(Part Five: La Fiesta)

Noo ah’ll hain on da paper an save me a page,

bit yon wis da crux o da war at dey waged.

an da Loard can be tankit he antit a prayer

fur da Hermit, fur Man an da Eart at he spared.

an somewhaur in Spain der’s a port on da caust

‘at hadds dem a foy o ‘Da smuck at wis lost.’

whaur fock used tae queue on a Friday fur kippers

dey’re flockin in noo fur da souvenir slippers,

as dey spaek o a man an da wisdom he shared,

wi a toosle o hair an a toosk o a baerd;

o his sermon at shawed how da fock might be fed

if dey made proper ös o da fish at dey hedd.

Hoo he cam ta be dere – dey’re still winderin yit

Bit da scriptures wid say he crossed water on fit.

Da stories shune growe an da rumours ir rife

hoo da hurrican blew an dey faered fur der lives,

hoo it onli dilled doon on da day at he cam –

a miracle, yaeh, an der’s plenty da sam

fur da cook an his crew frae returnin tae Spain

ir been cured o da cowld an a dose o chilblains.

so dey hae dem a spree wi da sherry dey cug

while an effigy high trow da village is lugged;

An image as grit as da truth at it lacks

o a swaap o a sheeld in a heeshian sack.

O da Hermit an Ogre – noo whit cam o dem?

ah’m happy ta say at dey’re still i’da frame.

Fur dey sleep in da wreck o a Volvo saloon

wi a sunroof at lets in da light o da moon, 

an da Hermit neebs aff i’da boot a da car

while da Ogre recites Walter Scott’s ‘Lochinvar.’

He keens it bi hert an he’s practised until

hit faas frae his tongue laek an army in drill.

Laek da baet o a drum an da rhythm he keeps

he reads till da Hermit is soondly asleep,

wha dreams bi da poetry he’s back in his cave

wi da rowl o da swal an da waash o da wave.