To Alexander Montgomerie

Kent Leatham translating the Scots of Hugh Barclay

click here for the Scots text

My best beloved brother of the craft,
God, if you only knew the state I’m in!
Though you’re stone-deaf, I know you are not daft,
But kind enough to any of your kin.
Oh, if you could see me in this winter wind
With tattered leggings, jumping on a spade,
Draggled in dirt, wet through to the skin,
I know you’d join me in weeping up a flood.
But most of all, my misery’s been fed
To hear how you on your side of the moor
Frolic with wine and blithely go to bed,
Forgetting me, poor plowman, I am sure.
So, silly me, oppressed with dreams of beers,
Envy you your leisure pulling Bacchus’ ears.

Kent Leatham is a poet, translator, editor, and critic. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in such journals as Fence, Zoland, Poetry Quarterly, Poets & Artists, InTranslation, Ezra, and The Battered Suitcase. Kent serves as a poetry editor for Black Lawrence Press, and lives in central California.

Hugh (Hew) Barclay of Ladyland (1560-1597) was a fellow poet and Roman Catholic with Alexander Montgomerie in the “Castalian band” of James VI. Like Montgomerie, Barclay was accused of plotting against the Protestant court, and was imprisoned twice before his eventual death by drowning on the tiny island of Ailsa Craig. Barclay’s sonnet here is part of a humorous exchange between himself, Montgomerie, and Robert Hudson, another “brother of their craft.”