Document 129

Scots Haiku

Author(s): Mr Bruce Leeming

Copyright holder(s): Mrs Dorothy Leeming



Today Scots is mainly a literary language. Drawing on several origins - the Inglis of the Northumbrian Angles, the tongues of the Picts, the Celtic Gaels and the Scandinavian Norsemen, as well as, later, Dutch and the French of the Auld Alliance - Scottis was at one time the principal language of the Scottish court and quite distinct from the English of the period (13-16th century).

Great literature in Scots was produced by writers like Barbour, Henryson and Dunbar, the 'Makars'. A revival took place in the 18th Century under Ramsay, Ferguson and Burns. A hundred years later in the 1870s Dean Ramsay was still able to write that, despite the remorseless decline of Scots and the nation's assimilation of Standard English, 'I personally recollect old Scottish ladies and gentlemen, proud members of ancient houses, who really spoke Scotch, not, mark me, English with an accent'. Then, earlier this century during the Scottish Literary Renaissance, Hugh MacDiarmid, Douglas Young, Maurice Lindsay and others once again recreated the art of writing in Scots, referring to their lexis as 'Lallans'.

Scots speech lives on today all over Scotland in lively dialectal versions which show marked regional variations in vocabulary and pronunciation. I have tried to be consistent in this regard. The English translations are as near literal as possible.


THis form of poetic expression, deriving from ancient Chinese models, was perfected by Matsuo Basho in Japan during the 17th century. Ezra Pound (1895-1972) and The Imagists introduced it to the West early this century. Today haiku are being composed in the United States and all English-speaking countries, in France, Germany, Holland, Spain, Croatia and Romania. They are also being written in fringe languages such as Welsh and Irish Gaelic.

The haiku is restricted to three lines in the syllabic pattern 5-7-5, frequently divided by a caesura. However, since this framework provides for certain Japanese linguistic devices, haiku in other languages tend to a shorter length. There is no rhyme or metrical requirement. Usually a seasonal or nature reference is incorporated.

This is a deceptively simple poetry. It aims to keep personal feelings largely submerged and eschews 'poetical' words, similes or metaphors. Its true endeavour is to capture fleeting insights - 'haiku moments'. A poem's meaning may be obvious, pictorial perhaps, even occasionally humorous, but not uncommonly intimations of a profound character will arise, intensified by the compression of the words.

Some of the moods typical in haiku are compassion, serenity, paradox, wonder. I have sought, in addition, to infuse these haiku here and there with a few 'Scotch' idiosyncrasies, e.g., an awareness of Scotland's beauty but also of the unending struggle in nature, a certain preoccupation with the ghoulish and a wry familiarity with death. BL

Mindin AEL, wi' luve

Reid cluds lemin
at keek-o-day - refleckit
in the cray glaur

Red clouds glowing
at sunrise - reflected
in the pigsty mud

By the peth at daw
aneath new-apen hissels
cairds at brakfast

By the track at dawn
under fresh-sprung hazels
breakfasting tinkers

Hauf-road up the glen
a daurk wee lochan -
a cran tentie

Halfway up the glen
a dark little loch -
a heron watchful

On a sin-warm kaim
a hird sockin: faur ablow
a glede fidders

On a sun-warmed ridge
a shepherd resting: far below
a hawk hovers

Doon amang the birks
linties blithely jink:
cluds ahin the ben

Down in the birches
linnets happily flit:
clouds behind the hill

Birlin doon
the rowth o gean blume
taigles a bummer

Swirling down
the plenteous cherry blossom
delays a bee

Nune, cushie-doos
croodlin: he hauds the kame
o his deid wumman

Noon, wood pigeons
cooing: he holds the comb
of his dead wife

Auncient staunin stane:
sclimmin it cannie
a smaa kailworm

Ancient standing stone:
climbing it carefully
a young caterpillar

Suddent thunner -
the joco dug staps loupin

Sudden thunder -
the cheerful dog stops jumping

I' the drumly burn
skelterin doon - a morkin
an a babbie's bunnet

In the mud-dark stream
rushing down - a dead sheep
and a baby's bonnet

Sabbath morn -
i' the kirkyaird toom tinnies,
a lassie's shae

Sunday morning -
in the churchyard empty cans,
a girl's shoe

At the Ranza burn
twa laddies guddlin troot:
abune, twa jets screich

At the Ranza burn
two boys tickling trout:
above, two jets scream

I' the smirr
heich abune the hotchin toun
ane maw wimplin

In the drizzle
high above the busy town
one gull meandering

Dreich the day:
the craws cannae fash thirsels

Dull today:
the crows can't be bothered
to caw

Hairst een
lown dayset: a cheet
rivin a taidie

Autumn evening
peaceful sunset: a cat
ripping up a small toad

Heich i' the corries
snaw: doon here het sin
- kye doverin

In the high corries
snow: down here hot sun
- cattle dozing

Hielan getherin
doolfu piobaireachd keens:
new thrissels grushie

Highland gathering
sad pibroch laments:
new thistles thriving

Een athort the bey
yatt lichts gliff yallochie
- tassies plinkin

Evening across the bay
Yacht lights gleam yellowish
- glasses tinkling

A whaup's wheeple
lane amang the hills -
bairnheid mindins

A curlew's cry
lonely in the hills -
memories of childhood

Twa meenits seelence
at the cairn: ane gizzen leaf
scartin the plainstanes

Two minutes silence
at the memorial: a dry leaf
scraping the paving stones

Daunerin blithe
i' the caul - kiltit callan
troosered lass!

Happily strolling
in the cold - kilted lad
girl in trousers!

In Auld Reekie
e'en the paurk flouers -

In Edinburgh
even the park flowers -

Yon trystit lassie
dressin her Sunday coat
smirks hidlins

That engaged girl
ironing her best skirt
smiles secretly

Ladin the deid-kist
intil the pail - ane chiel
lunts a gun

Loading the coffin
into the hearse - one man
smokes a pipe

Cranreuch at daw
hoolets screichin - wraiths?
Aye, wi' toom wames

Hoar frost at dawn
owls screeching - ghosts? Yes,
with empty bellies

Loch o jeel skimmers
braw wi' gowden sin:
i' the wuids hairts dee

Frozen loch shimmers
beautiful with golden sun:
in the woods deer die

I' the snawie wynd
a chitterin gangrel:
toun lums reikin

In the snowy lane
a shivering vagrant:
town chimneys smoking

The bien kipple
sleep snog: whit wey fykie
the bawkie-birds?

The comfortable couple
sleep snugly: why are the bats

Ne'erday splore,
bauld hechts: the morn
mair weet

New Year party,
brave resolutions: still raining
in the morning

Munelicht glints
siller on the sauch plantin
- hoo daurk aneath

Moonlight shines
silver on the willow copse
- how dark below

This work is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

The SCOTS Project and the University of Glasgow do not necessarily endorse, support or recommend the views expressed in this document.


Cite this Document

APA Style:

Scots Haiku. 2024. In The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved 12 July 2024, from

MLA Style:

"Scots Haiku." The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow, 2024. Web. 12 July 2024.

Chicago Style

The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech, s.v., "Scots Haiku," accessed 12 July 2024,

If your style guide prefers a single bibliography entry for this resource, we recommend:

The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. 2024. Glasgow: University of Glasgow.


Information about Document 129

Scots Haiku


Text audience

Adults (18+)
General public
Audience size 1000+

Text details

Method of composition Handwritten
Year of composition 1990
Word count 1102
General description First collection of Haiku in Scots with an English version.

Text medium


Text publication details

Publisher Hub Editions
Publication year 1997
Place of publication Lincolnshire
ISBN/ISSN 1 870653 51 3
Edition Third

Text setting


Text type

Other Collection of poems


Author details

Author id 539
Title Mr
Forenames Bruce
Surname Leeming
Gender Male
Decade of birth 1930
Educational attainment Highers/A-levels
Age left school 18
Upbringing/religious beliefs Protestantism
Occupation Retired businessman and writer
Place of birth Glasgow
Region of birth Glasgow
Birthplace CSD dialect area Gsw
Country of birth Scotland
Place of residence Edinburgh
Region of residence Midlothian
Residence CSD dialect area midLoth
Country of residence Scotland
Father's occupation General Manager
Father's place of birth Nottingham
Father's region of birth Nottinghamshire
Father's country of birth England
Mother's place of birth Port Glasgow
Mother's region of birth Renfrew
Mother's birthplace CSD dialect area Renfr
Mother's country of birth Scotland


Language Speak Read Write Understand Circumstances
English Yes Yes Yes Yes Work and daily living
Malayalam Yes Yes No No Basic level. Lived in Far East for 14 years
Scots No Yes Yes Yes Literary language