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A Sang Anent Major Eatherly


set owre frae John Wain


(Wain’s jot:) The beuk (Fernand Gigon’s Formula for Death – the Atom Bombs and After) tells an aa hou Major Claude R. Eatherly, pilot o the aircraft that cairriet the saicont bomb til Nagasaki , wis later smat wi nichtmeirs. His wife is quotit sayin: “He’ll aften lowp up in the mids o the nicht an goller oot in an inhuman vyce that gars me grue: ‘Drap it, drap it.’”

                Major Eatherly begoud ti hae short spells o wuidness, says Gigon. The doctors pit it doun til extreme nervous depression, an Eatherly wis awardit a pension o $237 a month.

                Seeminlie he saw this ‘as a bonus for murder, as a peyment for whit haed been duin til the twa Japanese ceities.’ He neiver liftit the siller, an fell intil petty theft. For this he wis jylt in Fort Worth preison.





Guid news. He maun hae loued them efter aa.

His orders wis ti brander banes til ash.

He flew up wi the bomb an lat it faa,

an syne his orders wis ti tak the cash,


a hansel for a hero, that he wadna pree,

but whit wey no nae pynt ti speir,

juist gin he touched it he wad dee,

he focht his ain, an no his kintra’s weir.


His orders telt him he wis no a man:

but tempert instrument but stain,

aa fears an passions steikit lik a fan:

wi nae mair free will nor his plane.


But nou he focht ti win his manheid back.

Stey frae the sunset o his pyne he flew

fornent the daurkness o thon last attack.

It wis for luve he focht, ti mak that true.





Tak a life an ye’ll aye dee a bit: pit haims

on ocht that muves an feels, whitiver ugsome,

no necessar, or hatesome, an ye’r caain doun

the haill sum o life. An that’s deein a bit yersel.


Takkin yer enemy’s life haunders him,

a bittie, at yer ain destruction. Thon’s whit wey

enemies is hatit: sen thay gar us kill them.

A murtherer maun sheuch the deid man in;

but his crime unhowks an cowps on leivin fowk,

til thaim it faas maun nou snowk oot the murtherer,

murther him, and dern him in a yirdin, thaim it is

that nou drees the cauld fingir o daith preein thair banes.


Animals hates daith. A trappit tod will chowe

throu its ain leg: life is that important

that he forgies himsel the thraws,

greein, for dear life, til the dispert teeth,

shairin throu bane an marra, the gantin whaups.


That’s whit ails the trapper at the tod.

Ye dout the trapper disna hate the tod?

He dis but, an the tod’ll tell ye whit extent.

It isna the tod’s teeth grinndin his banes,

but the trapper’s. Thare the trapper, see:

wi the heid doun, rundgin, oor efter oor.


An thaim the trapper works for, thare thaim tae,

heids hunkert at the trap, chowein awa.

Whit wey wad thay no hate the tod? Thair chafts is mankit

wi his ramsh bluid, an on thair tongues his banes,

aa minchit sclenters, nips sairly sherp.


Major Eatherly aince, wis thon wey wi the Japanese.




Hell is ane furnace, sae the wyce men taucht.

Sin an ye’ll burn for it:

ae lowein coal the ilka sinfu thocht.


Sin sainit in Gode’s brander o desert,

that whuspert up in smeik or skailt in ash:

sae ilka oor the new oor aye cuid stert.


Sae fire wis halie, tho it tortured sauls

nae end til sinners’ pynes, as aye an on

thair sins wis brunt frae aff them bi the coals.


Hell fried the creiminal, but brunt the crime,

purged whaur it punished, haled whaur it herriet:

a stove it wis ti waarm the beilds o time.


Nae man the hungir o the fire wad slicht,

an aa war feart o fire, yit nane rebelled.

The wyce men taucht that hell wis juist an richt.


The wyce men passed. New cleiver men pit oot

the face o hell wis juist a guiser’s neep

thay staw the fears the saul micht better dout.


Splint efter splint the fires o hell did dwyne

thair heat nae langir warmed the beilds o time

fluorescent nou thay lowed wi new ingyne.


The cauldrife sancts did dauner up an doun

thair bluid ti beik wi warthie exerceise,

gaun stote lik conkers throu the drauchtie toun.


Thae emblematic lowes did dwyne in lown

but metaphysic fires can neiver fail, an men

fled skails o deivils that thair hame wis stown,


felt pulsin in thair pows the dauncin heat

nae langir hained in Gode’s ain byler-hoose.

Fire brunt thair brous, rynd chawed thair feet.


Thon sornin fire cuid sclim an speed

mair swith nor gawsie flames o hell.

Its fuel duin, time’s timmers brunt insteid.


Sae time dried oot an youngest herts grew auld,

the smuisterin meenits spailed an sindert aa,

the warld wis coddlin, but the men wis cauld.

Nou frae this pyne, pyne warse haed wan til birth,

mair hate, mair thraws, ti’t lang an last thay sayed:

“Lat free this fire ti chowe the breid o yirth:


lat it be flame at burns in aa men’s sicht

an lat’s lat on we kennelt it oorsels

ti crack the pows o men an lat in licht.


Sen daith bydes here amang us, weish him joy,

bid him til oor buird, an til oor gemmes,

we canna juidge, but we can aye destroy.”


An sae the curtains o the mynd wis drawn,

men conjurt hell, a first, a saicont time:

an Major Eatherly teuk aff at dawn.



Think whit like some sea-maw,

the weings aa eyl-clartit, babbin on waves

this airt an nane, ablo the roary cluds, taivert,

hystit wabbit gin up wi the swaw times

ti glower at the faur sea-rim, taivert,

wabbit, wi the storms comin, an its weings deid,

maw-smeddum deid:

                                    whit like this fleimit,

aiblins bi its Makar loued, but fair forhouit,

begeckit bi the swack scales o fishes ablo

that lowps, thraws, douks lik the bird afore

in hits sky-freedom, thairs aye siccar in the sea,

the maw nou thirled til the surface,

but fushion ti douk or flie:

                                          pit that on yer flag.


Forget thon maw, droun it frae yer mynd

in the stey bleck swall o the storm, brek it

fornent the brigs o mornin’s licht, forduin ti sweim:

awa thon thocht o the bird, but hain its ensign.


Thon is the ensign o Eatherly

that scancit gleg aboot him, swaw til swaw-heid,

but landin-grun saw nane, but the sky-rim

that he wisna free ti pree, or the siller

glent o begeckin scales o the doukin fishes

whaur he wisna free ti douk.


Fowk haes aye hauden til signs

thay micht be sainit o thair sins.

Ainct it wis the scapegait caaed ootby

heftin its wecht o wyte ablo a tuim lift

ti its form wis tint, forlost in fulyerie.


Nou at we’r ceivilised, the’r nae wild bit.

Insteid o thon birkie scapegait rinnin oot

ti be tint ablo the wull an tuim lift,

the lade o guilt is stappit i the jylehoose waas

that fowk traiks intil bi the dour yetts.


But nou thon eimage tae is oot o date.

The Major gaun ti jyle is nae scapegait.

Him sayin sorry disna dae awa wi oor ain faut,

nor sit wi onie sainin solace us:

this is sorra for its ain sake: bonnie,

by unnerstaunin, by solace, unexpectit.

He disna lee in jyle for sayin sorry.

It’s nae affront til oor law that he waukens

wi cries o peitie on his gizzent lips.

His paiks frae us isna for greetin or bad dreams:

we punish him for stealin frae the store.


G’an gie his bluidie pension til the grocer,

tell him it’s aa the lawin for oor sauls.

But neiver fash as faur as pree his duir

an hale the Major oot in the sun’s licht.

It maiters nocht: gie him peace: his nichtmeirs aiblins

scauds him the less in the jylehoose mirk.

Gie him peace: wauken him nane: gin sleepin, come awa.

Pit juist yer scribble fauldit by his heid,

naething offeicial or fantoush – a blad

ripped oot yer jotter, an the words in peincil –

say nocht o luve, or thanks, or penitence,

an juist say ‘Eatherly, we hear ye.’


  John Law