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The Moment 03:10
THE MOMENT by William Soutar Between the crowing of the cock Love is fulfilled and is forlorn: Between the clicking of the clock A star dies and a star is born. Between the beating of the breast Love is fulfilled and is forlorn: Between the wave and the wave-crest Is meeting and is no return.
IMPROMPTU IN AN EREMITIC MOOD by William Soutar I am William who would harken For the small and stilly voice; But the breezy bodies come and go In love with their own noise; Yet I try to be a Christian And salute the bugling words Though I envy gardener Adam When his brothers were the birds. I share matrimonial sagas And the tricks of all the trades; The soliloquies of parsons; The confessions of old-maids: Yet I try to be a Christian And indulge the rigmarole; Though I envy Luke the lazar Who was lifted from his hole. Ah! forgive me, fellow creatures, If I mock when you are gone; And if sometimes at life’s concert I would rather sit alone: Yet I try to be a Christian And applaud the tootling talk; Though I envy paralytics Who take up their beds and walk.
Grief 03:19
GRIEF by William Soutar About our grief is ever wound A pitying comfort for our loss: Let it not root: it is a moss Which cankers love should it abound. The wintry bareness of a tree Is wisdom for the mind that grieves: The scars upon the wood are leaves Remembered, and are leaves to be.
RECOLLECTION OF FIRST LOVE by William Soutar When I recall your form and face More than you I recall To come into a meeting-place Where no leaves fall: The years walk round this secret garth But cannot change its guarded earth. I have known women fonder far Than you; more fair, more kind: Women whose passionate faces are Flowers in the mind: But as a tall tree, stem on stem, Your presence overshadows them. They quicken from my sentient day And stir my body’s need; But you had fixéd roots ere they Down-dropped in seed: They can but copy all I found When you alone grew in this ground. You are reborn from changeless loam And are a changeless shade: Your feet had paced the paths to Rome Ere Rome was made: Under your eyes great towers down fell Before that Trojan citadel. Time, who is knocking at the gate, Cannot make you his boast: Our garden shall be desolate But you – a ghost Timeless; as beauty’s timeless norm You are in passion and in form.
THE EA RTH ABIDES by William Soutar When our loud days are chronicles Of rancour and revenge Whoever walks upon these hills Shall not remember change. He shall be moulded by their mood: Their granite and their grass Through secret ways of sense and blood Into his life will pass. And he shall love his native land; And still an exile be If in its name he lift a hand To smite an enemy. And he shall look upon the sun And see his ensign there If earth belong to all, and none; Gifted as light and air.
The Unicorn 04:03
THE UNICORN by William Soutar When from the dark the day is born Life’s glory walks in white: Upon the hills the unicorn Glitters for mortal sight. Out of their dream the hunters wake With brightness in their eyes: The foolish hurry forth to take, But gently go the wise. They only are the wise who claim This for their foolishness: To love the beast they cannot tame Yet cheer the unending chase.
The Tryst 02:39
THE TRYST by William Soutar O luely, luely, cam she in And luely she lay doun: I kent her be her caller lips And her breists sae sma’ and roun’. A’ thru the nicht we spak nae word Nor sinder’d bane frae bane: A’ thru the nicht I heard her hert Gang soundin’ wi’ my ain. It was about the waukrife hour When cocks begin to craw That she smool’d saftly thru the mirk Afore the day wud daw. Sae luely, luely, cam she in Sae luely was she gaen And wi’ her a’ my simmer days Like they had never been.
THE SORROW OF THE SPECTRES by William Soutar Wandering within the memory of a world Two shadows met; two shapes, which had been men, Untimely sundered from the broken flesh By battle; ghosted while yet their blood Was feverous with the arrogance of faith And darkened by the ignorance of hate. Now, beyond passion, beyond bitterness, Beyond coercion they had met again Each recognising in a former foe The spectre of his mutilated youth. “Brother!” they cried and sought to hide their scars With unsubstantial hands. “Brother!” they cried: “This murdered life is our inheritance And this, alas, the world for which we died.”
THE BUTTERFLY When on the open hand Wings in the sunlight stay Who are so wise as understand The gift of transiency? To be content and trust The momentary bliss? Alas! The little drift of dust. Upon our happiness.
Parable 04:26
PARABLE by William Soutar Two neighbours, who were rather dense, Considered that their mutual fence Were more symbolic of their peace (Which they maintained should never cease) If each about his home and garden Set up a more substantial warden. Quickly they cleared away the fence To build a wall at great expense; And soon their little plots of ground Were barricaded all around: Yet still they added stone to stone, As if they would never be done, For when one neighbour seemed to tire The other shouted: Higher! Higher! Thus day by day, in their unease, They built the battlements of peace Whose shadows, like a gathering blot, Darkened on each neglected plot, Until the ground, so overcast, Became a rank and weedy waste. Now in their obsession, they uprear; Jealous, and proud, and full of fear: And, lest they halt for lack of stone, They pull their dwelling-houses down. At last, by their insane excess, Their ramparts guard a wilderness; And hate, arousing out of shame, Flares up into a wondrous flame: They curse; they strike; they break the wall, Which buries them beneath its fall.
Auld Sang 02:58
AUL D SANG I brocht my love a cherry That hadna onie stane: I brocht my love a birdie That hadne onie bane: I brocht my love a wauchtie That wasna sour nor sweet: I brocht my love a bairnie That didna girn nor greet. The cherry that I gien him Was flauntin in the fleur: The birdie that I taen him Was nested no an hour: The wauchtie that I socht him Cam glintin frae the grund: The bairnie that I brocht him Had lang been sleepin sound.
Winter Song 03:33
WINTER SONG by William Soutar Let me remember when the frost Is white upon the stem Those colours which the year has lost, Those flowers arrayed in them. Let me recall when snow is hung Along the iron bough Those variegated birds which sung, And in the heart sing now. And let me not forget, when ice Is paved above the pool, The swan which moved with her device Sun-clear and summer-cool.
Scotland 03:46
SCOTLAND by William Soutar Atween the world o’ licht And the world that is to be A man wi’ unco sicht Sees whaur he canna see: Gangs whaur he canna walk: Recks whaur he canna read: Hauds what he canna tak: Mells wi’ the unborn dead. Atween the world o’ licht And the world that is to be A man wi’ unco sicht Monie a saul maun see: Sauls that are stark and nesh: Sauls that wud dree the day: Sauls that are fain for flesh But canna win the wey. Hae ye the unco sicht That sees atween and atween This world that lowes in licht: Yon world that hasna been? It is owre late for fear, Owre early for disclaim; Whan ye come hameless here And ken ye are at hame.
Crocus 04:56
CROCUS by William Soutar Out of the dark: Bright as a butterfly’s wing; Bright as a still flame; Out of the dark: Silence that can sing; Life’s banner on a stem; Earth, with a coloured cry, Shouting Hark! Hark! To the wondering eye. Thirsty the soul For loveliness, for mirth, For worship, hope: Thirsty the soul; And, lo, from common earth Life’s mercy lifted up; Here in a cup golden, glowing, Lifted up for all; Overflowing, overflowing
I LANG TO GIE MY SEL ’ by William Soutar I hae nae bairn to gie his bairn my name: Faither and mither and nae fere I claim: Dead to the dead I am: Dead to the dead I am. Like ilka man I am a mystery: A lanely sea-bird owre a landless sea: A gleed sae süne blawn by: A gleed sae süne blawn by. And in my laneliness nae ease I win: I lang to gie mysel’ to a’ mankin’; That I micht be their ain: That I micht be their ain. I wud be nae mair loveless; I wud gang Hale in the herts o’ a’: this is my sang; My sorrow and my sang: My sorrow and my sang.
HE WHO WEEPS FOR BEAUTY GONE by William Soutar He who weeps for beauty gone Hangs about his neck a stone. He who mourns for his lost youth Daily digs a grave for truth. He who prays for happy hours Tramples upon earthly flowers. He who asks an oath from love Doth thereby his folly prove. Mourn not overmuch nor stress After love or happiness. He who weeps for beauty gone Stoops to pluck a flower of stone.
THE GREET IN BAIRNIE by William Soutar Sic a greetin bairnie, Sic a bruckit face, Ye maunna be sae girnie In they bricht, braw days. Licht is lowpin owre ye; Gowks lauch frae the wüd; Fleurs dance on afore ye; A’ the world is gled. Gin the sün were sumphie There wud aye be nicht: Gin the müne were grumphie There wud be nae licht. Sic a greetin bairnie, Sic a bruckit face, Ye maunna be sae girnie In they bricht, braw days.
Ballad 03:16
BALLA D by William Soutar Far in the nicht whan faint the müne My love knock’t at the door: He spak nae word as he walkit in, And wi’ nae sound stepp’t owre. White was his face in the thin licht, And white his hands and feet: Like snaw, that in itsel is bricht, White was his windin-sheet. He look’t on me wi’ sichtless e’en, And yet his e’en were kind: And a’ the joys that we had taen Thrang’d up into my mind. And for the whilie he was near, Glimmerin in the gloom, I thocht the hale o’ the world was there Sae sma’ in a sma’ room.


About William Soutar

William Soutar (1898-1943) was a 20th century Scottish poet who wrote in Scots and English. Critically acclaimed during his lifetime, he is now better known for his courage and good humour under extreme adversity. He suffered from ankylosing spondylitis, a form of spinal arthritis which turned him into a living statue. Bedridden for the last thirteen years of his cruelly shortened life, he drew on memories, the conversation of his many visitors, and the view through the window of his sickroom to inspire the poetry he wrote. When he died in 1943, he left behind an extensive body of work: poems, bairn rhymes, riddles, epigrams, diaries and dream diaries. His short lyrics have inspired composers from Benjamin Britten to James MacMillan.


This project is first and foremost about the poetry of William Soutar. It all started in 2011 when Debra Salem, Kevin MacKenzie and Paul Harrison were commissioned by The Friends of William Soutar Society to turn eighteen Soutar poems into songs as part of a music and theatre collaboration with writer Ajay Close. ‘In a Sma Room’ integrated thirteen of these songs with a series of monologues spoken from the point of view of characters from Soutar’s past. After an initial tour, the show was revived for the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe as part of the Made in Scotland Showcase.

It was always a desire that one day the songs would be recorded, shared with audiences old and new, and further contribute to the championing of this wonderful, yet under-appreciated Scottish poet. Finally, in 2018, a crowdfunding campaign was set up to fundraise for the project - the recording and releasing of an album of the songs and the printing of a songbook to accompany it.

Special thanks go to all those who contributed to the Kickstarter campaign and to the Andrew Tannahill Fund for the Furtherance of Scottish Literature, without this support the production of the ‘In a Sma Room’ album and songbook would not have been possible.


released February 1, 2021

words: William Soutar

music: tracks 4,5,10,11,16,18 Debra Salem
tracks 1,3,6,9,12,14 Kevin MacKenzie
tracks 2,7,8,13,15,17 Paul Harrison

vocals: Debra Salem
piano/organ: Paul Harrison
guitar: Kevin MacKenzie
violin/viola/cello: Patsy Reid
double bass: Andrew Robb
percussion: Signy Jakobsdóttir

recorded at Solas Sound Studio, Glasgow

engineer: Gus Stirrat

production and mastering: Paul Harrison, Patrick Dalgety, Debra Salem

cover linocut print: Bryan Angus

artwork: Bernard Chandler

Soutar biography: Ajay Close

Further information on William Soutar at www.williamsoutar.com


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Debra Salem Perth, UK

Singer/songwriter with a distinct vocal tone that has grown out of both jazz and folk traditions.
Originally from Belfast, she now lives and works in Scotland.

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