Rannoch, By Glencoe

Thomas Stearns Eliot

Here the crow starves, here the patient stag
Breeds for the rifle. Between the soft moor
And the soft sky, scarcely room
To leap or soar. Substance crumbles, in the thin air
Moon cold or moon hot. The road winds in
Listlessness of ancient war,
Langour of broken steel,
Clamour of confused wrong, apt
In silence. Memory is strong
Beyond the bone. Pride snapped,
Shadow of pride is long, in the long pass
No concurrence of bone

Rannoch is Rannoch Moor, a barren moor by Glen Coe. The poem carries the memory of the notorious Glencoe massacre of 1692. The killings were perpetrated by the British authorities on the Clan Macdonald of Glen Coe, as punishment for failing to swear allegiance to the new rulers William and Mary. Some 38 men were murdered by soldiers who had been living amongst them peacefully for a fortnight. Another 40 women and children died of starvation and exposure after their homes were burned.

Glen Coe is a green glaciated valley, surrounded by hills, with the river Coe running along it's bottom. The Glen is popular with tourists and hikers, and not just because of its beauty (the A82, a main road runs along the glen, making it a convenient destination).