Beyond the narrows of the Inner Hebrides We sailed the cold angry sea toward Barra, where Heaval mountain Lifts like a mast. There were few people on the steamer, it was late in the year; I noticed most an old shepherd, Two wise-eyed dogs wove anxious circles around his feet, and a thin-armed girl Who cherished what seemed a doll, wrapping it against the sea-wind. When it moved I said to my wife "She'll smother it." And she to the girl: "Is your baby cold? You'd better run down out of the wind and uncover its face." She raised the shawl and said "He is two weeks old. His mother died in Glasgow in the hospital Where he was born. She was my sister." I looked ahead at the bleak island, gray stones, ruined castle, A few gaunt houses under the high and comfortless mountain; my wife looked at the sickly babe, And said "There's a good doctor in Barra? It will soon be winter." "Ah," she answered, "Barra'd be heaven for him, The poor wee thing, there's Heaval to break the wind. We live on a wee island yonder away, Just the one house."
The steamer moored, and a skiffâ€”what they call a curragh, like a canvas canoe Equipped with oarsâ€”came swiftly along the side. The dark-haired girl climbed down to it, with one arm holding That doubtful slip of life to her breast; a tall young man with sea-pale eyes and an older man Helped her; if a word was spoken I did not hear it. They stepped a mast and hoisted a henna-color Bat's wing of sail.
Now, returned home After so many thousands of miles of road and ocean, all the hulls sailed in, the houses visited, I remember that slender skiff with dark henna sail Bearing off across the stormy sunset to the distant island Most clearly; and have rather forgotten the dragging whirlpools of London, The screaming haste of New York.