A country boy creeps unwillingly to school on a lark-filled summer morning. Norse crusaders, preparing to sail on Earl Rognvald’s crusade in 1151 break into the burial chamber at Maeshowe seeking treasure, and cut runes in its massive stones. And the famous Iceland poet Thorbjorn leaves his farm to join the group of poets whose lyrics stud like gems that famous pilgrimage. The ancient northern ceremonies of solstice and equinox, Easter and Yule, are brought to vivid life in the poems collected in this book, and so also are some of the holidays of the Christian calender.
The cycle of seasons is more noticeable in the north, especially perhaps winter, the time of story-telling and music. There are tributes to the great poet of winter, Robert Burns, and a celebration of the Irish veteran of the Peninsular War who founded a tavern in Orkney in 1821. The life of an islander is ‘sweetly compacted’ in The Laird and the Three Women.