Translating Robert Burns’s ‘Scots Wha Hae’ into Standard English

August 1, 2018 § Leave a comment

Scots Who Have


Scots, who have with Wallace bled,

Scots, whom Bruce has often led,

Welcome to your gory bed

Or to victory!


Now’s the day, and now’s the hour:

See the front of battle lower

See approach proud Edward’s power –

Chains and slavery!


Who will be a traitor knave?

Who can fill a coward’s grave?

Who so base as be a slave? –

Let him turn, and flee!


Who for Scotland’s King and Law

Freedom’s sword will strongly draw,

Freedom stand, or Freeman fall,

Let him follow me!


By Oppression’s woes and pains,

By your sons in servile chains,

We will drain our dearest veins,

But they shall be free!


Lay the proud usurpers low!

Tyrants fall in every foe!

Liberty’s in every blow!

Let us do, or die!!!


What tools lie underneath

July 3, 2018 § Leave a comment

I wrote this poem in response to an exercise in FutureLearn How to Make a Poem.


What tools lie beneath


As a day unfolds in a household like mine,

the brilliance of light filters

Through the reflected windows of this room,

casting shadows not off-kilter.


I dare to explain to my visitors here,

what of interest stands by the balcony —

The leafy green acanthus plant

sitteth, should I say, languidly.


‘Oh, what an exotic thing you have,’

they exclaim with a grin.

Their faces turn from joy to despair

upon finding a creepy crawley within.


‘It is only a spider, do not worry,’

I answer. With a raised hand

I show them what waiteth

on the dining table grand.


‘You like yoghurt smoothies as much as I do,

why don’t you try this drink?’

‘Delighted to,’ answer they in chorus,

with their glasses raised, they clink.


‘Next, you’ll see my bedroom here,’

only a hammer lying on a table.

It catches the sight of one keen observer,

only a brush out of sable.


‘It is not important,’ she says, ‘what they are,

they come in handy when

One is sleepless, bored or else have nothing

to do, or even bedridden.’


I let the guests imagine stories

but inside of me giggles

When yesterday a painting my boyfriend

had hung and left me no longer single.


Their tour came abruptly to an end

when a needle I found fallen

From a tablecloth I was making,

smitten with hope this wasn’t the end.

June 27, 2018 § Leave a comment

They met with cold words, and yet colder looks:/ Each was changed in himself, and yet each thought/ The other only changed, himself the same./ And coldness bred dislike, and rivalry/ Came like the pestilence o’er some sweet thoughts/ That lingered yet, healthy and beautiful, / Amid dark and unkindly ones.
From Change by Letitia Elizabeth Landon

View on Path

June 21, 2018 § 1 Comment

‘What dire Offence from am’rous Causes springs,/ What mighty Contests rise from trivial Things,/ I sing — This Verse to Caryll, Muse! Is due;/ This, ev’n Belinda may vouchsafe to view:/ Slight is the Subject, but not so the Praise,/ If She inspire, and He approves my Lays.’ (Canto 1: 1-5, The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope)

View on Path


June 7, 2018 § Leave a comment

This was written in response to an exercise in FutureLearn Start Writing Fiction.


Part Ⅱ

Just one step ahead from the front wheels of my car, there was a giant hole about ten metres wide to the ledge. I started seeing drivers get off to scramble out and see where the motorcyclist had descended into the abyss. I mustered all the strength I had left and stepped out of my own car. I steadied my feet as they wobbled beneath me. I leaned on my car for support.

‘Are you alright?’ I turned to see a man approaching. He was the driver who had crashed from behind.

‘Yeah,’ I heard myself answering, ‘but look at the state of my car.’ I gestured towards the boot with a circular motion of my hand. It was caved in towards the middle and looked as if the boot would remain tightly closed forever. I wondered about the motorcyclist then and surmised the impossibility of turning him back from his fall into the abyss.

I would return home after an hour had passed on the accident scene, watching the fire brigade arrive, and then reach down to pull the motorcyclist out. He hadn’t been injured. I would take a closer look at the sinkhole and was surprised that it wasn’t that big, only about five metres in circumference. He was fortunate to have had the rescue team arrive in time before the hole collapsed further. I was recovering from the shock of it and counting myself lucky to have been so close to falling into it. Mostly, though, I was arguing with the man who’d mashed my car. It had been his fault. I’d screeched to a halt long before my car was to fall in after the motorcyclist. Couldn’t he have avoided the crash?

My husband sat by me and consoled me. ‘The crash is not important,’ he said. He said these words with remorsefulness, knowing how hurt I was from the pain and having been slighted. ‘You’re alive.’


June 6, 2018 § Leave a comment

This was written in response to an exercise in FutureLearn Start Writing Fiction.


Part Ⅰ

Young-mi said it might put things into perspective if I slept over it. It was haunting me still even though days had passed. A gaping hole in the middle of the motorway had appeared right before me through the windscreen of my car. As far as my eyes could stretch, every car on the road had been driving on flat land when suddenly a motorcycle in front me was gulped down by that sinkhole. I had read about sinkholes and watched documentaries about it. I knew perfectly what they were — a phenomenon that happens due to Earth’s layers of rock giving way to gravity. Then there had been that huge bang on my head against the steering wheel. The airbag had been released but all of my body had lurched forwards despite the tight grips of the safety belt wrapped around my upper torso. I’d felt my whole body shake violently and it would take another minute before I could ascertain whether I’d survived.

I groped for my head. No blood marks were seen on my hands and all of my limbs were intact. I slowly turned around to see what had gone around me. I could hardly move. Through the rear view mirror I could see a sedan jammed up against the boot of my coupé. The man behind the wheel, somewhere in his forties, and with the same dazed expression in his eyes, was readying to unbuckle himself free. All this while, I was seeing stars swim about in front my eyes — too many even to see clearly.

Portraying your character

June 5, 2018 § Leave a comment

This was written in response to an exercise in FutureLearn Start Writing Fiction.


‘Over the past few months, we have engaged extensively with our allies and partners around the world,’ President Donald Trump’s voice blared on the car radio, ‘We are unified in our understanding of the threat and in our conviction that Iran must never acquire a nuclear weapon.’ Wasn’t Iran the country that Jin-Hye had gone to for shooting her documentary on Channel 3? Hee-sun had felt mildly envious, watching short, plump Jin-Hye become an overnight sensation on Public Affairs and Culture Channel, turning heads after she’d gone on a full detox diet and lost two stones in a matter of weeks. As a high school student, Hee-sun had been a happy-go-lucky girl of sixteen who, surrounded by her uniform-clad classmates and parents, had had no care for the world outside of her protected nest. Now, Jin-Hye was showing slices of Iran and rural life, speaking fluent Farsi and gaining respect for her work with underprivileged group of female folk musicians. She felt happy for her. She hadn’t known her that well and Hee-sun had wanted to be with the slim and popular girls, the ones who got dainty sterling silver chains for their birthday, whose parents sent them on summer camps abroad, and hired chauffeurs exclusively for their children. On the other side of the world, a similarly aged girl would not have so much luxury as a branded tennis racket than a roof over her head. She wondered if Jin-Hye would recall that she had offered to lend her a spare calculator when she had forgotten to bring it on Examination Day.

Shiny silver hoods glistened in the sunlight. It was nearing Mid-autumn Festival and the air was balmy and stifling hot in the car seat. Hee-sun was wearing her usual outfit of a dark silk blouse and cardigan for work. Her cuffs were open, sleeves rolled up to her elbows and the top two buttons undone. She fanned herself with her hand in dramatic remonstrance, and occasionally clutching the steering wheel with the other. ‘What slow-moving traffic,’ she muttered. She was on her way to pick up a few items from the supermarket before heading home in preparation for the weekend-long festivities, including a set of stainless steel pans and a spatula for turning jeon. She missed a few turns after a sports car whizzed by, immobilising her and another sedan refused to let her into the lane. She wiped the droplets of perspiration percolating on her forehead.

In the parking lot of her apartment block, she opened her car door, slipped into one of her black patent leather heels and held a mobile phone to the side of her face. ‘I’m here. In the lift. Be there in a minute.’

She stashed all her files from work into a canvas tote and flung them into the backseat, slammed the car door shut and upon limping, realised that she still had on one her loafers. Hee-sun swore under her breath. She would try and remember to take the motorway home during rush hour. She was just a lover of taking dirt roads. Somehow, even with Hyung-sik’s making fun of her propensity to enjoy the ‘slow life’, she always managed to find an excuse to veer off to the woods and saunter her way home.

‘Do you take that road everyday?’ Jin-Ho her colleague had remarked one day when she complained of bad traffic.

‘Well, yes,’ Hee-sun had replied. She’d had to find an adequate reason for taking a slight detour. There had been none except for getting a glimpse of the woods. She didn’t always take the long way but the motorway attracted a different pool of vehicles — lorries, express and intercity buses, taxis, CEO Lexuses and car racers. She’d felt she belonged to a higher class of driving, that of an ex-Sobono fashion boutique manager and a proud mum of two, married to a loving family man, thank you very much.

‘Sorry, I am a bit late. There was a traffic jam,’ Hee-sun said breathlessly as she walked through her apartment door, ‘There must’ve been an accident or something.’

‘Honey, are you going to drop the kids off at Hee-yeon’s house?’ called Hyung-sik from inside, ‘They’re not back from hagwon yet.’

Oh, the kids. Hee-sun had asked her younger sister to look after them so that she and her husband could cook the festive meals without disturbance. It helped that Hee-yeon lived in the next neighbourhood and that she’d only recently got engaged.

‘Ah, yeah,’ muttered Hee-sun to herself. She stared at the shoes strewn about on the floor and struggled to find a free spot to shake off her own. She sighed. She was sure Hyung-sik would never change his stubborn ways. Although a miser, Father had never beat them for spending a hundred thousand won on a pair of shoes but he’d never allowed them to leave them hanging around on the floor. She would look back at her own relationship with her father and comparisons made between him and Hyung-sik were unavoidable.

For instance, the lonely October day two years ago came to her mind. It had rained all week. On some days it had rained more heavily than others but on this particular day the damp sodden clouds had hung about in the air like a soaked shawl left out in the damp air to dry.

Hyung-sik had never had the habit of neatly placing his shoes on the small wooden shoe rack on entering the house like Hee-sun and her children had. After taking off her shoes, she’d help her children first — then five and three-years-old — and take her own shoes off to place them side-by-side on the racks. This was to clear the entryway so that visitors would not trample over them and slip. Unlike her children whom she’d trained since early in their toddlers’ years, Hyung-sik had never given much attention to do the same. It hadn’t bothered Hee-sun at first because she’d felt it was chiefly her duty as his wife and as a homemaker to be responsible for keeping the home tidy.

Hee-sun understood that some of her habits clashed greatly with his. But she didn’t want this particular habit to come between them to put their loving partnership in jeopardy. It came to a boil when Su-jin, returning home from kindergarten, came running inside. Hee-sun was in the kitchen when she heard a loud thump coming in from the living room. She ran and rushed to her daughter, who was lying flat on the floor.

‘Are you alright, Su-jin?’ Hee-sun raised her up and saw a small scratch on the side of her face. ‘Thank goodness, you’re not injured.’

That night, Hee-sun decided to make this the topic of conversation with Hyung-sik.

‘Honey, I think you ought to know. Su-jin fell down this afternoon.’

‘Hmm? What’s that?’ Peter’s eyes were glued to a page out of his files from work, perched on his lap.

‘Su-jin fell down in the foyer from tripping over the shoes.’ Hee-sun said.

Hyung-sik looked up. ‘Why? Is she alright?’

‘She’s not hurt but she could’ve injured herself quite badly. I laid her in bed and gave her a painkiller before she went to bed this evening.’

‘I’m sorry to hear that,’ was his reply.

‘I’d like to say something if you don’t mind,’ Hee-sun tried once more.

Hyung-sik looked up and leaned on his side, his hand still on the page where he left off.

‘It’s about the shoes. I’d like to ask you if you could put them on the racks after you’ve taken them off. Just for safety reasons.’

Hyung-sik’s chiselled face broke into a smile that was at once warm and kind. ‘Of course, Munchkin,’ he said, ‘you wanted to ask me that?’

‘I know I’ve been busy with the knitting club to take better care of our home but you wouldn’t mind, would you? Just the shoes.’

‘Yeah,’ Hyung-sik chuckled softly, gently stroking Hee-sun’s face with his deft fingers, ‘I would, actually.’

Hee-sun mumbled something she couldn’t figure from fatigue and doze off in the following minutes. It was to be months later when she saw the entrance area cleared of shoes. She would notice it when she came home one evening with Hyung-sik still at work and the two girls in their bedrooms. A spacious and empty void filled the entire surface of the foyer. At last, her struggles with Hyung-sik’s badly lain footgear were over!