‘What a wonderful book this is. Brian Holton is the living master of literary Scots, and though 1300 years separate their times from ours, Holton’s translations of Li Bai and Du Fu speak to our own age. They are perennial poems of love and war and exile, youth and age, by turns wistful, moving, vivacious and sad. Brian Holton’s Scots is playful and unforced. Translating directly from the Chinese, he demonstrates the vigour and subtlety of which Scots is capable, relishing a language as well-resourced and malleable as any other. These are beautiful lyric poems.’
‘It is a singular stroke of imaginative genius to translate the poems of Du Fu and Li Bai into Scots, one which, perhaps, only Brian Holton is capable of. His longtime familiarity with and comprehensive knowledge of these ancient yet still-intimate texts, together with his deep knowledge of the border ballad tradition and its foundational role in Scottish literature, has created a curious and compelling hybrid realm, in which the reader’s imagination dwells as vividly as in a work of historical fiction, Ossianic forgery, or compelling fantasy […] Scots seems particularly suited to this endeavour not just because of its pioneering role in the genres of imaginative recovery or speculative fiction, or because of that compelling and cognate folk heritage. It is because its own continually-interrupted genealogy as a language and tradition knits with its proximity to a globally dominant language in such a way as to create the note of nearness-in-distance required here, a nexus of estranged lustiness, august longing, and heart-shattering lyric regret. This, recalling the lacrimae rerum of the Western Classical tradition in tones that echo Gavin Douglas’s Eneados, perfectly characterises these great poets.’ Bill Herbert
By bringing two of the world’s great poets – from the oldest continuous literary tradition in the world – into the library of Scots writing, Brian Holton creates a text as valuable in its own way to the literary tradition as Lorimer’s wonderful ‘New Testament in Scots’.
Holton’s skilfully supple verse is composed in a literary Scots inflected by his native dialect, giving rise to a natural phrasing that draws on his intimate knowledge of the Border Ballads. Complemented by a collaboration with Edinburgh-based calligrapher Chi Zhang, these finely wrought translations create a strikingly beautiful book – inclusive of introductory essays on the poets, notes on the texts, and a reflective postscript.