The Gaelic muse in Scotland, though less tenacious and prolific than in Ireland, produced some remarkable poetry, and Thomson has performed a real service with this literary history of Celtic bards and ballads. The poetry has always been, and continues to be, a vehicle for Scots nationalism. Though some of the ""praise-poetry"" celebrating the valor and longevity of the MacDonalds, the Campbells and the McGregors is nothing more than ""potted genealogy""; some, like the constantly reworked Ossianic legends, compares favorably with heroic balladry anywhere in Europe. All the verse, whether from the 16th or 20th century, is close to the folk idiom; much of it was made to be rendered orally so that formal compositions and popular songs invariably fertilized each other. The translations here are mostly Thomson's own, and if sometimes too rigidly literal, nevertheless they convey the scope of the Scots Gael's concerns. Subjects include panegyrics, political satire, love, the exploits of battle -- often, as in the Prince Charlie poems, against the traditional English foe -- the powerful laments or keens of bereavement, and and such unlikely items as ""allegory in which a sexual encounter is described in terms of chess/ backgammon."" A little-known tradition presented to advantage.