UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

A critical guide to three movements in contemporary Scottish poetry Scobie, Stephen Arthur Cross 1969

Your browser doesn't seem to have a PDF viewer, please download the PDF to view this item.

Item Metadata

Download

Media
831-UBC_1969_A1 S36.pdf [ 19.1MB ]
Metadata
JSON: 831-1.0104172.json
JSON-LD: 831-1.0104172-ld.json
RDF/XML (Pretty): 831-1.0104172-rdf.xml
RDF/JSON: 831-1.0104172-rdf.json
Turtle: 831-1.0104172-turtle.txt
N-Triples: 831-1.0104172-rdf-ntriples.txt
Original Record: 831-1.0104172-source.json
Full Text
831-1.0104172-fulltext.txt
Citation
831-1.0104172.ris

Full Text

A CRITICAL GUIDE TO THREE MOVEMENTS IN CONTEMPORARY SCOTTISH POETRY by STEPHEN ARTHUR CROSS SCOBIE M.A., University of St. Andrews, 1965  A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY i n the Department of ENGLISH  We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard  THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA A p r i l , 1969  In  presenting  this  an a d v a n c e d d e g r e e the I  Library  further  for  agree  in  at  University  the  make  that  it  partial  freely  permission for  this  representatives. thes,is  for  It  financial  is  gain  Department  Date  7-1 J*  f  Columbia  Hit.  of  of  Columbia,  British for  extensive by  the  shall  not  the  requirements  reference copying of  Head o f  understood that  written permission.  The U n i v e r s i t y o f B r i t i s h V a n c o u v e r 8, Canada  fulfilment  available  s c h o l a r l y p u r p o s e s may be g r a n t e d  by h i s of  shall  thesis  I agree and  be a l l o w e d  that  Study.  this  thesis  my D e p a r t m e n t  c o p y i n g or  for  or  publication  without  my  ABSTRCT The f i r s t Part of the dissertation examines i n some d e t a i l the poetry of Hugh MacDiarmid.  A chronological approach i s used, but  what i s most stressed i s the thematic unity of a l l MacDiarmid s work, 1  from such early poems as A Drunk Man Looks at the T h i s t l e (of which a detailed exegesis i s presented)through the poems of the '30s to the long "world-view" poems such as In Memoriam James Joyce.  This unity  i s to be found p r i n c i p a l l y i n MacDiarmid*s attitude towards Evolution, and h i s view of the evolutionary development of the human mind. Within this context, the apparent paradoxes and confusions of MacDiarmid's p o l i t i c a l , s o c i a l , and aesthetic views may be reconciled.  Although  mainly concerned with the ideas contained i n MacDiarmid's poetry, the dissertation also attempts to describe and to defend the changing s t y l i s t i c means by which these ideas are presented, e s p e c i a l l y with regard to the very "prosaic" nature of the l a t e r poems. Part Two Renaissance.  examines the work of four leading poets of the Scottish Sydney Goodsir Smith's poetry i s discussed i n terms  of i t s main themes of love and p o l i t i c s , and their p a r t i a l r e c o n c i l i a t i o n in poems dealing with the figure of the outsider.  P a r t i c u l a r l y close  attention i s given to the poem-sequence Under the Eildon Tree..  The  discussion of Robert Garioch relates h i s work as a translator of poetry to h i s work as an o r i g i n a l poet, dealing especially with h i s poems about Edinburgh, and with the r e l a t i o n of h i s humorous to h i s more serious work.  The section on Norman MacCaig analyses h i s attitudes  towards nature, and the means of perceiving external nature, especially the poetic perception through metaphor.  The r e s u l t s of MacCaig's  recent  s h i f t to free verse are also treated.  I a i n Crichton Smith's  poetry i s viewed as a system of d u a l i t i e s , perhaps best summed up i n the t i t l e of one of h i s books, The Law  and the Grace;  the dis-  cussion closes with a detailed analysis of the one poem, Deer on  tha  High H i l l s , in which these d u a l i t i e s are (tentatively) reconciled. The  f i n a l Part of the d i s s e r t a t i o n opens with an account of  the h i s t o r y and theoretical basis of the experimental Concrete Poetry movement, and then examines the contributions to this movement of Scots poets, Edwin Morgan and Ian Hamilton F i n l a y . examined i n d e t a i l , not only for i t s extraordinary  two  F i n l a y s work i s 1  inventiveness  of  technique, but also for the very p o s i t i v e values of i t s attitudes, themes, and imagery.  P a r t i c u l a r attention i s given to the theme of  fishing-boats and the sea i n Finlay's work.  This section i s not merely  a defence of Finlay's technical procedures, but an assertion of his greatness as a poet.  TABLE OF CONTENTS  INTRODUCTION PART ONE  .  .  .  Hugh MacDiarmid PART TWO Introduction  .  Sydney Goodsir Smith Robert Garioch Norman MacCaig I a i n Crichton Smith PART THREE Introduction  .  Concrete Poetry Edwin Morgan Ian Hamilton F i n l a y APPENDIX (Interviews) Hugh MacDiarmid Robert Garioch Norman MacCaig I a i n Crichton Smith Edwin Morgan Stewart Conn FOOTNOTES BIBLIOGRAPHY  .  INTRODUCTION  The t i t l e of this dissertation i s "A C r i t i c a l Guide to Three Movements i n Contemporary Scottish Poetry."  This introduction i s mainly  concerned with giving a b r i e f outline of what I mean by these terms. I have attempted  to use the term "contemporary Scottish poetry" i n i  as factual a manner as possible; be i n any way evaluative. as a term of approbation: roughly 1920, day.  s  none of the three words a n t intended to  I do not, for instance, regard "contemporary" i t means, simply, the period of time from  the f i r s t publications of Hugh MacDiarmid, u n t i l the present  By "Scottish" poetry I have understood poetry written i n Scotland  by writers of Scottish b i r t h and/or n a t i o n a l i t y . i n this pragmatic sense:  The term i s used purely  i t contains no implications whatever about the  q u a l i t y of "Scottishness" i n either the style or the content of the poetry.  I t includes verse written i n both Scots and English;  I have,  however, excluded a l l Gaelic poets, because, not having the Gaelic myself, I am unable to make any judgements about them. Neither of these d e f i n i t i o n s would, I expect, be regarded as cont r o v e r s i a l , but my use of the word "poetry" might be.  I have been prepared  to extend the application of this word to i t s outermost l i m i t s , and include under i t such disparate works as In Memoriam James Joyce and other l a t e r poems of Hugh MacDiarmid at one extreme, and the "concrete poetry" of Ian Hamilton Finlay at the other.  I t w i l l c e r t a i n l y be  disputed whether or not these works can be c a l l e d "poetry", but I personally have no doubt that they are, and to demonstrate  this b e l i e f i s at least  one purpose of the apposite sections of the d i s s e r t a t i o n .  - 2From the phrase "three movements i n " , as important a word as any is "in".  I do not for one moment pretend that this i s a complete or  comprehensive account of contemporary Scottish poetry.  I have had to  exclude several noteworthy poets, such as William Soutar, A.D. Mackie, Tom  Scott, and George Bruce.  My greatest regrets are for the exclusion  of the two poets from Orkney:  Edwin Muir (whose work, however, has  gained probably more recognition than that of the other poets of the period except MacDiarmid's);  and George Mackay Brown, whose poems, especially  the magnificent "Five Voyages of Arnor", have given me great pleasure. However, some measure of s e l e c t i v i t y was obviously necessary, and 1 have picked out what seemed to me to be the three most important movements i n the period; the poets who work.  and, within these movements, 1 have picked out  seem to me to have done the most important and  rewarding  The ultimate ground of the selection i s s t i l l my personal taste  and judgement;  but the choice was made only after reading as much of the  t o t a l poetry of the period as I could f i n d access to. The f i r s t of these three "movements" i s i n fact constituted by one man;  Hugh MacDiarmid.  MacDiarmid's contribution to contemporary  Scottish poetry i s of course immense, and i s acknowledged even by those who  d i s l i k e h i s work;  but to a very great extent, he stands alone.  Although his influence has been immense, h i s genius i s so u t t e r l y i n d i v i d u a l that i t s influence i s necessarily i n d i r e c t . impossible to imitate, d i f f i c u l t even to parody.  His style i s  His ideas also are  i n d i v i d u a l , and, though some of the more obvious ones, such as his blend of Scottish Nationalism and Communism, have been picked up by other Scottish poets, the basic ones, such as h i s whole theory of evolution and  - 3 language, have not been received or developed at a l l . movement i n himself:  MacDiarmid  is a  he has no associates.  The second movement i s that which could very loosely be called the "Scottish Renaissance".  These are poets who started writing i n the  40s and 50s and are a l l s t i l l writing today. MacDiarmid", measures, owe  for there can be no such thing; some debt to him.  They are not a "school of but they a l l , i n varying  There are some s i m i l a r i t i e s - for  instance, Sydney Goodsir Smith shares MacDiarmid s 1  p o l i t i c a l position,  Iain Crichton Smith shares h i s obsession with dualism - but these s i m i l a r i t i e s are not often of primary importance.  I have t r i e d to  approach each one as an i n d i v i d u a l , stressing what i s most c h a r a c t e r i s t i c a l l y h i s own about h i s work, rather than stressing the sometimes tenuous s i m i l a r i t i e s between them. As representatives of this group, I have chosen two writers i n Scots - Sydney Goodsir Smith and Robert Garioch - and two writers i n English - Norman MacCaig and I a i n Crichton Smith. • B a s i c a l l y , a l l these writers are "conservative" i n nature, insofar as they write i n accepted poetic forms, and are not greatly concerned with experimentation i n the structures of poetry i t s e l f .  (In this they d i f f e r from MacDiarmid him-  s e l f , whose long l a t e r poems constitute one of the most adventurous experiments of the century i n poetic form.) acknowledge are s i m i l a r l y "conservative":  Also, the influences they the poets of the Scots t r a d i t i o n ,  or such established American poets as Wallace Stevens (for MacCaig) and Robert Lowell (for Crichton Smith). In contrast i s the " t h i r d movement", which consists mainly of younger poets who have begun writing only i n the 60s, and who are  -  4  -  characterised by a great willingness to experiment with the forms of poetry, and by an open-ness to influences from the international avantgarde.  To them, William Burroughs and Robert Creeley are of more  importance  than Hugh MacDiarmid i s .  A recent number of Lines Review  (number 26) included two very interesting pieces by D.M.  Black and Robert  T a i t , both of which operate i n an u n c l a s s i f i a b l e area somewhere between poetry and prose. Out of this area of experimentation, I have concentrated on one movement which has already attained a considerable maturity, cohesion, and l e v e l of achievement, namely, concrete poetry, as exemplified i n the work of Edwin Morgan and Ian Hamilton Finlay. This brings us, i n various odd ways, f u l l c i r c l e .  Concrete poetry  i s as far away from MacDiarmid's work as you can reasonably imagine: the extremes show signs of meeting. attitudes towards each other;  but  MacDiarmid and Finlay hold dismissive  but i n between i s Edwin Morgan, himself  a fine concrete poet, and also the most understanding and i n t e l l i g e n t c r i t i c i n Scotland of MacDiarmid's later works.  My own position i s very  close to Edwin Morgan's, i n that I see much to admire i n both extremes (though my personal, emotional preferences are wholly with F i n l a y ) , but I do not think that the two are completely i r r e c o n c i l a b l e .  Indeed,  both seem to spring from very similar preconceptions about the nature, value, and functions of language (though they then, proceed i n widely d i f f e r i n g directions.) These, then, are the three movements:  MacDiarmid himself;  formally conservative poets of the "Renaissance";  the  and the younger, more  experimental writers, e s p e c i a l l y the concrete poets.  Inherent i n this  - 5 -  structure i s also an examination of the fortunes of the Scots  language:  how i t was used by MacDiarmid, and how h i s hopes for i t s continued use by younger poets have or have not been f u l f i l l e d . F i n a l l y , I should l i k e to explain what I mean by a " c r i t i c a l guide".  I take the idea of "guide" f a i r l y l i t e r a l l y :  the poetry of this  period i s a largely unmapped area, and the reader plunging unprepared the middle of i t tends to get l o s t .  into  I wish to provide readers with a  context, a framework of ideas, into which they can f i t any p a r t i c u l a r poems they have read by, say, MacDiarmid.  I have had to assume that my  readers w i l l be largely unfamiliar with the poetry, and this accounts for the somewhat large proportion of direct quotation from the o r i g i n a l s . There have been two books published which do something similar: Duncan Glen's Hugh MacDiarmid and the Scottish Renaissance and Kenneth Buthlay's study Hugh MacDiarmid i n the "Writers and C r i t i c s " series. Mr. Glen's book, however, i s primarily h i s t o r i c a l and bibliographical i n method, and i s not intended to be a c r i t i c a l study.  Mr. Buthlay includes  MacDiarmid's prose within his scope, and I believe that my own work, by concentrating on the poetry, i s able to give a more detailed account. As far as the other poets are concerned,  there have been a number of  c r i t i c a l a r t i c l e s on p a r t i c u l a r aspects of their work, but this dissertation i s , to the best of my knowledge, the f i r s t attempt  to present a  c r i t i c a l perspective and estimate of the whole body of their work. This lack of previous c r i t i c a l work i s a l l the more surprising because this i s , I believe, a very r i c h and rewarding body of poetry, which has for too long remained unappreciated outside - and even inside the borders of Scotland.  I t i s my hope that my dissertation w i l l do  something to remedy this situation.  - 6 -  PART ONE  HUGH MACDIARMID The Evolutionary Vision  I ' l l ha'e nae hauf-way hoose, but aye be whaur Extremes meet. ,  (67)'  A l l his l i f e , Hugh MacDiarmid has held extreme, and often contradictory views. extremes:  The man  i s himself a contradiction, a meeting of  on the one hand, Hugh MacDiarmid, propagandist,  f i e r c e and  unrelenting fighter for extreme causes, i n t e l l e c t u a l l y arrogant and contemptuous (though often with reason), sparing neither names nor feelings, master of invective; courteous,  on the other, Christopher Murray Grieve, gentle,  hospitable, generous, h e l p f u l , yet sharing with his a l t e r  ego  tenacity, courage, and strength of purpose such as helped him through the years on Whalsay. Any  study of MacDiarmid must r e a l i s e that one basic pattern of  his thought i s duality, combined with a d i s i n c l i n a t i o n , amounting almost to an i n a b i l i t y , for compromise.  He w i l l combine the most diverse  attitudes into a whole, but never by d i l u t i n g them, never by seeking a middle way.  The value of such opposing attitudes l i e s i n their opposition.  MacDiarmid compares the duality of much of his thought to the Chinese Tin-Tang dichotomy,  the peculiar beauty of which i s that both parts are regarded as equally necessary, v a l i d and to be accepted - there i s no question of triumphing over the dark element and altogether wiping i t out as though i t were an a r b i t r a r y e v i l ... I t i s not an easy r e l a tionship. I t e n t a i l s unceasing c o n f l i c t , a c o n f l i c t not of extermination, but rather akin to that state of biology known as h o s t i l e symbiosis. . . 7 1  This pattern MacDiarmid sees as akin to one which i s p a r t i c u l a r l y expressive of the Scottish mind and character:  that which Gregory Smith'  c a l l s the "Caledonian Antisyzygy", or the a b i l i t y to combine within one structure (say, a poem) the most diverse and opposing ideas or moods, such as the blend of the comic and macabre i n some of Dunbar's poetry. In a sense, MacDiarmid's entire work i s an exposition of this Yet one can apply this concept even to i t s e l f .  concept.  I have said  that the Caledonian Antisyzygy, or the co-holding of opposite extremes, i s one basic pattern of MacDiarmid's mind. pattern;  This i s e s s e n t i a l l y a s t a t i c  although i t contains a great deal of movement within i t s e l f ,  i t i s non-linear.  But there i s also another fundamental pattern i n  MacDiarmid's thought which i_s l i n e a r , progressive, evolutionary.  This  pattern i s that of the development of mankind, and as MacDiarmid's work proceeds i t comes to dominate.  The evolutionary v i s i o n provides a con-  text i n which the r e c o n c i l i a t i o n of opposites i s possible.  The only  place where extremes meet, i s i n f i n i t y . When I was  talking to MacDiarmid, he was unhappy about the term 3  "mystic" (which Professor David Daiches had applied to him  ), but he  accepted the term "visionary", and said: Edwin Muir said that I was much more interested i n the potential than the actual. ... I couldn't be animated i n the way that I am, either i n poetry or i n p o l i t i c s , unless I was concerned with the p o t e n t i a l i t i e s of mankind.  A main theme of his poetry i s the variety of ways ( p o l i t i c a l , c u l t u r a l , s o c i a l , i n t e l l e c t u a l , l i n g u i s t i c , mental) i n which man  can  develop his p o t e n t i a l i t i e s and evolve towards a state of society which w i l l d i f f e r as much from the present as the present does from p r e h i s t o r i c  - 9 -  times.  One way forward i s certainly to develop an awareness of the  Caledonian  Antisyzygy.  Thus a non-linear pattern of thought i s combined with a linear one which i n turn includes the non-linear. combination i s everywhere i n MacDiarmid:  This kind of paradoxical i t i s the theory of the com-  bination of opposites employed with the theory i t s e l f as one of the opposites.  Of this continual movement of paradox, twisting ever back  on i t s e l f , MacDiarmid has said:  There i s a place at Langholm c a l l e d the Curly Snake where a winding path c o i l s up through a copse t i l l i t reaches the level whence, after passing through a f i e l d or two, i t runs on into the splendid woods of the Langfall. I t has always haunted my imagination and has probably constituted i t s e l f the ground-plan and pattern of my mind. (FGS 41-2.)  In a poem a c t u a l l y c a l l e d "The Caledonian Antisyzygy"  (477),  MacDiarmid defends this p o s i t i o n , and also indicates some o£ the particular issues i n which the general theory i s exemplified:  I write now i n English and now i n Scots To the despair of friends who plead For consistency; sometimes achieve the true l y r i c cry, Next but chopped-up prose; and write whiles In t r a d i t i o n a l forms, next i n a mixture of styles.  MacDiarmid's choice of language, h i s choice of form, and especially the change i n both, have been discussed at great length; discussions remain peripheral to the centrally important  but these issues of h i s  - 10 -  work, which they have sometimes tended to obscure. MacDiarmid's e a r l i e s t work (as CM. was  inevitable at the time.  Before 1920,  Grieve) i s i n English, as the verse being written i n  Scots was mainly i n the "Kailyard" t r a d i t i o n , which had come to mean feeble imitations of Burns, expressing t r i t e sentiments in a language desiccated by c l i c h e .  The young Grieve turned naturally to English.  His revulsion from the K a i l y a r d t r a d i t i o n s t i l l determines, to a great extent, Scottish c r i t i c a l reaction to i t :  only recently has  anyone been able to a f f o r d to look at i t more objectively, and see i t s merits.  Such as they are, these are the merits of (attendant on the  f a u l t s of) Victorian verse i n England as well. one of the few people i n Scotland who  Ian Hamilton Finlay i s  have looked on this per.iod with  any favour. I t should also be noticed that much of this verse dealt with subjects and themes which have never appealed to MacDiarmid; expressions of human friendship and love.  warm, simple  MacDiarmid has always had  a kind of contempt for this:  Almost a l l modern Scottish poetry gives o f f a great sense of warmth and o f f e r i n g , l i k e a dog when i t loves you. I t i s soggily and indiscriminately affectionate. (KPW 7.)  Edwin Morgan has pointed this out as a "gap" i n the range of MacDiarmid s 1  4 subject-matter. And so the f i r s t phase of Grieve's c r e a t i v i t y f e l l naturally into English, producing the early poems and Annals of the Five Senses.  - 11 Of these early poems, the best i s "Cattle Show" (238), reprinted i n Stony Limits.  later  I t i s a concise l y r i c , wasting no words,  which sets up a simple contrast and makes a simple s a t i r i c a l point. I t i s an unambitious poem, but i s distinguished by the strength of i t s f e e l i n g for natural objects, for things.  The aniuials are far more  v i v i d to the reader than the "painted ladies" are, as w i l l often be the case i n MacDiarmid.  This feel for natural objects i s a continuing  strength i n his work; human characters may  the comparative weakness i n presenting  individual  also be a strength, i f , as here, the scheme of the  poem demands i t . Edwin Morgan has stressed the importance of Annals i n any overall view of MacDiarmid s work: 1  I t ' s worth remembering that his f i r s t book i s not Sangschaw but Annals of the Five Senses, which came out i n 1923. This strange c o l l e c t i o n of prose and verse i s both hard to read and hard to describe, but what one can say about i t i s that a good deal of the later MacDiarmid i s already there i n essence: so much so, i n fact, that one might think i t was Sangschaw which provided the interruption, rather than the l a t e r work which drove him o f f the r a i l s . ^  Annals i s a strange muddle of a book, f u l l of unexpected rewards, gems hidden away i n the depths of a loose and labyrinthine prose style. The long, often ungrammatical sentences (digressing into endless parentheses, much longer than this one,  so that, when one  eventually  reaches the end, i t i s necessary to turn back a few pages to pick up  the  grammatical thread from before the beginning of the parenthesis) are a familiar and recurrent aspect of MacDiarmid's prose and of his later poetry.  - 12 The most interesting (though not necessarily the most successful) parts of Annals are those i n which Grieve seems to be presenting a kind of  i d e a l i s e d s e l f - p o r t r a i t , for instance the much-quoted passage -  So his tendency was always to the whole, to the t o t a l i t y , to the general balance of things. Indeed i t was his chiefest d i f f i c u l t y ... to exclude, to condemn, to say No. Here, probably, was the secret of the way i n which he used to plunge into the f u l l current of the most i n consistent movements, seeking - always i n vain, u n t i l he was u t t e r l y exhausted, not having f a i l e d , however, to enrich every one of them - to find ground upon which he might stand foursquare. (A 194)  - or the opening section, "Cerebral", which portrays an almost superhuman i n t e n s i t y of i n t e l l e c t u a l a c t i v i t y .  The i n a b i l i t y to carry this  over into human relationships i s presented with amusing in "Cafe Scene";  self-awareness  whereas "The Never-Yet Explored" shows an acute awarene  of and some insight into a p a r t i c u l a r character, even i f i t i s mainly concerned with that character's ideas.  Of "Sartoria", Kenneth Buthlay  has said:  (It) i s a sort of mosaic b u i l t up from items about dress, especially female dress, which suggests that fashion magazines must have been included i n the author's voracious reading. I t also reveals the passion for specialised terms and esoteric vocabularies that has characterised so much of his l a t e r work. (B17.)  Annals was  f i r s t published i n 1923;  but by that time CM.  had discovered Scots, and become Hugh MacDiarmid.  Grieve  He had moved from a  - 13 position opposed to any r e v i v a l of Scots to a position of immense personal enthusiasm  for i t , q u a l i f i e d only by his distrust of the uses  to which i t had been put by the Kailyard authors."* movement was  The climax of this  the publication, in October 1922, i n the t h i r d number of  the Scottish Chapbook, of "The Watergaw". Many questions have been raised about Scots.  I t has been debated,  endlessly, whether Scots i s a "language" or a " d i a l e c t " .  This debate  has been concerned less with the denotative meanings of these terms (which would be hard, i f not impossible, to f i x precisely) than with their connotations. country;  Scots as a "language" r e f l e c t s the pride of an  i t i s an aspect of Scottish Nationalism.  of English i s derogatory;  independent  Scots as a " d i a l e c t "  i t i s an aspect of English Imperialism.  One  of the best short accounts of the history of Scots i n r e l a t i o n to MacDiarmid's use of i t i s that given by Albert Mackie i n the F e s t s c h r i f t , pages 165-185. But theoretical arguments about the history of Scots seem to me to be of less significance than purely pragmatic considerations. MacDiarmid c e r t a i n l y found, i n the a r t i c l e s he wrote during h i s s h i f t of attitude, many v a l i d and i n t e r e s t i n g ideas to j u s t i f y what he was doing but what he was  doing came f i r s t .  He turned to Scots because i t worked;  "The Watergaw" says more than a l l the a r t i c l e s put together.^ This argument can also be applied to those of MacDiarmid's followers who have attempted  to write i n Scots, down to the present day.  It is  not a matter of theories, not a matter of i n t e l l e c t u a l knowledge of the language - as i s proved by the spectacularly disastrous case of Maurice Lindsay, c f whom Norman MacCaig once remarked that he "took to Scots l i k e  - 14 -  a duck to glue." In a l e t t e r to William Soutar, i n 1932, MacDiarmid admitted:  I have been i n regard to Scots a thoroughly bad influence on you and others and my own practice i n regard to the synthetic business i s so purely individual and inimitable that i t j u s t i f i e s i n my case alone - so far - what i n other cases simply clutters up the verse with u n v i v i f i e d and useless words. ^  For Soutar himself, Scots worked intermittently (though i t can be noted that h i s best poem, "Song" , depends on juxtaposition of Scots and English:  see the l a s t two lines.)  I t has worked for some (notably  Sydney Goodsir Smith and Robert Garioch) and not for others.  There i s  no logic i n i t . As to the future of Scots, one can agree equally with Maurice Lindsay -  I cannot see how, under the influence f i r s t of the f i l m and then of radio and now of t e l e v i s i o n , the Scots tongue can do anything other than gradually dwine away.  - or with Robert Garioch -  (Scots) would be so useful that people would use i t just because there was nothing else so convenient or useful for them to have, and out of i t s sheer usefulness t h e y ' l l preserve i t . I doubt even i f i t w i l l f a i l as a spoken language. c  I t i s no more probable or improbable now that a great Scots poet should a r i s e than i t was i n 1922.  - 15 Having stressed the pragmatic basis of MacDiarmid's adoption of Scots, we can now turn to the theoretical reasons advanced, which are no less v a l i d for being secondary.  These centre on two things -  MacDiarmid's conception of language i t s e l f , and h i s conception of Scotland. I t i s i n his attitude to language, more than i n anything else, that MacDiarmid's true claim to "modernity" l i e s .  A concern with the re-  v i v i f y i n g of language i s central to a l l forms of modern poetic thought, especially some of the more recent developments, such as Concrete Poetry, of which MacDiarmid, with t y p i c a l inconsistency, strongly disapproves. The concretists would c e r t a i n l y agree wholeheartedly with MacDiarmid s 1  statement:  the act of poetry (is) the reverse of what i t i s usually thought to be; not an idea gradually shaping i t s e l f i n words, but deriving e n t i r e l y from words. (LP x i i i . )  MacDiarmid's recourse to Scots i s analogous to Pound's recourse to Provencal or Anglo-Saxon models; i s shared by T.S. E l i o t .  and h i s view of the Scots t r a d i t i o n  The importance of c r o s s - f e r t i l i z a t i o n of  different languages through poetic translation l i e s at the centre of MacDiarmid's aesthetic as well as of Pound's. MacDiarmid's use of Scots was described by John Buchan, in the Preface to Sangschaw, as  "at once reactionary and revolutionary It is a proof that a new s p i r i t i s to-day abroad i n the North, which, as I have said, i s both conservative and r a d i c a l a determination to keep Scotland in the main march of the  - 16 -  world's i n t e r e s t s , and a t the same time to forgo p a r t o f her a n c i e n t h e r i t a g e . " (S x.)  F o r MacDiarmid, the way versa.  I n h i s l a t e r work, we  forward  i s the way  s h a l l see him  into v i s i o n a r y futures of unforeseeable and  no  backward, and v i c e  going even f u r t h e r  forward,  developments i n human e v o l u t i o n ,  f u r t h e r backward, i n t o G a e l i c r a t h e r than S c o t s , and h i s i d e a s of  G a e l i c p r e - h i s t o r y and  the o r i g i n s o f c i v i l i z a t i o n .  He  insists  upon  " c i v i l i z a t i o n ' s urgent need today to r e f r e s h and r e p l e n i s h i t s e l f a t its original  sources."  (IS i x )  Thus the r e t u r n to the p a s t  (the " r e a c t i o n a r y " ) i s never f o r i t s  e own  sake a l o n g ;  i s s w i f t and The  the swing to the o t h e r extreme (the " r e v o l u t i o n a r y " )  necessary.  p a s s i o n f o r language as such i s to f i n d f u l l  years l a t e r , w i t h I n Memoriam James Joyce; on one may  particular  language:  be i l l u s t r a t e d by two  Scots.  The  e x p r e s s i o n some  a t t h i s stage, i t i s c e n t r e d p a s s i o n , and  i t s relevance,  quotations:  We have been enormously s t r u c k by the resemblance - the moral resemblance - between Jamieson's E t y m o l o g i c a l D i c t i o n a r y o f the S c o t t i s h Language and James Joyce's Ulysses. A v i s . c o m i c a t h a t has not yet been l i b e r a t e d l i e s bound by desuetude and m i s a p p r e c i a t i o n i n the r e c e s s e s o f the D o r i c : and i t s p o t e n t i a l u p r i s i n g would be no l e s s p r o d i g i o u s u n c o n t r o l l a b l e , and u t t e r l y a t v a r i a n c e w i t h c o n v e n t i o n a l m o r a l i t y than was Joyce's tremendous o u t p o u r i n g . (SC Feb. 1922, 183.) The v a l u e of the D o r i c l i e s i n the e x t e n t to which i t c o n t a i n s l a p s e d or u n r e a l i s e d q u a l i t i e s which correspond to 'unconscious' elements o f d i s t i n c t i v e l y S c o t t i s h psychology. , ^ ( g (  1  Q  2  2  >  6  3  >  )  - 17 This l a t t e r idea i s one that MacDiarmid has often since repeated. When t a l k i n g with him, I asked  Q. A.  And  Do you have i n mind here something l i k e the Jungian idea of a c o l l e c t i v e unconscious? Something similar; I think i t reaches down to deeper and more important layers of the psyche.  i n "Gairmscoile"  (56), he wrote  ... And there's forgotten shibboleths o" the Scots Ha'e keys to senses l o c k i t to us yet - Coorse words that shamble thro' oor minds l i k e stots, Syne turn on's muckle een wi' doonsin' emerauds l i t .  This b e l i e f i n a c o l l e c t i v e unconscious of the Scottish psyche ties i n with the idea of returning to the " o r i g i n a l sources" of our civilization. Gaelic. ideas:  I t leads later i n MacDiarmid to a greater emphasis on  I t also exhibits c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s of other leading MacDiarmid a broad generality, which sounds impressive,  but which cannot  be very p r e c i s e l y tied down, and which i s not susceptible to "proof". The ideas which MacDiarmid puts forward are often  questionable:  not many a u t h o r i t i e s , for instance, would place the trust he does i n Waddell's B r i t i s h Edda.  But whereas errors of fact can be noted and  corrected by the c r i t i c , opinions can only be disagreed with.  The reader  w i l l , eventually, have to make up his own mind about the v a l i d i t y of MacDiarmid s psychological, h i s t o r i c a l , l i n g u i s t i c , and p o l i t i c a l views. 1  A l l that the c r i t i c can do i s to interpret these views as he thinks MacDiarmid sees them, and demonstrate how they operate i n his poetry.  - 18 -  Clearly, one of the "'unconscious'  elements of d i s t i n c t i v e l y  Scottish psychology" i s the Caledonian Antisyzygy;  and sure enough,  this i s to be found i n the language as well:  One of the most d i s t i n c t i v e c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s of the Vernacular, part of i t s very essence, i s i t s i n s i s t e n t recogn i t i o n of the body, the senses. ... This explains the unique blend of the l y r i c a l and the ludicrous i n primitive Scots sentiment. ... The essence of the genius of our race i s , in our opinion, the r e c o n c i l i a t i o n i t e f f e c t s between the base and the beautiful, recognising that they are complementary and indispensable to each other. (SC, Feb. 1922, 1G4  This q u a l i t y of "earthiness" was  described by Edwin Muir, r e f e r r  to "Country L i f e " (20), as  the product of a r e a l i s t i c , or more exactly a m a t e r i a l i s t i c , imagination, which seizing upon everyday r e a l i t y shows not the strange beauty which that sometimes takes on, but rather the beauty which i t possesses normally and i n use.  10  At the other end of the spectrum, MacDiarmid i s also i n s i s t i n g upon the a b i l i t y of Scots to carry more i n t e l l e c t u a l and abstract ideas  The new Scottish l i t e r a r y movement, begun i n the early 'twenties, was launched under the slogan "Not Burns Dunbar", because i t aimed not only at re-establishing for the whole range of modern l i t e r a r y purpose a f u l l e r canon of Scots than Burns employed, but because i t sought to i n t e l l e c t u a l i z e Scots poetry and reacquire a far greater range of technical resources than Burns commanded. This was necessary because i n the postBurns period Scots poetry had been bogged i n mindless doggerel, facetiae, and hopeless sentimentality. (D, 9.)  - 19 These, then, are the elements out of which the l y r i c s of Sangschaw and Penny Wheep were b u i l t , elements of the language i t s e l f :  i t s richnes  and o r i g i n a l i t y of fresh image, unspoilt by the excesses of post-Burnsian "doggerel", the " v i s comica" comparable to Ulysses;  i t s a b i l i t y to  appeal to deeper and more fundamental layers of the Scottish subconscious i t s antisyzygystical properties, combining down-to-earth materialism with high f l i g h t s of i n t e l l e c t u a l and metaphysical speculation, often desc r i b i n g one i n terms of the other;  and f i n a l l y , a force and economy of  expression which the language and the simple ballad-type forms seemed to release i n MacDiarmid.  Already some of h i s e a r l i e r English poems had  shown a tendency to sprawl:  but i n these l y r i c s he achieved a concen-  tration of expression almost unique i n his work. The best of these l y r i c s are now so well-known of a heritage;  and much has been written about them.  that they are part A fine and  concise summing-up of their q u a l i t i e s i s the following, by Robert Tait:'  They have three main c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s . F i r s t , they establish dramatic dialogue between an individual and the rest of the world. The world i s always Other: i t i s not crudely anthropomorphised. Ease of f a m i l i a r i t y with i t i s countered by mystery and metamorphosis over which the individual has no control, as when a catch of f i s h turn into women ("The Three Fishes"), blue eggs are seen as eyes ("Trompe L'Oeil"), or a cloud-burst and soaring moon are p a r t - i d e n t i f i e d with a lover. Along with this goes the second c h a r a c t e r i s t i c : cosmological events are conceived i n terms of the matter-of-fact kind of action, human and non-human, such as i s familiar i n a r u r a l community. This q u a l i t y i s the r e s u l t of the scots vocabulary and, equally the scots rhythm and tone of voice. Thirdly, there i s MacDiarmid's special talent for clear a r t i c u l a t i o n of an image and timing of e f f e c t s . At their best these poems are free of the muddle that results from being unable to r e s i s t another enticing image...  - 20 This r e l a t i n g of the i n d i v i d u a l , l o c a l , and p a r t i c u l a r to the general and universal, manoeuvres.  i s the most c h a r a c t e r i s t i c of MacDiarmid's  I t works i n two ways:  either i t diminishes the universal,  by seeing i t i n terms of the l o c a l (as i n "The Bonnie Broukit Bairn" (7) ) , or else i t diminishes the l o c a l , by setting i t i n a universal context.  Observe "Empty Vessel" (50), which i s certainly one of the  most beautiful of a l l MacDiarmid's pcems.  Of i t , George Bruce has  written:  The cosmic image "Wunds wi warlds to swing" places the individual i n a new situation t r u l y comprehensible only to a man who i s aware of the vast i n t e r s t e l l a r spaces discovered i n our century. Without forcing our attention we are made aware of a background of s c i e n t i f i c knowledge. "The l i c h t that bends owre a'thing" images i n cosmic terms the concept of the love of the mother bent over her c h i l d , but i t also refers i n d i r e c t l y to the doctrine of r e l a t i v i t y . The effect of this imagery i s to diminish the size of the individual to vanishing point i n a vast i n d i f f e r e n t universe and so i n t e n s i f y the emotion of p i t y . (F 50-1.)  What I want to emphasize i s that the i n t e n s i t y of p i t y i s achieved only by placing i t i n a cosmic setting, with the r e s u l t that the p i t y i t s e l f becomes a general emotion.  In adapting h i s source, MacDiarmid has  undoubtedly created a superior poem; "Jenny  but he has lost the i n d i v i d u a l i t y of  Nettles". This tendency i s not compensated  for i n the other approach: the  planets may be seen as children or gossiping women, but never as a c h i l d or a woman. refusing  "The Watergaw" deliberately preserves an a i r of mystery,  to give the individual interpretation of "what your look meant  - 21 -  then", and thus keeps the emotions of awe and dread on a general l e v e l . The only person approaching a f u l l y r e a l i s e d individual i n these two books i s Cophetua (19):  c e r t a i n l y , hers i s the only human name to appear i n  Sangschaw. This i s not intended as a c r i t i c i s m , but only as a c l a r i f i c a t i o n of what MacDiarmid can and cannot do, of what he intends or does not intend.  His poetry i s always a general one, even when i t appears most  intensely concerned with individual details (as i n much of the l a t e r "poetry of f a c t " ) .  The Caledonian Antisyzygy i s always p u l l i n g him  away from the p a r t i c u l a r to the universal: by the other. way  we never get the one untouched  The greatest poetry can present the individual i n such a  that the universal i s i m p l i c i t , without destroying the i n t e g r i t y of  the i n d i v i d u a l :  but this i s an effect which MacDiarmid seldom achieves.  Perhaps his own personality i s too strongly individual to allow any other one to appear i n his writings.  His great g i f t i s the presentation  of the l o c a l and the universal as parts of one system, as necessary to each other:  but this interdependence  i s so conceived that  the i n t e g r i t y of the i n d i v i d u a l , being less important i s broken.  I t cannot stand alone.  interdependent,.  than i t s relationship,  Whereas Swift could get along with  John, Peter and Thomas but not a l l mankind, MacDiarmid seems p e r f e c t l y happy with a l l mankind, but i l l at ease with individuals. (Note, as a further example, how  "Ode  to A l l Rebels" (SLSU 91) slides from a s t r i k i n g  dramatic p o r t r a i t of an individual character into a loosely organized series of statements of general ideas.) T a i t i s r i g h t i n pointing out the excellent economy of means i n these l y r i c s .  This point can be borne out by detailed analysis of  - 22 individual poems, such as the analysis of " E x Vermibus" (13) by David 12 Daiches (F 23-4), or of "The Watergaw" by I a i n Crichton Smith. These c r i t i c s show how, i n the best poems of Sangschaw and Penny Wheep, each word has i t s precise and measured contribution to make.  But  Crichton Smith i s right i n drawing some d i s t i n c t i o n s , and his use of the Coleridgean categories of Fancy and Imagination i s useful.  In some  poems, such as "Blind Man's Luck" (31), i t i s clear that MacDiarmid has just found a word that he l i k e s i n Jamieson's, and so writes a poem round i t .  (See B 37.)  MacDiarmid's method has always been to take any idea or mode of expression and push i t to i t s l i m i t , and then (being i n agreement with Blake) beyond.  I t i s clear that the short l y r i c was soon exhausted for  him, and that any further e f f o r t s would be mere r e p e t i t i o n (although whenever he does return to the form, i t i s with distinction.) r e a l l y great l y r i c s are, necessarily, few.  The  The general run of poems  in Penny Wheep shows a f a c i l i t y which MacDiarmid was bound to r e a l i s e as dangerous, holding as he does that the good i s the worst enemy of the best. Despite his assertion that  Wee b i t sangs are a' I need  Sangschaw and Penny Wheep both contain longer poems which t r y to get beyond the limited formal range of the l y r i c . Christ Sing" (8);  These poems - "I Heard  "Ballad of the Five Senses" (25);  "Bombinations of a Chimaera" (45);  "Sea-Serpent" (33);  "Gairmscoile" (56) - a l l have points  - 23 of i n t e r e s t , and display the current of his thought, but none i s e n t i r e l y successful.  The  formal elements are uneasy, e s p e c i a l l y of those i n  ballad-metre,  where the conciseness  of the poems around them i s noticeably  lacking. In a sense, MacDiarmid s continuing problem has been to find a 1  form capable of expressing he wishes to write.  the ever-expanding content of the long poems  Architectonic power, i n the c l a s s i c a l sense, has  never been one of MacDiarmid's strong points: d i f f e r e n t kind of unity, that of the continuum.  his longer poems seek a One  section flows into  the next, so that the l i n k s , or contrasts, are p l a i n to see;  but  the  structure of the whole remains i r r e g u l a r . Such i s the structure of his f i r s t , and perhaps most successful, long poem, A Drunk Man  Looks at the T h i s t l e (1925).  This volume i s , i n  one sense, a poem-sequence, not d i s s i m i l a r to the form employed by Pound i n his Hugh Selwyn Mauberley sequence, or by Yeats i n The Tower; certain sections of i t can be detached to stand on their own lyrics.  as separate  (Most notably, "Wha's the Bride?" has been anthologised  published separately.)  But MacDiarmid was  of where the d i f f e r e n t sections might end.  t i t l e d l y r i c s of the Collected Poems was, a regrettable mistake.  The  from i t s sequential nature.  and  surely r i g h t to emphasize  the poem's unity by publishing i t with no more i n d i c a t i o n than a dots (...)  and  few  The d i v i s i o n into  as John C. Weston admits (xix),  t i t l e s add nothing to the poem, and However, for the c r i t i c , they do  detract  provide  convenient references, and i t i s only as such that I w i l l use them here. The  connections between these sections are thematic, using both  s i m i l a r i t y and contrast of theme.  The  drunken-ness of the  protagonist  - 24 serves as a unifying device, and absolves the poet from any rigorously l o g i c a l scheme.  Daiches comments:  The moments of semi-drunken confusion i n the poem serve as e f f e c t i v e transitions; when the image on the screen comes back into focus, as i t were, we are somewhere else - but where we are i s always related to the main theme and purpose of the work as a whole. (F 3 8 ) .  The poem as a whole presents an extended deliberation on many of MacDiarmid's main themes;  i t s greatest success l i e s i n finding for i t s  ideas images which are s t r i k i n g , adequate, and appropriate. The form of the poem i s a series of concentric c i r c l e s .  At the  centre i s a drunk man on an actual h i l l s i d e observing an actual t h i s t l e ; from here i t extends to the situation of a Scottish poet examining the state of his nation, as seen i n i t s emblem, the T h i s t l e ;  at the furthest  extent, the Poet (not necessarily of any race, he might as well be Dostoevsky or Christ) surveys the condition of man's mortality i n r e l a t i o n to the universe, as imaged by the t h i s t l e i n the moonlight. This exhibits the familiar juxtaposition c f the individual and the universal, with again the twist that MacDiarmid's generalised.  " i n d i v i d u a l " i s somehow  Although i t would be a mistake to i d e n t i f y MacDiarmid  with his persona, the persona does not seem to have any very obvious personality t r a i t s or ideas apart from MacDiarmid's;  and Jean, although  continually used to return the poem to the i n d i v i d u a l , p r a c t i c a l , down-toearth l e v e l , i s herself a generalised ideal of a loving wife.  (Only  b r i e f l y , at the very end of the poem, do we ever hear her speaking.)  - 25 -  The opening section has been f u l l y analysed by David Daich.es i n the F e s t s c h r i f t , and I do not intend to duplicate h i s comments.  It is  a b r i l l i a n t piece of satire i n i t s own r i g h t , but i t i s more b r i l l i a n t as an introduction to the themes of the poem. moving from the pub to the h i l l s i d e ;  I t establishes the l o c a l i t y ,  and i t establishes the voice of the  protagonist, the drunk man, Jean's husband, getting " f a i r waun'ert" (56), who i s also the poet, conscious of setting out on a major poem (the a l l u s i o n to Dante, which Daiches mentions) and conscious also of the proceedure he intends to take:  To prove my saul i s Scots I maun begin Wi what's s t i l l deemed Scots and the folk expect, And spire up syne by v i s i b l e degrees To heichts whereo' the fules ha'e never recked. 1  (63)  The examples taken - Scotch whisky and "Bobbie Burns" (as the Americans would say) - t i e i n also with the theme of the poet, and h i s function i n society, which i s central to a l l MacDiarmid's work.  The whisky provides  the atmosphere, s p i r i t , or medium i n which the whole poem e x i s t s ; the  and  pun "fu' moon" (66) l i n k s i t with the major symbol of moonlight  which, i n one of i t s aspects, i s to stand for poetic i n s p i r a t i o n . Burns poses i n acute form the problem of a poet's relationship to society; the bizarre phenomenon of Burns Clubs i s a dreadful warning of the way society can pervert the poet's r o l e , can render him harmless by accepting him.  The process i s akin to that by which the good i s the worst enemy  of the best.  The d i r e c t comparison  - 26 As Kirks wi' C h r i s t i a n i t y ha'e dune, Burns' Clubs wi' Burns (66)  immediately  jumps the poem from the l o c a l to the universal.  Burns  serves also as a focus for the national issue, as Scotland's "national bard", and, through his world-wide reputation, for MacDiarmid's i n t e r nationalism. The position of the s a t i r i s t i s always one of i n t e l l e c t u a l  super-  i o r i t y , and MacDiarmid has never been i n c l i n e d to modesty about t h i s . Already we have h i s favourite phrase "maist f o l k " (66), and the contempt for Thought that i s (continuing the a l c o h o l i c metaphor) "under proof". This leads to an assertion of the r a r i t y , and therefore the supreme value, of "a thocht worth ha'en'." man":  This experience i s "no' for i l k a  the implication i s of course that the poet i s not merely " i l k a  man", not one o f the "maist f o l k " .  Such thoughts provide one constant  (at an opposite extreme from Jean) i n the flux of time, space, and whisky. Nevertheless, the superiority i s partly the Socratic one of r e a l i s i n g  I dinna haud the warld's end i n my heid As maist folk think they dae. (67)  Here follows the statement, already quoted, about being where "extremes meet";  this i s seen as a d i s t i n c t i v e l y Scottish c h a r a c t e r i s t i c -  "Auld Scottish i n s t i n c t s " (68) - and i s the poem's f i r s t statement of the Caledonian Antisyzygy. With the quick expansion of the Christ reference - "What tho'ts  - 27 Montrose or Nazareth?" - the poem i s ready for i t s next widening of view, v i a the translation of Blok.  The very introduction of a Russian  writer into a Scots poem was remarkable enough; into an expanded awareness.  i t j o l t s the reader  "Poet's Pub" picks up the symbol of  moonlight/drunkenness, and sets i t apart from the world;  And i n the l i f t , heich, hauf-averted, The mune looks owre the y i r d l y roon . 1  (69)  The v i s i o n of the moon i s linked with the idea of poetic i n s p i r a t i o n ; i t becomes i n the poem an element of mystery. continually ambivalent q u a l i t y .  As i n s p i r a t i o n , i t i s a  Although  "In vino V e r i t a s " cry rough And reid-een'd fules that i n i t droon (69)  i t i s also true that  You're r i c h t , auld drunk impenitent, I ken i t tae - the truth's i n wine! (70)  This ambivalence i s stressed by the next Blok l y r i c , "The Unknown Goddess" (71) , i n which the Muse i s strange and threatening, yet s t i l l ""frae my hert's-hert torn!""  This continues  the idea that the beautiful  " s i l k e n leddy" seen i n the glass may also be "a v i s i o n o' mysel'."  The  opposing forces are c r y s t a l l i s e d i n the opposition of moonlight and t h i s t l e :  - 28 the t h i s t l e "gurly" l i k e the unknown Goddess, but also linked to the poet himself, and thus to the " s i l k e n leddy" aspect of the Muse.  The r e l a t i o n -  ship i s stated thus:  The munelicht's l i k e a lookin'-glass, The t h i s t l e ' s l i k e mysel' (70)  The two aspects are at opposite extremes, yet meeting. dependent.  They are i n t e r -  The t h i s t l e can only see i t s e l f i f the mirror i s there;  the mirror can only function i f the t h i s t l e i s i n front of i t . The ambivalence i s continued i n the v i s i o n of l i f e which the Muse gives him - " t h i s cursed Conscience thou one  hast set i n me" (71) .  On the  side i s the moonlight, which represents absolute freedom, freedom  from mortality, the a b i l i t y to do everything (but which i s also, as freedom from "Conscience",  mere anarchy).  On the other i s the t h i s t l e , "Mortality  itsel'":  For i l k a thing a man Aye leaves a m i l l i o n T i l l h i s puir warped To a' that micht ha 1  can be or think or dae mair unbeen, unthocht, undune, performance i s , been, a t h i s t l e to the mune. (72)  But just as the moonlight was ambivalent (tending towards anarchy), so i s the t h i s t l e (tending towards glory).  And  This leaves  Man torn i n twa glorious i n the l i f t and g r i s l y on the sod . (72) 1  - 29 The two aspects of E t e r n i t y and Mortality are brought back to earth by the poet's wondering  i n which sphere he r e a l l y i s , whether he's  a "thingum" preserved i n s p i r i t (alcohol, moon, E t e r n i t y ) , or whether he i s a man on a h i l l s i d e i n 1925 A.D. of  I t i s impossible to t e l l ; a l l  l i f e may be a dream; but  We maun j u i s t tak things as we find them. 1  (73)  Thus MacDiarmid a i r i l y dismisses the whole question of r e a l i t y and appearance, and agrees to operate on the common assumption of r e a l i t y . In  that case, though, the most pressing problem i s to understand the true  nature of the mortality imaged i n the t h i s t l e , and i t i s to this that he turns i n the following sections. Various attitudes to the t h i s t l e are presented, some through translations.  Ramaeckers' imposing view of the Gothic T h i s t l e i s  counterpointed by Hippius  1  v i s i o n of the t h i s t l e as octopus, with again  the i d e n t i f i c a t i o n of the t h i s t l e and the poet's own soul.  The t h i s t l e  i s also Scotland's soul, but the country l i e s "clapt and shrunken", a model that would have improved E l i o t ' s "Waste Land" (74).  (The idea of  Scotland as waste land runs through the whole poem, mainly i n terms of satire on c u l t u r a l s t e r i l i t y . )  The Octopus v i s i o n i s continued i n the  "Ebb and Flow" section, which contrasts the chaotic uncertainties of the poet's own thought and being with the "certain c e r t a i n t i e s " of "Members o' / St. Andrew's Societies" (75).  These worthies are "sober", and do  not wander over "wine-dark" oceans;  that i s , they have never v i s i t e d  - 30 -  the Poet's Pub, never been caught by the moonlight. Another (somewhat loose) translation, this time from Else LaskerSchliler, presents the t h i s t l e i n r e l a t i o n to the moon again, as  i t s coonter-pairt - The opposite 'thoot which i t couldna be (77) i  This i s perhaps the strongest statement  in the poem of the  interdependence  of- the two. The search for the t h i s t l e continues i n a series of energetic comic pictures, culminating i n  Grinnin' gargoyle by a saint, Mephistopheles i n Heaven, Skeleton at a tea-meetin' (77)  Here the t h i s t l e i s being expanded, almost to include the moonlight as w e l l , as i t becomes the symbol of the Caledonian Antisyzygy, a combination of opposites.  The idea i s i n comic form here, but i s shortly to be  picked up more seriously. Meanwhile we get a short interlude on the merits of Scottish education (which contains the unspoken irony that Cruivie and Gilsanquhar were educated i n the same school system as the poet), and the beautiful l y r i c "The Crying of the F a i r " (78).  This l y r i c i l l u s t r a t e s i n b r i e f  the poem's movement from the l o c a l (Langholm) to the universal ("the o'Heaven") and back again (Jean).  The t h i s t l e i s i n attendance,  as ever, grand and magnificent, yet " i l l  to bear".  stars  ambivalent  - 31 The section "Man  and the I n f i n i t e " (79) picks up again the idea  of the t h i s t l e uniting man and the i n f i n i t e . howes o men  1  I t s roots are " i n the  man's hert", where also the Strange Goddess came from.  i s also capable of making t h i s unity:  Thus  remember the t h i s t l e as s e l f ;  The v i s i o n i s glorious, as the t h i s t l e sweeps upward to "set roses a l i g h t Inowre E t e r n i t y ' s yett."  But of course the ambivalence p e r s i s t s ;  the unity i s f l e e t i n g , and leaves Man's heart bare, containing "nocht but naethingness".  The t h i s t l e i s l e f t "rootless and radiant", but  s t i l l , as a Phoenix, capable of resurrection. This complex v i s i o n culminates the f i r s t examination of the properties of the t h i s t l e .  Although i t preserves i n i t s ambivalence  the p o s s i b i l i t y of certainty and f u l f i l l m e n t , i t does end on a pessimistic note, which i s r e f l e c t e d i n the short, sour l y r i c s which round o f f the sequence.  Man,  tormented as a " t h i s t l e l e s s f u l e " (81) , plays l i t t l e  rhyme-games with Masoch and Sade;  and  We wha are poets and a r t i s t s Move frae i n k l i n ' to i n k l i n And l i v e for oor antrin l i c h t n i n ' s In the haingles atweenwhiles. 1  "Haingles" could be translated as "ennui";  (81)  and echoes of Baudelaire  (especially "The Voyage") are to be found i n the wild b r i e f outcry "Outward Bound" (82), which seeks an escape from boredom.  The defence of  t h i s attitude i n "The Ineducable" brings the poet back to self-awareness, and the poem enters a new phase. The poem now  turns to a b r i e f examination of "The  Quandary", as one aspect of mortality, of the t h i s t l e .  Psycho-Somatic The relationship  - 32 i s again one of interdependence:  Man's spreit i s wi' his ingangs twined In ways that he can ne'er unwind. (83)  But women, who  start from a more physical, down-to-earth point of view,  often have a clearer v i s i o n and see that man's mind i s " j u i s t The poet i s confident that Jean could explain the t h i s t l e .  a  geg."  (Could  she  also explain the moonlight?) The sexual theme continues  through the next few l y r i c s .  Again,  a translation (from Edmond Roche£ reprinted from Penny Wheep) i s i n t r o duced to give a new  perspective on the theme.  This poem, and "In the  Last Analysis", are both about the clearer v i s i o n of women, which reduces man  to a "truth abject" about his own physical basis.  Conversely, this  awareness serves only to increase man's desire. The  sequence r i s e s to i t s memorable climax i n the famous l y r i c /  ballad "0 Wha's the Bride?" (84).  This poem i s , deservedly,  famous of MacDiarmid's individual works; i t by Yeats and many others. magnificent  i t may  high tribute has been paid to  What I want to note here, i s that, however  be i n i t s e l f , i t also f i t s exactly into i t s p o s i t i o n  in the sequence of A Drunk Man; after lead away.  the most  the poems before lead up to i t , those  The woman i s s t i l l  seen as the dominant partner,  and  the relationship i s s t i l l very firmly based on the physical, but i t reaches powerfully towards an almost mystical view. Cf this poem, M.L.  Rosenthal has written:  - 33 MacDiarmid i n this poem does a q u i e t l y extraordinary thing. He has written a modern poem which repossesses not only the d i c t i o n and rhythm of the medieval f o l k - b a l l a d , but also i t s i m p l i c i t mentality - i n this instance, i t s t h r i l l e d awe and terror of the supernatural. .... An instantaneous l i n k i n g of past and present, one m e r c i f u l l y free of r a t i o c i n a t i v e expansiveness or of p r o l i f e r a t i n g juxtapositions. I t i s not a mere exercise but a rediscovery; and a rediscovery, not of a superstitious dread of the unknown but of the t e r r i b l e mystery to which such dread makes abject obeisance. 13  In the next two sections, the idea of C h r i s t continues the mystical theme, but the conversational tone (the "verse shrug" of which Daiches speaks) returns the poem to the physical basis, and thus to the general condition of the " f i k y bairn", Man. Thus the whole sequence on sex presents a continuous alternation of views, from the physical to the mystical ( t h i s t l e to moonlight), the climax of which i s their u n i f i c a t i o n i n "Wha s the Bride?" 1  But, since  MacDiarmid can never leave anything as a syzygy, he again leads quickly out of this unity. The next phase of the poem (from here u n t i l "The Form and Purpose of the T h i s t l e " - 101) i s more loosely organized;  but the idea of death  (the natural antisyzygystical reaction to sex) runs through i t a l l ; either as mortality, the death of man, or as the death of a culture there are strong s a t i r i c passages on the barrenness of contemporary Scotland. The references to c h i l d b i r t h are taken up i n "The Skeleton at the Feast" (86), i n which the earth i s seen as the moon's bastard, i t s "puir get".  The poet i s again i d e n t i f i e d with the t h i s t l e :  My self-tormented s p i r i t took The shape repeated i n the t h i s t l e  - 34 which i s " p a i r t soul, p a i r t skeleton."  The t h i s t l e i s also, at this point,  i d e n t i f i e d with Death (mortality, as before, cf page 72):  and MacDiarmid  r i s e s from h i s meditation on Death with the strong assertion:  Shudderin' t h i s t l e , gi'e owre, gi'e owre! ... Your sallow leafs can never thraw, Wi a" their oorie shakin', Ae doot into the hert o' l i f e That i t may be mistak'n. (87-88). 1  This l i n k s up with the theme of Scotland's c u l t u r a l death, and the p o s s i b i l i t i e s of r e - b i r t h , i n the l i v e l y l y r i c "The Barren F i g " (88). The next section makes i t clear, through i t s picture of Scotland's treatment of Burns and Dunbar, that a miracle i s indeed necessary.  The  barrenness of the f i g i s blamed upon "this preposterous Presbyterian breed."  The satire i s here reinforced with p o s i t i v e thinking, o f f e r i n g  as c u l t u r a l alternatives such names as Dostoevski and Nietzsche, whose lesson - "To be yersel's - and to mak'  that worth b e i n " - i s the equiv1  alent of the "thocht worth ha'en'" of page 6 6 . (Cf the quotation from Norman Douglas with which  MacDiarmid  closes h i s second volume of autobiography, The Company I've Kept: (the wise man)  "He  endeavours to find himself at no matter what cost, and to  be true to that s e l f when found, a worthy occupation for a l i f e t i m e . " CK  277.) One cause of this barrenness i s grovelling respect for England,  whereas MacDiarmid now  stresses the d i s t i n c t i v e l y Scottish c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s  and achievements which England i s incapable of.  But any concern with  - 35 such aspects of Scottish culture as the "bonny i d i o s y n c r a t i c place-names" (90) w i l l be met with complete apathy and complacency by individuals (Cruivie and Gilsanquhar) and whole c i t i e s (Edinburgh and Glasgow). In b i t t e r self-awareness, the poet r e a l i s e s the T i g h t n e s s of their position -  Guid sakes, ye dinna need to pass Ony exam, to dee (91)  - and almost envies the o b l i v i o n of fools.  But i t w i l l make no difference  either way - "Le'e go as you maun i n the end" - and i f there i s no reason for thinking, that i s no reason for not thinking.  Instead, even i f  thought i s a "gnawin' canker", i t has the glamour attached to the r e l e n t l e s s pursuit of an impossible i d e a l , i t has the epic dimensions of Ahab's pursuit of Moby Dick;  - The mune's the muckle white whale I seek i n vain to kaa! The Earth's my mastless samyn, The t h i s t l e my ruined s a i l . (91)  A f t e r renewing h i s drink, the poet returns to the same theme on a  more mundane l e v e l with h i s address to Cutty Sark (Burns again),  imploring her to take o f f a l l that she has to take o f f -  For less than a there i s to see '11 never be owre muckle for me. 1  - 36 -  Here, i n comic mode, we see one of MacDiarmid's most central themes:  the continuing search for the i n f i n i t e , the delight that a l l i s  not yet known.  (Cf l a t e r , page 144.)  whatever the cost:  This experience i s to be desired  he wishes for a l i f e as b r i e f but glorious as that  of a beer-barrel. This i s the a t t r a c t i v e side of mortality: gloriously f u t i l e gesture i n the face of death.  l i f e as a dashing and But i n the next few pages,  the poet turns to i t s darker side, i n a series of gloomy images i n which the t h i s t l e again figures as an emblem of Death. uncatchable, ever-returning only to mock.  The ideal i s s t i l l there,  This climaxes with the eerie  l y r i c "The Tragic Tryst" (95), i n which the poet makes love to a woman, only to discover, i n the l i g h t of her ghost (the Moon?) that he possesses only her skeleton.  The poem reaches a low ebb of despondency with  And Earth s a i l be l i k e a toom s k u l l syne. - Whaur'll i t s thochts be then? (95)  At factor:  this low ebb, the poet's thoughts turn again to one constant Jean (who tends to re-appear i n the poem at the moments when  she i s most needed.)  She i s seen as being beyond the moon/thistle  dichotomy, here concisely expressed as  The munellcht i s my knowledge o' mysel', Mysel' the t h i s t l e i n the munelicht seen. (96)  Through her influence, the t h i s t l e aspects of him w i l l be transformed,  - 37 and he w i l l be enabled to "brak  1  i n roses owre a hedge o  1  grief."  This move gives him breathing-space again, and he i s even able to consider more o b j e c t i v e l y exactly what i t i s that Jean can do for him that no other woman could.  (This i s limited due to the lack of true  i n d i v i d u a l i t y which the poem's Jean possesses.)  We  get instead a familiar  extension from the l o c a l to the universal, as love enables us to  Create oorsels, syne bairns, syne race  (97)  u n t i l f i n a l l y man must take "a* the warId" as his bride.  The  light  which Jean gives him i s valuable whatever i t reveals:  - Gin i t shows either o's i n hideous p l i c h t , What gain to turn't to nicht?  (98)  The l a s t section of this phase of the poem i s "Yank Oot Your Orra Boughs" (99) , and i t sums up what has gone before. poverty of the Scots language and the expressions  I t starts with the so far attempted In i t ,  the past t r a d i t i o n which can imperil future achievement. perhaps, no betterment or progress possible:  But there i s ,  achievements come as un-  expectedly and deviously as roses above the "jungly waste o' e f f o r t " of the t h i s t l e .  This leads to an extended image c f  l i f e as a t h i s t l e -  A mongrel growth, jumble o' disproportions, Whirlin' i n i t s incredible contortions (100)  - 38 -  - with the roses breaking above them.  These roses, the achievements of  l i f e , are not possible without the t h i s t l e , yet they must c u l t i v a t e a certain arrogance or aloofness to  the t h o r t e r - i l l s o' leaf and prick In which they ken the feck maun stick. (100)  This theme of contempt being necessary i s to be repeated later i n the poem.  Therefore, "Yank oot your orra boughs, my h e r t l "  The poet must  avoid compromise, avoid playing i t safe, avoid that good which i s the worst enemy of the best. This t h i s t l e image of mortality sums up the preceding sections, and also leads into the central phase of the poem, which consists of a series of extended speculations on various meanings or implications of the t h i s t l e , interspersed with short l y r i c comments.  The verse form,  which has retained a measure of stanzaic r e g u l a r i t y , now  tends towards  the looser and more discursive. I t opens (101) with a statement of the organic nature of l i f e , and of man's incomplete understanding, and therefore humility, i n the face of  it.  The p a r t i c u l a r instance i s again the t h i s t l e .  Although the  poet has "watched i t long and hard", observing the e c c e n t r i c i t i e s of i t s form,  still  I can form nae notion o the s p i r i t That gars i t tak' the d i f f i c u l t shape i t does. (102) 1  - 39 This ignorance must lead to a yet closer examination, attempting to  learn what's gar't i t s present shape a r i s e , And what the l i m i t s are that ha'e been put To change i n t h i s t l e s , and why - and what a change 'ud boot. (102)  This i s what this central phase of the poem attempts to do. F i r s t i s considered one attempt at change, i n the "Ballad of the C r u c i f i e d Rose" (103), an a l l e g o r i c a l account i n b a l l a d form of the General Strike of May  1926.  p o l i t i c a l issue:  This i s the only instance i n the poem of a p a r t i c u l a r  generally, MacDiarmid's p o l i t i c s do not occupy a central  position i n h i s poetry at this stage.  His sympathies are c l e a r l y shown  by h i s f i g u r i n g the Strike as a rose, breaking out of "the t h i s t l e ' s ugsome guise";  but he i s objective enough to r e a l i s e that the movement  i s defeating i t s e l f , c r u c i f y i n g i t s e l f , while a l l the Devils (the bosses) have to do i s to stand around and admire the C r u c i f i x i o n l i k e "connoisseurs" (105). In the following sections, the various aspects of the t h i s t l e , and the various images for each aspect, are interwoven and repeated with the asymmetrical  complexity and b r i l l i a n c e of C e l t i c decorations - l i n e s  twining back and i n and out of each other.  I t i s a method of formal  construction which i s to be of increasing importance  i n MacDiarmid's  work. The l i m i t i n g factors of the t h i s t l e are stressed:  the "dour  p r o v i n c i a l thocht" (106), r e f l e c t e d i n the language and the obvious concern with C h r i s t i a n i t y .  This l i m i t a t i o n denies even the hope of evolution;  - 40 -  Or l e t a generation pass That ane nae better may succeed (106)  The t h i s t l e i s i t s e l f l i k e a corpse, which the soul released by death "Scunners  to think i t tenanted" (107), yet which i s also necessary for  the soul's existence:  this union, or cohabitation, of body and s p i r i t ,  i s the basic antisyzygy of human l i f e .  The t h i s t l e i s  The grey that haunts the vievest green; The wrang side o' the noblest scene (107)  But the t h i s t l e can never extinguish the hope of overcoming  these  l i m i t a t i o n s - a thought which finds fine expression on pages 108-9. The moon reappears, as an "unsplinterable wa"' which separates chaos from Eden (108).  Again we have the double set of contradictions:  between the moon and the t h i s t l e , and that within the t h i s t l e  that  itself.  In man, i t i s the "dog-hank o' the flesh and soul" (110), the ultimate "irony" of being human i n eternity, "a grocer ' neth the sun" (111). What escapes are possible from the irony of this dichotomy?  Well, you  could always be Christ, whose "writhen form" was the product of a strange union:  A drucken h i z z i e gane to bed Wi' three-in-ane and ane-in-three. (110)  Or you can escape towards moonlight by being drunk (on drink, ambition,  - 41 or love - cf Baudelaire), or by being inspired (as earlier,,"Poet's Pub"  etc.) Some escape c e r t a i n l y seems necessary -  For wha o's ha'e the t h i s t l e ' s poo'er To see we're worthless and believe't?  The power to believe i t i s frightening;  (Ill)  i t produces such a vision  as i s found i n "The Grave of a l l Mankind" (112) , f i r s t of the short l y r i c interludes i n the long monologue.  This stark v i s i o n of the great  emptiness underlying l i f e i s elaborated i n "A Stick-Nest i n Y g d r a s i l . " The Universe.  t h i s t l e image has expanded into Y g d r a s i l , and covers the whole The "michty trunk o  1  Space" i s "but a giant t h i s t l e ... that  spreids eternal mischief," (113-4) of Man?  In this i n f i n i t y , what i s the size  Of a l l the countless twigs of Y g d r a s i l , man i s , not even a single  twig, but one of the countless atoms of which i t i s composed. ultimate purpose (and hence the worth) of man i s uncertain; ends h e ' l l never ken."  (113)  Even the "A means to  This leads to another statement of  MacDiarmid's central doctrine of evolution;  J u i s t as man's skeleton has l e f t I t s ancient ape-like shape ahint, Sae states o' mind i n turn gi'e way To d i f f e r e n t states, and quickly seem Impossible to later men. (115)  This i s , for MacDiarmid, a statement of f a i t h and hope for "Man's mind i n  - 42 its final  shape";  but i t i n no way diminishes the tragic awareness of  mortality i n the i n d i v i d u a l .  S t i l l he i s confronted by eternity i n the  eyes of h i s friends (with the t y p i c a l leap from the l o c a l to the universal); even Jean brings this r e a l i z a t i o n :  And whiles I canna look at Jean For fear I'd see the sunlicht turn Worm-like into the glaur again! (115)  There i s , ultimately, no escape - except by ignorance or f o o l i s h dreams. The poet himself prefers, although " I t may be nocht but cussedness" (117), a kind of Socratic awareness of his own position, not knowing any answers, but at least admitting that there i s a question.  The true  Calvary (returning again to the Christian symbolism) i s not only to be tormented by your own awareness but to see other men  In similar case but s u f f e r i n ' less Thro' bein' mair wudden frae the stert! (117)  The l y r i c interlude, "The Fork i n the Wall" (117), presents the now-familiar c o n f l i c t between the universal ( i n this case the poet's inspiration?) and the mortal conditions i n which i t must be r e a l i s e d .  The  physical b i r t h of Christ (cf pages 85-6) again serves as the image. The poem now makes i t s f i r s t direct reference (apart from the Blok translations) to Russia, preparing for the central address to Dostoevski. Scotland, although i n a sorry state at present, may yet  - 43 f i n d oofc i t s destiny, And y i e l d the vse-chelovek.  (118)  MacDiarmid translates this word as "The All-Man or Pan-Human";  i t rep-  resents, c l e a r l y , h i s own i d e a l , which i s not a transcedent one, depending on the infusion into man of something outside himself, but rather involves the f u l l development of a l l h i s diverse c a p a b i l i t i e s , the r e a l i z a t i o n of a l l h i s p o t e n t i a l i t i e s , some of which we are not even aware of, yet.  It  i s another glimpse of h i s visionary, evolutionary, but b a s i c a l l y humanistic ideal. The a l l u s i o n s to M e l v i l l e and Hawthorne r e f l e c t MacDiarmicl's knowledge of American l i t e r a t u r e , one of the many areas of his knowledge derived from the famous l i b r a r y i n Langholm.  (See LP 12-13).  Scotland i s seen i n the t h i s t l e - g r i p of the Kirk;  then, with the  quick movement out to the universal which so characterises the poem, three stanzas present the t h i s t l e as mortality at every known l e v e l of man:  for  fry.  Or i n the human -frwmc that hauds Us i n i t s ignominious t h r a l l , While on brute needs oor souls attend U n t i l disease and daith end a l l , Or i n the grey deluded brain, R e f l e c t i n i n anither f i e l d The torments o' i t s parent flesh In thocht-preventin' thocht concealed, 1  Or s t i l l i n curst impossible mould, Last thistle-shape men think to tak', The soul, frae flesh and thocht set free, On Heaven's s t r a i t i f unseen rack. (119)  - 44 -  Even beyond that there may be "heicher forms", unearthly but s t i l l paradoxical t h i s t l e s which "free but to t r a n s f i x . " (120). Faced with the prospect of mortality, the poet's soul must develop a t h i s t l e - l i k e contempt of everything except the single goal, "To be yoursel', whatever that may be" (120).  This need to be contemptuous,  previously referred to on page 100, i s to be f o r c e f u l l y restated shortly. (128). The "Letter to Dostoevski" (121) i s the high point, s t r u c t u r a l l y , of the whole poem.  MacDiarmid s attitude towards Dostoevski ("As bairn 1  at giant at thee I peer" pg 129) i s one of unusual humility, yet also egotism.  There are few people whom MacDiarmid recognises as h i s superiors;  but, having, p a r t l y by this very r a r i t y of praise, established Dostoevski's stature, i t then becomes a t y p i c a l l y self-assured (to use the kindest word) pose for MacDiarmid even to begin comparing himself with the Russian. MacDiarmid's Communist leanings are adumbrated i n h i s reference to Russia's "struggle i n giant form", but as always, he i s a very e c l e c t i c Communist, a n t i c i p a t i n g by some decades the Party's acceptance of Dostoevski as anything other than a decadent bourgeois n o v e l i s t . One thing t,hey share i s their perception  0 man's f a c i l i t y For constant self-deception 1  (122)  and of the  - 45 flagsoma deeps Whaur the soul c' Scotland (or Russia) sleeps. (122)  The a r t i s t ' s place must then be, not with genteel society or with those who  believe i n common-sense, but among the lowest, the "senseless  s t r i f e / In which alane i s l i f e " :  Sae I i n turn maun gie My soul to misery, Daidle disease Upon my knees, And welcome madness Wi' exceedin' gladness - Aye, open wide my hert To a' the t h i s t l e ' s smert. (123)  Cf the lines.from "A Glass of Pyre Water":  every true poet's place Is to r e j e c t a l l else and be with the lowest, The poorest - i n the bottom of that deepest of wells In which alone i s truth. (471)  Paradoxically, by thus suffering the f u l l "smert" of the t h i s t l e , the poet i s able to transcend i t ;  by ignoring the "hopes o' men"  and  "popular opinion", the poet i s able to r i s e above the t h i s t l e l i k e a moon. (124)  The t h i s t l e i s a process, i n which the "feck o' men"  phrase) are trapped, but the poet's s p i r i t has "gane r i c h t  (familiar through."  To him i t i s only a memory. This i s the poet's destiny:  and yet MacDiarmid has misgivings.  - 46 -  The destiny i s not perfect, for i t has taken him "past / Humanity" (125); yet i t i s as near perfection as any man  - even Dostoevski  himself - i s  able to achieve, given the conditions of mortality. This i s a v i s i o n of a possible future state:  i n the present,  moonlight "owre clear defines" the t h i s t l e and i t s r e s t r i c t i o n s .  the  But  even here, caught i n mortality, before the s p i r i t has "gane r i c h t through" the t h i s t l e process,  the moonlight i s occasionally able to transform  the  thistle:  The munelicht that owre clear defines The t h i s t l e ' s s h r i l l cantankerous l i n e s E'en noo whiles i n s u b s t a n t i a l i s e s I t s g r i s l y form and 'stead devises A maze o' l i c h t , a s i l l e r - f r a m e , As 'twere God's dream frae which i t came, Ne'er into bein' coorsened yet, The essence lowin' pure i n i t . (125-6)  These are the moments of greatest i n s p i r a t i o n , when "Magic emerges frae the dense / Body o' bein'" (126), and the poet's song moves as free as a soul from i t s body - premonitions of the f u l f i l l m e n t of the poet's destiny. But again doubts return:  Sic sang to men i s l i t t l e worth. I t has nae message for the earth. (126)  This i s because:  - 47 Men canna look on nakit l i c h t . (126)  This doubt (which could also, ambivalently, be taken simply as an expression of a r t i s t i c contempt) i s supported by the v i s i o n i t s e l f , the essence which has escaped the clay does so "In dooble form":  because  there  i s darkness i n every l i g h t .  The t h i s t l e canna vanish quite. Inside a' l i c h t i t s shape maun g l i n t , A s p i r i t wi' a skeleton i n ' t . (127)  This insight of the poet - ambivalent, f l e e t i n g , but glorious - i s intimately connected with the poet's country.  For MacDiarmid  And as at sicna times am I , I wad ha'e Scotland to my eye U n t i l I saw a timeless flame Tak' Auchtermuchty for a name, And kent that Ecclefechan stood As p a i r t o' an eternal mood. (127)  For Dostoevski, "Wha had (his) a i n land i n (his) b l u i d " (128), i t was Russia.  The v i s i o n i s not e n t i r e l y "given" - i t i s also worked for, and  i t requires from the poet intense concentration of e f f o r t , dedication, and thus contempt (as before) of a l l lesser s a t i s f a c t i o n s .  The passages on  this need for contempt (120, 128) thus l i n k r e a l i z a t i o n of s e l f with r e a l i z a t i o n of country.  Both are, i n the f i n a l analysis, symbols of  something greater, the condition of the vse-chelovek, which may even be  - 48 -  able to resolve ("in a concrete abstraction") the a n t i s y z y g y s t i c a l q u a l i t i e s inherent i n both.  I t i s this hope which i s expressed  i n the l a s t  paragraph of the "Letter":  Is Scotland b i g enough to be A symbol o that force i n me, In wha's divine inebriety A sieht abune contempt I ' l l see? For a' that's Scottish i s i n me, As a' things Russian were i n thee And I i n turn 'ud be an action To p i t i n a concrete abstraction My country's contrair q u a l i t i e s , And mak' a unity o' these T i l l my love owre i t s h i s t o r y dwells, As owretone to a peal o' b e l l s . And i n this heicher stratosphere As bairn at giant at thee I peer. 1  (12Q-9)  A b r i e f l y r i c interlude r e f e r s back to page 98; to there i s now appealed to again.  the l i g h t referred  The poet has reached another c r i s i s ,  and again Jean i s brought i n as a steadying influence;  the poet sees  himself " i n thistle-shape", but i n Jean's l i g h t that shape can be accepted as "planned." (129)  The l i g h t of love c l a r i f i e s h i s situation and gives  him strength for i t , as well as the hope of some eventual release. The next long section, "Metaphysical Pictures of the T h i s t l e " (130) opens with one of the most s t r i k i n g of the images juxtaposing the l o c a l and the universal:  And heard God passin' w i a bobby's feet Ootby i n the lang c o f f i n o' the street (130) 1  - 49  -  The torture of the t h i s t l e i s presented, i n this section, more i n metaphysical terms;  i t becomes a "symbol o' the puzzle o' man's soul", yet  s t i l l able to "thraw roses up / - And up!" (131) This section presents a world view i n which God i s a limited factor, and i n which darkness i s more fundamental than l i g h t .  "Let there be l i c h t , " said God, and there was A little:  - Darkness comes closer to us than the l i c h t , And i s oor natural element. (131)  At the metaphysical l e v e l , the l i g h t i s but a "queer extension o' the dark" (132);  a l l opposites seem resolved:  0 l i t t l e Life In which Daith guises and deceives i t s e l ' , Joy that mak's Grief a Janus, Hope that i s Despair's fause-face, And Guid and 111 that are the same, Save as the chance l i c h t fa's! (132)  (This i s not a s t a t i c or established synthesis:  i t i s s t i l l a process,  a continuing interplay of opposing forces.) Again, MacDiarmid, having reached a high point i n the argument, works himself down again, through the figure of the t h i s t l e , to wish for some escape from i t s endless predicaments,  even though to "withdraw my  endless spikes" would mean that he also has to " l e t my roses drap". (133)  - 50 You can't have i t both ways. The poem now begins the t r a n s i t i o n into i t s f i n a l phase.  The  next l y r i c interlude (134) i s a passage of sophisticated irony on l i t e r a r y themes, beginning a f i n a l series of sections on the barrenness of Scottish culture, which leads up to the climactic v i s i o n of the Great Wheel. But f i r s t (overlapping as i t were) there i s the f i n a l l y r i c of the central phase, the "Farewell to Dostoevski" (135), which Daiches c a l l s (F 44) "the true emotional centre" of the poem. I t presents a picture of the waste land i n terms of snow and wind; MacDiarmid's imagery i s at i t s strongest when presenting desolation. Yet the snow and wind which constitute the waste land (which i s capable of separating "even" the poet and Dostoevski) also constitute the t h i s t l e :  And s t i l l - i t s leafs l i k e snaw, i t s growth l i k e wund The t h i s t l e r i s e s and forever w i l l ! (135)  The note of the verse here i s unmistakably triumphant; t h i s t l e ' s roses.  i t implies the  But immediately, once such a p o s i t i v e statement has  been made, the opposite must be introduced, not to negate i t , but to complement i t , to f i l l out the Antisyzygy.  The t h i s t l e r i s e s and forever w i l l , Getherin' the generations under t. This i s the monument o' a' they were, And a' they hoped and wondered. 1  The verse forms of the poem have now returned to regular stanzas,  - 51 -  after the extended and exploratory central phase;  the poet runs over  some of h i s familiar themes, providing a breathing space before "The Great Wheel." "The Barren Tree" (135) i s another assault on the s t e r i l i t y of human culture, e s p e c i a l l y i n Scotland, where the "Presbyterian t h i s t l e " c r u c i f i e s i t s own roses. and "correct" society.  There i s a b i t t e r attack on Scottish l i f e Of the short l y r i c on page 138, Daiches writes:  The Scots are as good as anybody else at laying f l a t t e r i n g unctions to their souls. "Fier comme un Ecossais" i s a description they l i k e to cherish. MacDiarmid exposes i t by repeating i t three times i n the midst of a short i r o n i c l y r i c which reveals the hollow centre of the modern Scot - and of much more than the Scot - as E l i o t does i n "The Hollow Men" but more succinctly. (F 44-5) .  This hollow centre i s viewed i n an increasingly menacing l i g h t i n "The Emptiness at the End" (138), which presents a b r i l l i a n t l y twisted metaphysical nursery rhyme about the skeleton i n Mother Hubbard's cupboard.  The darkness, hollowness, and hopelessness of l i f e find f i n a l  concise imagistic expression i n "In the Keel of Heaven" (139). Before the f i n a l v i s i o n , the poet takes a f i n a l look at the two plants, the Scottish T h i s t l e and the English Rose. the t h i s t l e ' s  Sibness to snakes wha's c o i l s Rin coonter a i r t s at yince (139)  The description of  - 52 -  looks forward to the "Curly Snake" of his next major poem, as well as being a concise image of the Caledonian Antisyzygy.  The t h i s t l e  still  yokes earth and heaven (cf page 79), and provides  Roses to lure the l i f t And roots to wile the clay. (140)  The f i n a l dismissal of the English Rose sees i t as something which has certain admirable q u a l i t i e s , but yet "Ootside me l i e s " ; has become an obstacle to the poet's natural growth.  and which  I t s values are  absolutely contrary to h i s . The climactic section opens with speculations on the o r i g i n s of thought, and refers back to the early theme of mortality:  I ken hoo lourd the body l i e s Upon the s p i r i t when i t f l i e s And f a i n abune i t s stars 'ud r i s e . (142)  The poet then introduces the v i s i o n of the great wheel. I t might be argued that i t i s a weakness of the poem to introduce this new image for i t s f i n a l statement, dropping  the images of t h i s t l e  and moonlight which have constituted the bulk of the poem.  On the  other hand, we have seen that t h i s t l e and moonlight have already been permutated through a vast range of ideas and references, so that i t would be d i f f i c u l t to imagine a new frame of reference for them which would act as a summation of a l l that they had previously stood for.  The  - 53 -  new  image has more force by virtue of i t s being new;  and i t i s j u s t i f i e d ,  on purely pragmatic grounds, by the fact that i t works.  This f i n a l  section does contain almost a l l of what MacDiarmid has said i n this and other poems.  ( I t was  thus a very perceptive choice with which to  represent him i n the Oxford Book of Scottish Verse.) The great wheel, moving i n eternity, contains everything - God, D e v i l , and Scotland. for before;  I t i s a v i s i o n of a type the poet has often reached  i n three lines x^hich describe p e r f e c t l y the achievement of  his best l y r i c s , he  says  I've often thrawn the world frae me, Into the Pool o' Space, to see The C i r c l e s o' I n f i n i t y . (143)  In the immensity of the wheel, a l l .events, wars, oppositions, are so close as to be indistinguishable;  i t i s a view of a l l human experience  (of which both God and Devil are but aspects) seen sub specie aeternitatis. Poetry confined within the Wheel i s useless, i t s v i s i o n i s far too limited, for i t s t i l l sees the apparent oppositions which are resolved in the i n f i n i t e view. which "to Men  The product of such a view would be the song  i s l i t t l e worth" (126), the ultimate v i s i o n towards which  the poet s t r i v e s , v/hich w i l l be able to perceive "the W i l l / That raised the Wheel".  I t has not yet been achieved, but this i s a cause rather for  r e j o i c i n g than despondency.  - 54 Yet I exult oor sang has yet To grow wings t h a t ' l l c a i r r y i t Ayont i t s native speck o' g r i t . And I exult to find i n me The thocht that this can ever A hope s t i l l for humanity.  be, (144)  These lines contain the central s p i r i t of MacDiarmid's b e l i e f i n the evolutionary future of the human mind, the development of which i s the central task of mankind, and one which the poet alone can undertake. The time w i l l come when the eternal wheel w i l l " b i r l .. inside oor heids", and we  shall f i n d whatever W i l l there i s behind i t :  And i f we s t i l l can f i n d nae trace Ahint the Wheel o' ony Face, There'll be a glory i n the place. (145)  The hope of this i s the only thing which can mitigate the horror of the Socratic self-awareness  of mortality within e t e r n i t y .  To a t t a i n this v i s i o n , a l l things must be seen from outside the wheel;  thus the famous lines;  He canna Scotland see wha yet' Canna see the I n f i n i t e , And Scotland in true scale to i t . (145)  None of MacDiarmid's passionate Scottish Nationalism makes any sense unless seen i n the context of these three l i n e s .  - 55 The v i s i o n may be obtained by "impersonality", which shall  "scour  me o' my sense o' awe" (146) -  U n t i l disinterested we, 0' a' oor auld delusions free, Lowe i n the wheel's serenity. (147)  (Cf., of course, the "Second Hymn to Lenin":  Disinterestedness, Oor profoundest word yet (302)  The v i s i o n w i l l be, f i r s t , of one's s e l f ("to be yoursel'" etc.):  Oor universe i s l i k e an e'e Turned i n , man's benmaist hert to see, And swamped i n s u b j e c t i v i t y . (147)  This, however, i s only a necessary preliminary:  But when that inturned look has brocht To l i c h t what s t i l l i n vain i t ' s socht Ootward maun be the bent o thocht. !  And organs may develop syne Responsive to the need divine 0' single-minded humankin . 1  (147)  This idea i s expanded to i t s f u l l e s t and most b r i l l i a n t expression i n  - 56 -  In Memorials James Joyce, pages  142-3,  where Joyce's work  vastly outrunning present needs With i t s immense complication, i t s erudition  i s compared to nerves which  before they ever function Grow where they w i l l be wanted.  Here too, MacDiarmid sees the work of "providing for developments to come" as being that of the Poet:  The function, as i t seems to me, O Poetry i s to bring to be At lang, lang last that unity.1  (147)  This "unity" (cf page 1 2 9 ) i s the final goal of a l l the poet's work, of a l l mankind's evolution.  I t i s only in these farthest reaches of his  thought that MacDiarmid can conceive of any kind of unity, beyond a l l the "contrair qualities" of the Caledonian Antisyzygy. But now, as usual, MacDiarmid lets himself and his poem down from the exalted sphere they have reached.  We have a s a t i r i c a l vision of  "The lesser wheel within the b i g " , which i s "Puir Auld Scotland" :  And Rabbie Burns and Weelum Wallace, And Carlyle lookin' unco gallus, And Harry Lauder (to enthrall us). (14C)  - 57 (The pun on that l a s t word has bite:  MacDiarmid would regard the music-  h a l l conception of the Scot as a v i t a l factor i n the " e n t h r a l l i n g " power of the English ascendancy.) versation with h i s Muse:  There follows a serio-comic con-  serious insofar as MacDiarmid does, to a great  extent, believe what the Muse t e l l s him.  The l i n e s  A Scottish poet maun assume The burden o' h i s people's doom, And dee to brak their l i v i n ' tomb 1  (149)  can be compared with those on pages 123 and 471, already referred to. But the tone i s , to put i t mildly, "portentous" (Daiches);  and the poet's  non-committal decision to "tak' i t to avizandum" should surely prevent us from taking h i s dilemma too seriously. The two l y r i c s which round o f f the poem correspond, roughly, to the "the  t h i s t l e and the moonlight.  The t h i s t l e s t i l l extends from himself,  sustenance o' i t s root" (150) to the heavens.  l e f t a hole i n his l i f e never to be f i l l e d ;  I t has emptied him,  yet for a l l that  The stars l i k e t h i s t l e ' s roses floo'er The s t e r i l e growth o' Space ootour. (150)  The moonlight i s silence;  the poem closes on a note of awe and  mystery, u n t i l the very l a s t l i n e returns i t firmly to the domestic context with which i t began. again;  The v i s i o n has taken him "past humanity"  by human standards he has "seen owre much".  For the while, he i s  silent. Daiches does not exaggerate when he says that A Drunk Man Looks at  the T h i s t l e i s  not only MacDiarmid's finest sustained performance but also the greatest long poem (or poem-sequence) i n Scottish l i t e r a t u r e and one of the greatest i n any l i t e r a t u r e .  (F 46)  I t i s certainly MacDiarmid's finest single work, and possesses a unity of theme and expression xtfhich he was never quite to recapture. But  we must beware of using i t as a stick with which to beat MacDiarmid  on the head for the lesser q u a l i t y of h i s l a t e r works;  c e r t a i n l y we  must not use i t s supremity as an excuse for not reading the rest of MacDiarmid.  Purely as a poet, MacDiarmid was never to reach such  perfection again; the  but i n my account of the poem I have t r i e d to stress  ideas inherent i n i t ;  and as a man of ideas, MacDiarmid has never  ceased to be of compelling interest.  Too much discussion of MacDiarmid.  has centred on the (comparative) t r i v i a l i t i e s of h i s form, language and verse-structure, to the exclusion of h i s ideas.  And although a great  part of MacDiarmid's thought i s present i n A Drunk Man Looks at the T h i s t l e , much of i t i s only f u l l y developed i n the later work. The Drunk Man i t s e l f Is e s s e n t i a l l y unrepeatable.  MacDiarmid  himself must have known or half-known t h i s , but at any rate i t s immediate successor, To Circumjack Cencrastus (1930), i s a half-hearted attempt at best to repeat the e a r l i e r success.  The poem lacks both the c o n t r o l l i n g  situation (man on h i l l ) and the unifying images ( t h i s t l e and moon);  thus,  - 59 we get a much more loosely connected series of poems, of greatly varying quality.  The selection from To Circumjack Cencrastus i n the Collected  Poems i s f a i r to the point of generosity. I do not therefore propose to examine To Circumjack  Cencrastus  as a whole, but rather to indicate certain of i t s c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s which are of importance  for the kind of work MacDiarmid was  to do over the  next decade. F i r s t , however, I would l i k e to take a b r i e f look at one of the f i n e s t individual passages i n the poem (or indeed i n MacDiarmid's whole work), the translation of Rainer Maria Rilke's "Requiem flir eine Freundin". (158) Cencrastus:  The passage i s not out of place i n To Circumjack  i t follows on from the b r i l l i a n t "Scots Anthology"  (156:  pages 25 and 31 respectively, i n the o r i g i n a l e d i t i o n ) , occurring as the climax of a phase of the poem i n which death i s the central theme. I t i s important for two reasons, apart from i t s great i n t r i n s i c merit.  F i r s t l y , as the finest example of MacDiarmid's a b i l i t i e s as  a creative translator of poetry;  and secondly, as the f i r s t example i n  MacDiarmid's work of truly great poetry written i n English.  Indeed, at  one stride the Scots invader has captured the very c i t a d e l of English poetry:  blank verse.  No blank verse written i n English this century  possesses a finer movement, a more d i g n i f i e d tone. C r i t i c s who  claim that MacDiarmid's f i n e s t poetry i s i n Scots  should look again at the magnificent opening paragraph, with i t s tone of measured gravity, which i s yet capable of assimilating such almost conversational affects as  - 60 You only, you come back  or the perfect reversal of stress and strong l i n e opening,  directly  r e f l e c t i n g the sense, i n  To come i n touch with something that w i l l r i n g Out suddenly, and show that you are here.  This masterly control of rhythm also goes to show that MacDiarmid's (comparative) abandonment of i t i n the later poems was not due to any inability.  I t was, rather, a conscious aesthetic choice:  Poetry i s not rhythm, i t i s "making words do things". Rhythm i s one of the resources, a chief resource, a necessary resource, of poetry, but i t i s not the basis of i t . (LP 340.)  MacDiarmid's translation can be read and appreciated as a poem i n i t s own r i g h t , which i s of course the highest praise for any poetic translation^  This emphasis on translation i s , as I have said, central  not only to MacDiarmid's work but also to the 20th century t r a d i t i o n stemming from Pound.  For MacDiarmid, translation i s one aspect of  his internationalism, and i t i s also one aspect of h i s m u l t i l i n g u i s t i c interests.  I t i s a constant factor i n his work:  from the early Scots  translations from Blok through the impressive version of Harry Martinson's 15 Aniara  r i g h t up to his most recent, and as yet unpublished, translation  of Brecht's Threepenny Opera.  In common with pound, he i s apt to take  - 61 l i b e r t i e s with the works he i s translating, so that the r e s u l t i n g version i s more l i t e r a t e than l i t e r a l . (This can be obviously seen i n comparing MacDiarmid's Rilke with 16 the  l i t e r a l verse translation of J.B. Leishman.  )  MacDiarmid's a l t e r a t i o n s to the o r i g i n a l are mostly by way of compression, concentrating the images and the l i n e of thought into a much smaller space, without losing either their force or their cogency. For  example, the remarkable paragraph on page 161 (from "Can you s t i l l  weep?" down to "You were free") compresses 41% lines of the o r i g i n a l German into 24;  and immediately after that, MacDiarmid's  How short your l i f e was, put against the hours You sat surrendering a l l you might have been To that b l i n d germ of destiny again  corresponds to Leishman's  literal  How very short your l i f e , when you compare i t with hours you used to s i t in silence, bending the boundless forces of your boundless future out of their course to the new germination, that became fata once more.  The most s t r i k i n g change, of course, i s the transposing of the l i n e s which form MacDiarmid's conclusion from an e a r l i e r and less prominent position i n the o r i g i n a l . resigned note:  Rilke ends on a quieter, more  - 52 For somewhere there's an o l d h o s t i l i t y between our human l i f e and greatest work. May I see into i t and i t say: help me I Do not return. I f you can bear i t , stay dead with the dead. The dead are occupied. But help me, as you may without d i s t r a c t i o n , as the most distant sometimes helps: i n me. (Leishman)  MacDiarmid's ending i s obviously stronger, more suited to h i s own combative s p i r i t .  I t shows to what extent he was able to make the  o r i g i n a l poem h i s own, to make i t an intensely l i v i n g part of h i s own experience.  Only on the basis of such an appropriation can a trans-  l a t i o n become, more than a c r i b , a poem. It  i s i n To Circumjack Cencrastus that certain c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s of  MacDiarmid's l a t e r work make their f i r s t decisive appearance.  Firstly,  p o l i t i c s enters into the poem much more d i r e c t l y than i n A Drunk Man, where the "Ballad of the C r u c i f i e d Rose" i s the only outstanding example. The sections on MacDiarmid's boss towards the end of To Circumjack Cencrastus have a bitterness, p a r t l y personal but p a r t l y s o c i a l , which i s unrelieved by the attempts at humour.  Secondly, the C e l t i c i d e a l ,  with i t s emphasis on Gaelic l i t e r a t u r e , i s strongly i n evidence, although MacDiarmid's knowledge of that l i t e r a t u r e i s s t i l l fragmentary, and sometimes erroneous.  (See F 121.)  second-hand, Thirdly, the  tone and style of the poet's utterance are s h i f t i n g towards the attitude of direct statement (of fact and/or opinion) which i s to characterise most of MacDiarmid's poetry from now on, and which can be so disconcerting to readers brought up i n an Imagist t r a d i t i o n . These tendencies i n To Circumjack Cencrastus point the way towards  - 63 the themes and styles of the l a t e r poetry, a l l of which proceeds from a very d e f i n i t e world-view, which was forming i n MacDiarmid's mind around this time.  This world-view encompasses h i s t o r i c a l , s o c i a l , p o l i t i c a l ,  l i t e r a r y , l i n g u i s t i c , musical, and philosophical perspectives.  Before  going on to examine some selected poems of the '30s, i t would perhaps be as wall to attempt some b r i e f outline of this world-view. I t begins with the assertion, as a h i s t o r i c a l fact, of the Gaelic o r i g i n of a l l c i v i l i z a t i o n .  This i s based upon two books:  L.A. Waddell's B r i t i s h Edda, and L. Albert's Six Thousand Years of Gaelic Grandeur Unearthed, which includes the various Chronicles preserved by Cier Rige (Roger O'Connor).  These chronicles describe the "con-  tinuous and consecutive history of the Gaelic branch of the SumeroCaucasian (wrongly c a l l e d Indo-European) race, covering the space of time from 5357 B.C. down to 7 B.C."  (Albert, as quoted i n LP  293.)  Waddell's book reconstructs the poem generally known as the Icelandic Edda, and generally thought to be a discontinuous c o l l e c t i o n of myths, and presents i t , instead, as "The great epic poem of the ancient Britons on the exploits of King Thor, Arthur or Adam and his knights i n establishing c i v i l i z a t i o n , reforming Eden, & capturing the Holy G r a i l about 3380 - 3350 B.C.  Reconstructed for the f i r s t time  from the Medieval MSS. by Babylonian, H i t t i t e , Egyptian, Trojan & Gothic keys."  ( T i t l e page.)  Waddell's argument i s an elaborate exercise i n comparative mythology, seeking to provide a h i s t o r i c a l basis for just about every single major myth of Western c i v i l i z a t i o n , and a good few of the Eastern into the bargain.  The fact that this book has been met with universal d i s b e l i e f  - 64 (from those who  have bothered to read i t ) does not i n the s l i g h t e s t  detract from MacDiarmid's f a i t h i n i t .  Rather the  opposite:  Dr. Waddell's book was of course v i r t u a l l y s t i l l b o r n ; English historians and l i t t e r a t e u r s are not open to fundamental revaluations or any displacement of the upstart English t r a d i t i o n i n favour of the far more important elements that t r a d i t i o n has so far wholly occluded and i s a l l intent to keep i n occlusion. (LP 292.)  A similar process applies to Albert's book, which supplies MacDiarmid with some good stories of how,  i n the 19th century, the  English authorities suppressed publication of Cier Rige's Chronicles. These issues are outwith my  competence to judge - (though I would  expect that, i n the nature of the case, no d e f i n i t e statements could be made either way,  only degrees of probability) - but they also seem  outwith relevance.  Whether or not these exotic theories are  true does not have any d i r e c t bearing on MacDiarmid's work;  literally the only  thing that does i s the fact that he passionately believed them to be true.  They provide a foundation,  false or otherwise, for his insistence  on the importance of elements of the Gaelic t r a d i t i o n which have been ignored by the central European, C l a s s i c a l , and English t r a d i t i o n s . (The only d i r e c t eruption of Waddell into the poetry i s i n the poem "The Pot Hat"  (222) which i s based on Waddell, pages 169-171.  The  impressive l a s t l i n e - "As a holy trophy enringing h i s s k u l l " - i s in fact taken word for word from Waddell's text.) These elements could be c l a s s i f i e d as either c u l t u r a l / a r t i s t i c or social/political:  but the two interact and intermingle  so  continuously  -  65  -  that such separate c l a s s i f i c a t i o n s could not be maintained for long, i t i s better to discuss them together.  I t i s i n fact one of the great  strengths of MacDiarmid's "system" that i t i s so cohesive, synthetic rather than a n a l y t i c a l , even i f i t does produce a degree of confusion i n his prose writings.  There are, for instance, no separate sections on  p o l i t i c s , a r t , etc. i n Lucky Poet;  the themes continually run  throughout  the book, intertwining, as I said (above, pg, 39) of the symbols i n A Drunk Man,  l i k e the i n t r i c a t e and asymmetrical  patterns of C e l t i c a r t .  The very assertion of these elements i s i t s e l f a p o l i t i c a l act, one of Scottish Nationalism, s t r i k i n g against the dominance of English culture. levels;  English Imperialism proceeds on both cultural and p o l i t i c a l and whereas p o l i t i c a l t i e s can be broken i n a comparatively  short time, c u l t u r a l influences are much more deep-seated. hope, as expressed i n Lucky Poet, was,  MacDiarmid's  by detaching Scotland from the  Empire, to strike at the heart of English Imperialism, to deliver "a mortal blow to the greatest Empire i n the world at the very centre of i t s power." (LP 98.) against MacDiarmid;  The ironies of history have certainly turned i t could scarcely have been foreseen that the twenty-  years following the war would witness the complete a b o l i t i o n of the Empire, but leave Scotland s t i l l  subject.  The battle continues.  (The  most s t r i k i n g and e f f e c t i v e image MacDiarmid has found for i t occurs i n the "Cornish Heroic Song for Valda Trevlyn", i n which (379)  the C e l t i c  genius and the English ascendancy are compared to the white and k i l l e r whales.) One of Waddell's central points was  the i d e n t i t y between the Eddie,  Gaelic t r a d i t i o n s and Sumerian and other Eastern t r a d i t i o n s .  MacDiarmid  - 66 -  i n s i s t s on this connection:  i t i s , p o l i t i c a l l y and c u l t u r a l l y , an  assertion of Gaeldom's independence from the English t r a d i t i o n . a r t e s p e c i a l l y i s closer to Eastern art than to Western a r t .  Celtic The  instance i n which MacDiarmid c r y s t a l l i s e s this point, and which becomes a central image for him, i s musical: bagpipe music (the Ceol Mor)  the s i m i l a r i t y between the c l a s s i c a l  and Eastern music.  Structurally, the  great pibrochs and the Indian ragas stand together, completely independent of the p r i n c i p l e s of Western symphonic music.  This i s the subject of  one of MacDiarmid's f i n e s t long poems, the "Lament for the Great Music", in Stony Limits, which we shall later examine more closely.  One feature  of this art i s that i t i s "barbarian", i n the sense defined i n one of MacDiarmid's favorite quotations:  The arts of the C e l t i c lands and of Scandinavia .. were .. both of them barbarian, although this may well sound a rather irreverent description of the lovely works produced by early monastic Ireland; but the meaning i s clear - they were both on the edge of the world wherein c l a s s i c a l art progressed through Carolingian, Ottonian, I t a l i a n and Byzantine phases, and neither of them was strong enough to stand aside from this main stream of European a r t . They aped i t , and whenever they did, they f e l l from grace, as i s the way with barbarian a r t . (T.D. Kendrick, as quoted i n LP 368.)  In this sense, MacDiarmid i s pleased to note, both Lenin and S t a l i n were "barbarians". (LP 375.)  S t a l i n , i n fact, by a coincidence which  MacDiarmid would regard as anything but coincidental, came o r i g i n a l l y , l i k e the Gaels, from Georgia.  (See "Direadh I I I " , 351;  also LP  321.)  This t i e s i n with one of the (for MacDiarmid) key aspects of Gaeldom, that i t was  "moving towards - and but for the English would have r e a l i z e d -  a r e a l People's State."  (Rudolf Bringmann, as quoted i n LP  27.)  The "Gaelic Idea" i s thus the basis for the p o s s i b i l i t y of an "East-West Synthesis", both i n cultural and p o l i t i c a l terms.  Politically,  the anti-Imperialist bias of Gaeldom provides the necessary a f f i n i t i e s with Russia, so that the two things - Gaeldom and Communism - may provide the new  balance of world society, overthrowing the corrupt and  i n f e r i o r English t r a d i t i o n .  I f we turn to Europe and see Hoo the emergence o the Russian Idea's Broken the balance o' North and Sooth And needs a coonter that can only be The Gaelic Idea To mak' a parallelogram o' forces, Complete the Defence o the West, And end the English betrayal o Europe. 1  1  1  (CC  The East-West Synthesis also proceeds on a cultural refers to the I r i s h writers' interest  77.)  level;  MacDiarmid  i n Eastern l i t e r a t u r e , and to his  hero, Charles Doughty's absorption i n Arabia.  (See LP 14-15.)  The nature of C e l t i c a r t also appealed strongly to MacDiarmid. LP (353) he quotes Henri Hubert;  C e l t i c l i t e r a t u r e was essentially a poetic l i t e r a t u r e . . . Wa must not think of C e l t i c poetry as l y r i c a l outpourings, but as elaborately ingenious exercises on the part of rather pedantic l i t e r a r y men. Yet C e l t i c l i t e r a t u r e was popular as no other was.  At other places i n Lucky Poet (353 again, 335) he quotes accounts of the common people's intense interest  i n , and knowledge of, the minutiae of  In  - 68 formal problems i n poetry.  This true popular a r t combines, for  MacDiarmid, h i s "highbrow" uncoinpromising i n t e l l e c t u a l i s m and h i s socialism.  The position of the poet i n Gaelic society, as he envisaged  i t - his worth recognised, held i n popular esteem by a whole people q u a l i f i e d to judge him - i s p r e c i s e l y that towards which MacDiarmid hims e l f i s aiming.  I t i s l o s t i n modern society, and thus we have his many  b i t t e r attacks on a l l the betrayers of this ideal:  the public who w i l l  accept trash, and the writers who w i l l peddle i t to them. C e l t i c a r t - "asymmetrical, i n t r i c a t e , organic" (Tonge, as quoted in LP 376) - thus becomes an i d e a l , both cultural and p o l i t i c a l , which has to be recovered, i n both culture and p o l i t i c s .  Time and again,  MacDiarmid stresses Lenin's grasp of the organic nature of society. His own poetry aims at achieving a new kind of unity, while being at the same time asymmetrical, i n the sense that there i s no neat order or pattern, and i n t r i c a t e , i n that a l l the thousands of diverse facts packed into i t are conceived of as being meaningfully interrelated. The ultimate goal towards which humanity i s moving must certainly possess this quality of organic unity:  but MacDiarmid i s prepared for  just about anything to happen along the way. almost finished.  Physical evolution i s  In a great passage from the "Lament f o r the Great  Music" he declares:  The struggle for material existence i s over. I t has been won. The need for repressions and d i s c i p l i n e s has passed. The struggle for truth and that indescribable necessity, Beauty, begins now, hampered by none of the lower needs. (264)  What i s l e f t i s the evolution of the human mind. parts of A Drunk Man,  As we have seen i n  MacDiarmid accepts the u n p r e d i c t a b i l i t y of this  process, knowing that we are as l i t t l e able as the apes were to conceive of the p o s s i b i l i t i e s c f what we might become. optimistic about i t ;  But he i s unshakabiy  whatever develops w i l l be for the better.  This long view accounts for MacDiarmid's scorn of philosophies which place their central values on the i n d i v i d u a l , or personal r e l a t i o n ships.  (See h i s dismissal of E.M.  Forster, LP 78-79.)  allegiance i s not to an i n d i v i d u a l , but to a cause.  MacDiarmid's  I t i s certainly  not to the masses, insofar as they are opposed to that cause.  I have no love for humanity - but only for the higher brain-centres, the human mind i n which only a moiety of mankind has e VG2T t l c l C i . or has to-day, any part or parcel whatever. ... I am f u l l y aware of the emptiness and insignificance of sentimental humanism. (LP 78)  And he quotes with approval Ford Madox Hueffer's calculation that "In each 100,000 souls, five are reasonably c i v i l i z e d . "  (LP 103.)  Con-  versely, since his allegiance i s to the cause, and to the b e l i e f that the hope for change does l i e with the masses, his allegiance i s strongly devoted to their reform.  "But why indulge i n these endless newspaper controversies with nearly i l l i t e r a t e people?" I have frequently been asked. "You w i l l never get anything into their heads. What does i t matter i f what they l i k e i s to any i n t e l l i g e n t person sheer doggerel?" The answer, of course - the reason for my t i r e l e s s indulgence i n these humiliating and apparently useless controversies - i s simply that the only thing I do care about i s what the masses of the people  - 70 think and believe and l i k e and d i s l i k e . I do not care a rap i n comparison what the educated classes think, believe, l i k e , &c. But i f the great masses are bogged in ignorance and shocking bad tastes, that i s p r e c i s e l y what I am v i t a l l y concerned about, and I cannot l i e back, aloof among my i n t e l l e c t u a l peers, and i n that way acquiesce i n the degraded standards of the generality. (LP 95-7.)  To see the consistency of attitude underlying these surface paradoxes i s to begin to see something of MacDiarmid's essential method of thought. This long-term v i s i o n provides the constant force behind MacDiarmid's poetry and l i f e .  But on the way,  as means are concerned.  he i s a ruthless pragmatist so far  He i s w i l l i n g to use anything and everything  which w i l l advance mankind even a l i t t l e .  This goes a long way towards  explaining some of h i s p o l i t i c a l e c c e n t r i c i t i e s .  He i s w i l l i n g to use  Social Credit economics as a means to the end of Communism only because he regards Communism i t s e l f as a means to the greater end.  Incidental  benefits of these theories, such as prosperity, are thus irrelevant: hence E r i c Linklater's description of him, which MacDiarmid quotes with approval:  (He) hotly denied any concern with the increase of wealth that might be expected to accrue from his p o l i c y . "I have no interest whatsoever i n prosperity," he declared, and l e f t the uncommon impression that here was a man who advanced an economic theory for purely aesthetic reasons. (as quoted i n LP 35.)  In  this kind of perspective, MacDiarmid's p o l i t i c a l views become almost  logical. way  Everything he has campaigned for i s a necessary step on the  to h i s ultimate goal.  F i r s t comes the p o l i t i c a l independence of  - 71 Scotland from England - which should be worked for by the English Communist Party as well, for "no nation which enslaves another can i t s e l f be free."  This w i l l contribute to the break-up of the English Empire  and i t s p o l i t i c a l and c u l t u r a l dominance, thus opening the way  for the  resurgence of the Gaelic s p i r i t , via the formation of a Scottish Workers' Republic on the lines l a i d down by John Maclean. measures such as Social Creditism w i l l give way society ("Nae  Intermediate economic to a f u l l y Communist  Marx-without-tears"), which i n turn i s desirable only  insofar as i t i s , to MacDiarmid, the form of society most open to future, and unknown, developments. This p o l i t i c a l progression i s , further, a metaphor, as well as a prerequisite, for c u l t u r a l evolution.  As a S o c i a l i s t , of course, I am, i t should be obvious, interested only i n a very subordinate way i n the p o l i t i c s of Socialism as a p o l i t i c a l theory; my real concern with Socialism i s as an a r t i s t ' s organized approach to the interdependencies of l i f e . (LP 241n.)  Politics  cannot be conceived of separately.  part of p o l i t i c s , and something which transcends i t .  Culture i s both a Thus Lenin, i n  another of MacDiarmid's favorite quotations:  I t would be a very serious mistake to suppose that one can become a Communist without making one's own the treasures of human knowledge. I t would be mistaken to imagine that i t i s enough to adopt the Communist formulas and conclusions of Communist science without mastering that sum-total of different branches of knowledge, the f i n a l outcome of which i s Communism. ... Communism becomes an empty phrase, a mere facade,  - 72 and the Communist a mere b l u f f e r , i f he has not worked over in his consciousness the whole inheritance of human knowledge ... made his own, and worked over anew, a l l that was of value i n the more than two thousand years of development of human thought. (As quoted i n LP xxi.)  Lenin i s a key figure for MacDiarmid i n this whole world-view, as a h i s t o r i c a l figure who has a c t u a l l y achieved giant strides i n the desired directions, and as an example of the kind of roan necessary for future steps, the kind of man who w i l l , i t i s to be hoped, become more common.  Another such was Rilke - again the inseparableness of a r t and  p o l i t i c s - as expounded i n "The Seamless Garment" (290).  Nearer home,  there was John Maclean, who with James Maxton and W i l l i e Gallacher led the Scottish workers' movement i n the early 192C's.  Maclean i s the  originator of the idea of the independent Scottish Workers' Republic, an idea e n t h u s i a s t i c a l l y endorsed by MacDiarmid, and later by Goodsir Smith, both of whom wrote poems about him.  Maclean died i n prison, and was  thus elevated to the status of martyr.  Maurice Lindsay, who could never be accused of Communist leanings himself, has dismissed MacDiarmid's Lenin as a "Gothicized Christ-substitute" but this view i s never r e a l l y j u s t i f i e d by the poetry i t s e l f , except perhaps i n some of the incantatory sections towards the end of the "Third Hymn to Lenin."  ("Ah, Lenin, / L i f e and that more abundantly, thou F i r e  of Freedom .... S p i r i t of Lenin, l i g h t on this c i t y now!"  3HL 30-31.)  Quite to the contrary, there i s a balanced and c a r e f u l l y defined view of p o l i t i c s and poetry i n the "Second Hymn to Lenin" (293), which i s ,  in every way,  the most interesting and most successful of MacDiarmid s 1  p o l i t i c a l poems. (Of course, MacDiarmid also holds that "As a Communist, I regard poetry as simply one of the g i f t s , one of the talents that I've got to 18 place at the disposal of the Party"  , and has churned out many pieces  whose value as propaganda has far outweighed their value as poetry.) The "Second Hymn to Lenin" i s only i n a very secondary way cerned with p o l i t i c s .  con-  Certainly there i s no argument i n i t as to whether  or not Communism i s "correct":  that i s merely assumed.  The major con-  cern i s stated i n the early stanza: Are my poems spoken i n the factories and f i e l d s , In the streets o the toon? Gin they're no , then I'm f a i l i n ' to dae What I ocht to ha' dune. (298) 1  1  MacDiarmid i s concerned with the p r a c t i c a l e f f e c t of h i s poetry, what difference i t i s going to make, not just i n general terms l i k e the modification of the consciousness of the l i t e r a t i , but i n terms of the everyday l i f e of the workers " i n the factories and f i e l d s " .  It is  obvious that, as things stand at present, his poems are less v i t a l to the workers than are the p o l i t i c s of Lenin.  This puts him on the  defensive, and establishes the mood of (friendly) argument, against Lenin as an ultimate p r i o r i t y . MacDiarmid i s concerned, poetry.  increasingly, with w r i t i n g poetry about  The theme, which has been present since his e a r l i e s t works (see  "In Glasgow", S 5 3 ) , emerges into the primary position i n MacDiarmid s 1  - 74 poetry of the early 30's, where he i s e s p e c i a l l y concerned with the sources of h i s poetry, i t s i n s p i r a t i o n . of Honour", 205.)  (See, for example, "The Point  And of course such later poems as The Kind of Poetry  I Want serve both as programmes for and exemplifications of his ideals. But none of this concern would be of anything other than hypothetical value, unless he had f i r s t dealt with this challenge which the "Second Hymn to Lenin" debates, unless the s o c i a l as well as the aesthetic relevance of poetry had been established. The p r i o r i t y of poetry over p o l i t i c s had already been asserted i n the "Better a'e gowden l y r i c " section of To Circumjack Cencrastus (198). But that section i s mere assertion; perspective of the "Hymn ; 11  i t lacks e n t i r e l y the measured  i t does not r e a l l y solve any problems.  (Ironic, then, that I a i n Crichton Smith should have used i t for the t i t l e of his essay on MacDiarmid.) MacDiarmid starts by f r e e l y admitting the irrelevance of much of what has been written, even by such people as Joyce, i f i t has not made this kind of impact, and by denying that there can be such a thing as "Great poets hardly onybody kens o'."  (299).  This should not, I believe, be taken as implying that s o c i a l relevance i s an i n f a l l i b l e c r i t e r i o n for judging great poetry. (Obviously, there can be poetry which i s s o c i a l l y relevant but not great.) Rather, the great poet's a b i l i t y to a f f e c t somewhat more than a fringe of mankind i s a natural r e s u l t , rather than a cause, of his greatness. The ineffectualness of poetry i s then compared to the sweeping impact of the "Barbarian saviour o  1  civilization".  being used i n the sense noted above, page 65.)  ("Barbarian" i s  Poetry must be regarded  - 75 -  with r u t h l e s s p r a c t i c a l i t y , practicality political  i n terms o f means and ends.  can be, p o l i t i c a l l y , very r u t h l e s s :  logic  MacDiarmid's  see the almost  inhuman  on the h o r r o r s o f the Cheka i n the " F i r s t Hymn to L e n i n " .  (205) . The  i n d i c t m e n t o f p o e t r y culminates  i n a curt, i n c i s i v e , idiomatic  judgement:  P o e t r y l i k e p o l i t i c s maun c u t The c a c k l e and pursue r e a l ends, U n e r r i n g l y as L e n i n -  and here MacDiarmid switches over, of  the judgement and a reason  statement  appearing  to be pari:  f o r i t , but b e i n g a l s o the c e n t r a l  affirmative  o f the poem  Its  The  the next phrase  and t o t h a t nature b e t t e r tends.  (299)  poem c o n t i n u e s :  Wi' And  L e n i n ' s v i s i o n equal poet's g i f t what u n p a r a l l e l e d f o r c e was there I  What i s i m p l i c i t  i n t h i s wish f o r the union o f two t h i n g s i s the f a c t  t h a t the two t h i n g s a r e i n f a c t is distinct  (300)  from p o l i t i c s .  distinct.  L e n i n was n o t a poet;  Therefore, although  poetry  t h e r e may be u s e f u l  a n a l o g i e s to be drawn between them, a l t h o u g h p o e t r y may be a b l e to l e a r n from p o l i t i c s , the d i s t i n c t i o n  remains, and i t i s no use f o r a poet  to t r y  - 75 and save h i s poetic soul fay becoming a p o l i t i c i a n .  I-Ie can only do that  by becoming a better poet. Poetry must be true to i t s e l f , that i s , uncompromising, just as Lenin's p o l i t i c s were uncompromising, the fu' course". i?  The structure  of the ideal poem, l i k e the structure c f the ideal p o l i t i c a l state, must be b u i l t by "Organic constructional work." b u i l t l i k e that:  Lenin's state i s already  poetry w i l l be, i n i t s turn.  (300.)  That future tense, plus the words " i n turn", provide  the key to  MacDiarmid's r e c o n c i l i a t i o n between poetry and p o l i t i c s , . a r e c o n c i l i a t i o n which must be understood i n an evolutionary, rather than a revolutionary, context.  Lenin also saw poetry i n that context,  "faur o f f . "  The progression of evolution may be inevitable, but i t i s also slow, and man's l i f e i s b r i e f . r e s u l t s of h i s visions;  The visionary w i l l never see the p r a c t i c a l  only the i r r i t a t i n g delays of the present.  MacDiarmid's famous exclamation against this -  Oh, i t ' s nonsense, nonsense, nonsense, Nonsense at this time o' day That breid-and-butter problems S'ud be i n ony man's way. (300)  - i s a curious mixture of immature annoyance caused by an i n a b i l i t y to accept the inevitable, and a deeply emotional recognition of the essential tragedy of humanity (the "Mortality" theme of A Drunk Man). The following stanzas present a concise picture of MacDiarmid's evolutionary v i s i o n , i n which humanity loses, l i k e i t s simian various hindrances on the road to perfection.  tails,  Whereas most people would  be quite happy about leav5.ng poverty behind, some other examples of what MacDiarmid regards as expendable might surprise them:  Sport, love, and parentage, Trade, p o l i t i c s , and law.  (300)  The omission of parentage i s , of course, standard practice i n i n t e l l e c t u a l Utopia-building ever since Plato's Republic;  ana the omission of love  also points towards the e s s e n t i a l l y non-humanist ( i n the present sense of the  term) character of MacDiarmid's v i s i o n .  As with other c a r e f u l l y  constructed but joyless Utopias, we are reminded of Bob Dylan's l i n e :  In a l l their promises of Paradise you w i l l not hear a  As far as the poem i s concerned, the key word on the l i s t i s "politics". provisional,  A l l these things, p o l i t i c s included, are " i n the meantime", relative.  Lenin himself observed this p r i n c i p l e within the  p o l i t i c a l sphere, not regarding the Russian Revolution as absolute, ready to see the time when i t would pass away.  Sae here, twixt poetry and p o l i t i c s , There's nae doot i n the en". Poetry includes that and s'ud be . The greatest poo'er amang men.  (301)  Even this judgement i s r e l a t i v e , and MacDiarmid, prepared to see h i s own s p e c i a l i t y superseded:  l i k e Lenin, i s  -  7I u°  -  - I t ' s tha greatest, i n posse at least, That men ha'e discovered yet Tho' nae doot they're unconscious s t i l l 0' ithers faur greater than i t . (301)  The ultimate r e s u l t of the evolutionary process i s , by d e f i n i t i o n , unknown and unknowable. The process i s f i n a l l y summed up i n two concise and beautiful images:  But, as the loon i s in the man, T h a t ' l l be ta'en up i ' the rhyme, Ta'en up l i k e a pool i n the sands Aince tha tide roi^s i n (301)  Poetry "includes" p o l i t i c s , but has to go far beyond i t , has to take a s t i l l wider view.  The e f f e c t i v e p o l i t i c i a n has to define his ends  and work r u t h l e s s l y towards them, excluding anything which does not contribute to the achievement of these ends.  But poetry i s unable to  exclude anything, because i t s end i s t o t a l comprehension. "daurna turn axva' frae ocht" (302) ;  The poet  he cannot afford the luxury of  choosing what a " p o e t i c a l " subject i s .  A l l subjects are p o e t i c a l , and  must be dealt with.  A poet has nae choice l e f t Betwixt Beaverbrook, say, and  God. (302)  The function of the poet i s t o t a l comprehension, achieved through  the "profoundest" virtue, disinterestedness, and r e s u l t i n g i n a synthesisin; view of the world, which, l i k e the drunk man's v i s i o n of the Great Wheel, obliterates such minor distinctions as L i f e and Death, past present or future.  Such a comprehension i s what MacDiarmid actually strives to  accomplish i n h i s later "world-view" poems.  He takes as one of his  mottoes (see LP 67) Riilce's statement "The poet must know everything", and interprets i t quite l i t e r a l l y .  These climactic stanzas of the "Second  Hymn to Lenin" act as a programme, a statement of intent, for a l l of MacDiarmid s subsequent poetry. 1  Having established this system of p r i o r i t i e s , on a vast evolutionary scale, MacDiarmid returns at the end of his poem to his real starting point:  the miner i n the p i t , the housewife at.her wash-tub.  a l l this mean to them?  What can  They are, of course, part cf his poetry.  Disinterestedness gives them equal v a l i d i t y with the furthest reach of metaphysical speculation.  In fact, they are s t i l l at the centre of i t ,  as MacDiarmid establishes with a dazzling piece of poetic trickery which, although i t appears at f i r s t a r b i t r a r y , i s an integral part of the argument:  The The And And  s a i l o r gangs owre the curve o' the sea, hoosewife's thrang i n the wash-tub, whatna rhyme can I f i n d but hub, what else can poetry be? (303)  As the core, poetry i s part of a l l s o c i a l change, as of a l l other types of a c t i v i t y ;  a role of such complexity that i n comparison even  Lenin's profound achievements become mere "bairns' play."  - 80 How far has MacDiarmid succeeded i n answering h i s own doubts? From one point of view, he has succeeded b r i l l i a n t l y .  He has  answered these doubts with a statement which i s l o g i c a l l y and i n t e l l e c t u a l l y s a t i s f y i n g (given the premises from which i t operates.)  What i s  more, this statement i s i t s e l f a poem, thus proving by i t s own example the a b i l i t y of poetry to come to grips with the most subtle of problems. As a poem, the "Second Hymn to Lenin" i s a most impressive achievement, marred only by one hideous "I xjis" (302).  The tone of voice i s exactly  r i g h t , and moves e a s i l y through the stanza forms. b a s i c a l l y English with Scots i n f l e c t i o n s :  The language i s  but these i n f l e c t i o n s  establish  a tone of easy f a m i l i a r i t y , almost homeliness, without relaxing the rigour of the argument, which would be much harder to achieve i n English. The d i c t i o n i s simple and direct, and at at least one point ("Oh, i t ' s nonsense etc.") the poem achieves that profundity which i s only achieved by the most sublime simplicity.  The poem also has a conciseness of  expression, familiar from the best of the early l y r i c s , which MacDiarmid, whether by intention or incompetence, was to achieve less frequently when dealing with the concerns of h i s later poetry. But from another point of view, namely, the poem's own, the f a i l u r e remains.  The "Second Hymn to Lenin" i s not spoken i n the factories and  f i e l d s , any more than any of MacDiarmid's other poems.  I t does not yet  possess even the dubious d i s t i n c t i o n of being read by coerced schoolchildren.  Does not MacDiarmid himself remain, what he said was impossible,  a "great poet hardly onybody kens o" ? 1  Those who do read and admire his  work are faced with exactly the same problems as the poet himself. MacDiarmid's solutions may be v a l i d , but they are not yet proved to be  - 31 -  v a l i d by the only standards which he himself would accept. I have mentioned that the language of the "Second Hymn to Lenin" i s b a s i c a l l y English.  Throughout the 3 0 ' s , MacDiarmid's interest i n  language i t s e l f i s increasing, and his uses of i t are p o l a r i z i n g .  On  the  one hand, he i s moving increasingly towards standard English, rather than Scots, as the only means to express a l l that he wants to say;  on the  other, the Scots poems that he does s t i l l write are i n a much denser, more deliberately dictionary-dredging "Synthetic Scots". r e s u l t s , at i t s best, i n the magnificent  This l a t t e r trend  spate of vocabulary i n "Water  Music" (270), which i s MacDiarmid's finest achievement i n the  transformation  of Jamieson's Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language into poetry. Other poems are better described by the s u b - t i t l e to "Scots Unbound": "Divertissement Philologique".  Some of his English poems of the period  deserve this t i t l e also, as MacDiarmid stretched and strained the language to try to accomodate his thoughts. MacDiarmid himself describes the process i n his Note to the combined edition of Stony Limits and Scots Unbound (1956) :  Both (Scots Unbound and Stony Limits) were largely experimental, the f i r s t i n an extended use of synthetic Scots but also of modern s c i e n t i f i c terminology, and the second i n an endeavour to employ recondite elements of the English vocabulary. Each i n i t s d i f f e r e n t but complementary way marked steps i n the t r a n s i t i o n from my e a r l i e r volumes of l y r i c s towards my later long "world-view" poems. (SLSU v).  Stony Limits i s the central volume of the 3 0 ' s , and indeed of the whole "middle" period of MacDiarmid.  Although we must suppose that much  - 02 of  the later poetry, such as In Memoriam James Joyce, was  i n fact  written i n the late 30's, none of i t appears i n f i n a l form u n t i l the 50's. Stony Limits as a book i s very varied and rewarding. some superb short l y r i c s :  the Shetland series, "The Skeleton of the  Future", and above a l l "The L i t t l e White Rose". gem  ( I f indeed that perfect  i s wholly MacDiarmid's, as has been questioned:  August 23rd, 1967.)  I t contains  see The Scotsman,  I t also contains p o l i t i c a l doggerel, such as  "Edinburgh Toun", and long rambling pieces such as "Etika Preobrazhennavo Erosa", none of which are wholly devoid of interest, though some come pretty close to i t . "Ode  But the volume i s dominated by three long poems, the  to A l l Rebels", "On a Raised Beach", and the "Lament for the Great  Music" (SLSU 91, 42, 121), and I propose to l i m i t my discussion of the book to these three. They have had, i n c i d e n t a l l y , a mixed publication history.  The  "Lament" appears i n f u l l i n the o r i g i n a l Stony Limits, i n the combined edition, and i n the Collected Poems.  "On a Raised Beach" appears i n the  Collected Poems only i n a very b r i e f extract, but has since been reprinted in A Lap of Honour, i n Penguin's Longer Contemporary Poems, and i n a special limited edition by the Harris Press, Preston.  The "Ode"  did not  appear i n f u l l in the o r i g i n a l Stony Limits, due to censorship problems. B i t s of i t turned up i n other c o l l e c t i o n s , but the f u l l text, as o r i g i n a l l y conceived, has been printed only i n Stony Limits and Scots Unbound. The Collected Poems prints only an extract, i n English, not the o r i g i n a l Scots.  In the combined edition, the "Ode"  one from Petronius and one from Jeremiah;  i s prefaced by two quotations, but the extract i n the Collected  Poems i s prefaced by neither of these, but by a t h i r d quote, from the  - 83 Bhagavad Ghita, which does not appear elsewhere.  I t i s to my mind  disgraceful that the Collected Poems should p r i n t i n f u l l a l l of the minor poems from Stony Limits and omit two of the most important poems MacDiarmid ever wrote. Among the sayings which MacDiarmid has taken as h i s mottoes (see LP 67) i s Thomas Hardy's declaration that "Literature i s the written expression of revolt against accepted things."  The most sustained ex-  position of this text i n MacDiarmid's poetry i s the "Ode to A l l Rebels." The poem f a l l s division.  into two sections, though there i s no very precise  The f i r s t i s centred on the monologue of a p a r t i c u l a r character,  interspersed with short, objective poems on related themes;  i n the second  section, this character drops out of sight as an individual d i s t i n c t from MacDiarmid, and becomes more a generic type of "The Rebel", while the poem's discussion moves onto a more general pla4». This movement away from the individual i s c h a r a c t e r i s t i c of MacDiarmid.  As he says i n another of the poems i n Stony Limits:  The War put an end to individuals They are no longer of interest - even to themselves. (211)  And the individual character of the "Ode" ( s i g n i f i c a n t l y unnamed) i s used mainly to negate i n d i v i d u a l i t y . The character i s i n some ways an a n t i c i p a t i o n of Meursault, the hero of Camus' L'Etranger (1942), i n that he i s devoid of the emotions which are commonly considered as human. the  Meursault i s condemned p a r t l y on  grounds that he could not weep at h i s mother's funeral, and that he  - 84 -  started a f l i r t a t i o n with a g i r l on the very next day. rebel i s an even more extreme case:  MacDiarmid's  even as he i s lowering into i t s grave  the c o f f i n of his f i r s t wife he i s dispassionately considering the second. He comes to the conclusion:  ony o mony a thoosand Forbye the cratur I a c t u a l l y got 'Ud ha'e seemed as convincin' and fore-thought And wi' a' their differences the l i f e I'd ha'e led Wi' ony ane o' them I micht ha'e wed 'Ud ha'e been f e l l near the same As wi' yon p a r t i c u l a r dame. (SLSU 94) 1  This early monologue i s written i n a f a i r l y f u l l canon of Scots, and has the r i n g of i n d i v i d u a l i t y about i t as much, i f not more so, as the speaking voice of the Drunk Man.  The inset comments are i n English, and  range from the comic:  "The Colonel's too gallant, too romantic, too o l d , " She sadly admitted, " i t s true To appreciate the Great Discovery of the Age - That women l i k e I t too'." (SLSU 95) 1  to  flat,  direct  statement:  In male or female the normal operation Does not interfere i n any way at a l l With any further function, interest, or occupation, S p i r i t u a l , i n t e l l e c t u a l , emotional, or physical. (SLSU 95)  - 85 This forin - the monologue commented on by inset poems - seems to suit MacDiarmid, and i t i s a p i t y that this i s the l a s t example of i t i n his work. Having disposed of love, he goes on to deal with parentage:  We need propinquity and habit then Oor bairns to ken And reason and f e e l i n ' are o' nae a v a i l (SLSU 97)  At f i r s t , the character had f e l t some "self-scunner" at this characteris t i c of h i s , but, as the poem progresses, and generalises his own  he comes to terms with himself,  experience thus:  Aye mair and mair c l e a r l y I saw Sexual r e l a t i o n s arena personal at a' But the least intimate things i n the world (SLSU 93)  His attitude i s given a comic but l o g i c a l turn i n the section beginning "Thank God  for laundries." (SLSU 98).  I t i s a paradox that  the rebel, denying i n d i v i d u a l i t y , seeks for i s o l a t i o n . From this point on, the protagonist increasingly tends to generalise his remarks, through such phrases as "we  rebels", into a philosophy  of  rebelLion. He i s aware of the outrageousness (by normal standards) of what he i s saying, and states i t as a p r i n c i p l e that the rebel's task i s to "think the unthinkable",  whatever the reaction of the common herd may  be.  MacDiarmid i s well aware of the application of this to his own p o s i t i o n  - 86 -  as a poet, and comments on i t :  I used to write s i c bonny sangs A'body wi' pleasure and p r o f i t could read, Even yet a b i t d i s c i p l i n e ' s a' that I need To mak' m y s e l f ane o' the greatest poets Puir Scotland's ever managed to breed. Why dae I turn my back on a' that And write this horrible rubbish instead? - Sustain me, s p i r i t o' God, that I pay These seductive voices nae heed . 1  (SLSU 99)  MacDiarmid must, p o e t i c a l l y , think the unthinkable, and sing the unsingable. The "personal" side of the poem ends with a bizarre and gruesome anecdote:  a piece of extreme anti-romanticism.  And as o' my weemun and oor bairns I feel aboot a' Accepted standards, the framework o' I l k a sae-ca'd law Man-made or "divine."  - opens the way  A general statement -  life, (SLSU 100)  for the rest of the poem, which expands upon this text,  s t a r t i n g with a version of the t h i r d temptation of Christ, with Reason cast i n the role of Satan. The p o s i t i o n which the rebel/MacDiarmid  (with the dropping of the  persona, i t becomes almost impossible to t e l l them apart) takes up i s one of  anarchy:  Is  the essence o' a' law that there i s nae law ava'. (SLSU 105)  - 87 -  This leads to a contemptuous dismissal of the whole fabric of " c i v i lization":  Keep ga'en to your wars, you fools, as o' yore; I'm the c i v i l i s a t i o n you're fechtin' f o r . (SLSU 107)  Yet despite MacDiarmid's embracement of Chaos and Anarchy, despite his avowal that h i s interests are "foreign to hope", there i s hope i n this poem, there i s a future v i s i o n .  (Perhaps readers could deal more  e a s i l y with MacDiarmid, they could "place" him better, i f he were merely a negative c r i t i c and s a t i r i s t :  i t i s the positive side of his ethos  which gives so much d i f f i c u l t y , or perhaps embarrassment.) The poem i s studded with passages of f i e r c e r h e t o r i c which proclaim the anarchist's f a i t h - and hope.  Responsibility's a fearsome load Nae man can bear, Rebels, t r y nae mair Be as irresponsible as God.  The advice I gi'e you i s simply this: Keep oot o' a' else except the abyss. R.ive Joy oot o' Terror's clenched nieve Gie't a'e look, syne back again heave. You'll no' see i t twice. (SLSU 107)  These two strands i n the poem - the rebel's r e j e c t i o n of present society, and MacDiarmid's f a i t h i n a future vision - are now drawing together towards a climax.  The rebel's attack culminates i n the passage  -  (JO  -  "Think not that I forget a single pang", which was ( p a r t i a l l y ) published in The Second Hymn to Lenin & Other Poems (312; SLSU 108).  I t asserts  the i d e n t i t y of the rebel/poet with the victims of oppression and crime, as they occur, masked by r e s p e c t a b i l i t y , i n the most " c i v i l i z e d " of countries;  i t asserts also God's i d e n t i t y with them:  You may f e e l certain that God Is on the side of the sane And prefers your condition to s y p h i l i s . I am not so sure. (SLSU 109)  The two strands join as MacDiarmid t r i e s to envisage what would i n fact happen i f h i s v i s i o n came to pass.  The answer i s obvious:  B l i n d i n ' l i c h t i s waur than the dark. (SLSU 110)  (Cf. "Men canna look on nakit l i c h t " :  from A Drunk Man, page 126.)  Here i s the relevance of the quotation which the Collected Poems uses to preface i t s extract:  "Deluded men despise me when I have taken human form." - Bhagavad-Gita. (243)  This i s of course a central preoccupation of MacDiarmid:  the opposition  of the masses to what i s best, their unwillingness to be changed, even for the Setter, which makes i t inevitable that those who wish to do some  good i n the world have to adopt the p o s i t i o n of r e b e l l i o n , r e j e c t i o n of orthodox society.  A' that's badly, malformed, obscene, Mankind accepts and guards; But when an angel kyths ... ... they howl wi' fear, Or perjure their sieht, and gibe and jeer And deny that the l i k e can ever appear. (SLSU  The  fierceness of this denunciation  111)  leads into a passage of  d e l i g h t f u l l y p l a y f u l irony (a mood which MacDiarmid frequently attempts, but less frequently achieves) i n which the respectable c i t i z e n s decide that God has acted i n bad the Medical  taste, and should have consulted the Kirk or  Profession:  Wi' a' due respect we'll no' follow his lead. Mankind at least maun aye keep i t s held. (SLSU  As i t reaches i t s climax, the "Ode" of r h e t o r i c a l effectiveness.  112)  achieves a fine concentration  There follows a l i s t of the rebel's  enemies, a catalogue of the crimes of r e s p e c t a b i l i t y , which shows MacDiarmid's considerable powers of invective at their bast; and precise.  Incidentally, this denunciation  controlled  carries more force i n the  o r i g i n a l Scots than i n the Collected Poems' A n g l i f i e d version.  A' that cry "Haud - that's ga'en owre faur. We dinna ken where - i f at a' - i t ' l l stop.  Cf  - 90 -  with  A l l who cry : "Hold - that's going too f a r . We don't know where - i f at a l l - i t ' l l stop."  The difference i s a subtle one of tone:  but i n this kind of w r i t i n g , tone  i s all-important. MacDiarmid i s a great exponent of the catalogue, names;  here, the r h e t o r i c a l effect i s overwhelming.  the l i s t of And after this  spate of invective, the poem comes magnificently to rest on a small, quiet statement of sublime confidence:  Then q u i e t l y , q u i e t l y , q u i e t l y Wi' nae excitement or noise. I t ' s r a r e l y a rebel Raises his voice. There's nae necessity. (SLSU 114)  This seems to me the true ending of the poem.  The r e s t may be  regarded as a kind of coda, introduced by a rare and b e a u t i f u l image:  We are l i k e somebody wha hears A wonderfu' language and mak's up his mind To write poetry i n i t - but ah I I t ' s impossible to learn i t , we f i n d , Tho' we'll never ha'e ony use again For ither languages o' ony kind. (SLSU 114-5)  The coda takes the form which so much of MacDiarmid's later poetry  - 91 i s to take:  i t i s an account of the kind of poetry he wants, which, i n  attempting to define i t , i s actually creating i t .  This i_s the poetry i n  the impossible language, which the rebel should sing: discussion of that poetry, an attempt MacDiarmid s poems about poetry may 1  breeding;  but i t i s also a  to describe what i t ought to be.  seem self-centred, s t e r i l e , i n -  but they are not.  The poetry i s one that "reason with good reason" must r e j e c t , that men w i l l refuse to hear, or, hearing, refuse to recognise for what i t is.  But i t i s a song which w i l l continue to r i s e , and spread.  It  stems from a refusal to accept l i m i t a t i o n :  Let a l l men laugh as at a c h i l d Crying broken-hearted for the moon The c h i l d i s r i g h t and must not be Consoled u n t i l the world ends (SLSU 117)  I t i s , ultimately, the song of God:  Your song, 0 God, that none dare hear Save the insane and such as I Apostates from humanity Sings out i n me with no more fear Than one who thinks he has the world's ear From his padded c e l l - Insane enough, with you so near, To want, l i k e you, the world as well I (SLSU  118)  I t i s surely rather curious that a poem engaged i n r e j e c t i n g every vestige of common authority, reason, and c e r t a i n l y r e l i g i o n , should end on  such a r e l i g i o u s note, even admitted that MacDiarmid's "God" bears  little  r e l a t i o n to the Christian God, but i s used mora as a kind of loose shorthand for MacDiarmid's visionary dimension. Due to i t s limited a v a i l a b i l i t y , the "Ode  to A l l Rebels" i s  probably the least-known of MacDiarmid's great poems. because i t i s a great poem.  There are weaknesses.  This i s unfortunate The reader i s  l i a b l e to become too interested i n the individual personality of the persona at the beginning of the poem, and thus the t r a n s i t i o n i s made more d i f f i c u l t .  Furthermore, the t r a n s i t i o n a l stages are i n any case  the most diffuse and least satisfactory parts of the poem. MacDiarmid's structuring power i s shaky.  As always,  But towards the end, the poem  does develop a fine flow and drive which carries i t through to a powerful  conclusion.  The Scots language i s vigorously and appositely used,  and the loose, variable verse forms also contribute well to the poem's movement.  The poem does seem to me to have an emotional and i n t e l l e c t u a l  unity, and to be an important contribution to any overall understanding of MacDiarmid's thought.  I t i s to be hoped that some enterprising  publishers w i l l again make i t available i n i t s entirety, and i n i t s original At  language. this period of his l i f e , MacDiarmid was l i v i n g on the island  of Whalsay, i n the Shetland Islands, a landscape of bleak, bare rock. Undoubtedly  this i s the immediate environment which produced the geo-  l o g i c a l meditation of "On a Raised Beach" (SLSU 42). unique i n MacDiarmid's work.  This poem i s  Although i t does relate to his central  themes and concerns, i t i s perhaps his only major poem which can be approached and understood without any prior knowledge of these themes  and concerns, or even of MacDiarmid himself.  The casual reader may  well'skip the f i r s t paragraph, with i t s f u s i l l a d e of erudite and esoteric vocabulary;  but the bulk of the poem i s written i n clear, simple  English, d i g n i f i e d i n tone, and charged with concentrated power. poem contains some of MacDiarmid's most remarkable achievements  The i n the  eloquence of s i m p l i c i t y . The basic situation i s analogous to that of A Drunk Man Looks at the T h i s t l e .  The poet/protagonist (there i s no attempt to create a  persona here:  the speaker i s MacDiarmid) i s lying on a raised beach of  stones, and the poem consists of h i s meditation upon them. attitudes and ideas come up, are examined, recur.  One thought passes into  another, with more of a natural randomness than of l o g i c . i s f a i r l y loosely structured, but i t i s reasonably concise; fewer f l a t passages than i n the "Ode". and calm:  Various  The poem there are  But the mood i s contemplative  there i s emotion, but not excitement.  The poem begins with the utter strangeness of the stones, an overwhelming sense of otherness.  This p a r t l y accounts f o r the use of a l l  the unusual words i n the f i r s t paragraph.  A l l are used correctly and  p r e c i s e l y - " f i d u c i a l " , for instance, describes exactly the function of  20 the stones i n the poem, "that may be used as a standard of reference" - but to the average reader they w i l l produce immediately a sense of strangeness.  The idea that the stones are e n t i r e l y separate i s further  enforced by the fact that neither these strange words, nor even the ancient and magical Norn words (SLSU 4C) , can bring men. any closer to the stones.  - 94  -  Even those who juggle with lapidary's, mason's, geologist's words And a l l their knowledge of stones i n vain (SLSU 53)  The stones are set apart by their age and by their absolute impassivity.  They do not acknowledge  anything more recently born than themselves And that i s everything else on the Earth. •• •  So these stones have dismissed A l l but a l l of evolution, unmoved by i t , (Is there anything to come they w i l l not likewise dismiss?) (SLSU  44-5)  Above a l l , they are s i l e n t and unmoving, completely impervious to change.  The moon moves the waters backwards and forwards, But the stones cannot be lured an inch further Either on this side of eternity or the other. • • •  Cold, undistracted, eternal and sublime. They w i l l stem a l l the torrents of v i c i s s i t u d e forever With a more than Roman peace. (SLSU 49)  For MacDiarmid, this absolute otherness of the stones i s something awesome.  (Unlike Sartre's Roquentin, i n La Mausee, 1938, whose  similar encounter with the absolute otherness of a stone f i l l s him with disgust and horror.)  The i n i t i a l response has to be humility.  We  ephemeral humans cannot presume to impose on the stones our p a l t r y ideas; they are contemptibly i r r e l e v a n t .  - 95 We must be humble. We are so e a s i l y b a f f l e d by appearances And do not r e a l i s e that these stones are one with the stars. I t makes no difference to them whether they are high or low, Mountain peak or ocean f l o o r , palace, or pigsty. There are plenty of ruined buildings i n the world but no ruined stones. (SLSU 45)  That l a s t l i n e i s , arguably, the f i n e s t that MacDiarmid ever wrote. The stones make nonsense of a l l our ideas of time. witnessed, impartially, a l l of evolution.  They have  They have seen mankind  develop from i t s e a r l i e s t stages, and w i l l also see a l l the further developments which MacDiarmid believes i n .  But for the stones  the essential l i f e of mankind i n the mass Is the same as their e a r l i e s t ancestors yet, (SLSU 45)  They are the beginning and the ending of the xrorld, "Earth's vast epanadiplosis", as the l a s t l i n e of the poem says.  (This phrase i s a  s t r i k i n g metaphorical application of a r h e t o r i c a l device - opening and closing a sentence with the same word - to geological history, spoiled only by the fact that i t gives a t o t a l l y superfluous and s l i g h t l y ludicrous rhyme to "closes".  In the same paragraph, another r h e t o r i c a l  term,  diallage, a figure by which arguments are considered from various points of view, and then turned to one point, i s also b r i l l i a n t l y applied to the stones.  MacDiarmid's use of h i s strange terminology i s always exact  and often surprisingly subtle.  Are we also meant to be aware that the  word diallage, with a d i f f e r e n t pronunciation but the same spelling and Greek root, i s a type of mineral?)  - 96 -  Given the proper humility i n his approach, man has much to learn from the stones.  They re-adjust his sense of values, they question  his concept of r e a l i t y , they set time i n perspective.  Impatience i s a poor q u a l i f i c a t i o n for immortality.  (SLSU 47)  They dismiss a l l h i s s u p e r f i c i a l ideas and emotions.  There are no twirly b i t s i n this ground bass. (SLSU 46) To learn from the stones we must become more l i k e them;  we too  must "dismiss a l l else" and become "enamoured of the desert", l i k e MacDiarmid himself, or l i k e h i s hero Charles Doughty (the elegy for whom, "Stony Limits", gives the volume i t s t i t l e . )  This requires an  immense exercise of w i l l , Inconceivable d i s c i p l i n e , courage, and endurance, S e l f - p u r i f i c a t i o n and anti-humanity (SLSU 51)  This concept of w i l l i s fundamental to MacDiarmid.  In an interesting  aside, he c r i t i c i s e s the PvOmantics for setting up as their goal " I n f i n i t e longing rather than manly w i l l " (SLSU 53).  The w i l l i s directed against  the weak manifestations of "humanity", such as emotion;  but i t i s  w i l l , a force, that i s the alternative, not reason, for reason i s equally inadequate:  - 97 But an emotion c h i l l e d i s an emotion controlled; This i s the road leading to certainty, Reasoned planning for the time when reason can no longer a v a i l . (SLSU 47)  "Anti-humanity" i s an interesting word for MacDiarmid to use here. I t expresses, more d i r e c t l y than usual, the tendency of h i s thought. MacDiarmid i s i n one sense a humanist, i n that h i s fundamental b e l i e f i s in mankind, and the p o s s i b i l i t i e s of i t s evolution; "humanity" i s a rigorous and often "inhuman" one.  but h i s concept of I t makes no allowance  for weaknesses, and does not even admit the p o s s i b i l i t y of compromise. MacDiarmid i s not troubled by any false humility when he says  Here where there i s neither haze nor hesitation Something at least of the necessary power has entered into me. (SLSU 51-2).  (Before the stones, a l l men are equal, but some are more equal than others.)  This tendency i n him, h i s "disposition towards s p i r i t u a l  issues / Made inhumanly clear" (SLSU 53) i s at once his strength and h i s weakness.  I t gives him the power to carry out h i s task, but i t  i s o l a t e s him from the common man.  This s p l i t i s repeated i n his  attitude towards the common man, who i s to be revered as the ultimate value because of h i s p o t e n t i a l i t i e s , and simultaneously to be despised for not being able yet to r e a l i s e them. This duality comes up i n the poem i t s e l f .  Given the strength,  given the lessons learned from the stones, what do these enable us to do? What i s our task, "our function (which) remains, / However isolated we  -  i/O  -  seam, fundamental to l i f e as theirs (the stones)" (SLSU 54)? The stones give to MacDiarmid "a sense of perfect form":  These stones have the silence of supreme creative power, The direct and undisturbed way of working Which alone leads to greatness. (SLSU 50-1)  (Cf  "Silence supervening at poetry's height" (IMJJ 47).) The i s o l a t i o n of the stones, their total s e l f - s u f f i c i e n c y , i s  d i r e c t l y analogous  to the necessary i s o l a t i o n and s e l f - s u f f i c i e n c y of  the a r t i s t :  I t w i l l be ever increasingly necessary to f i n d In the interests of a l l mankind Men capable of r e j e c t i n g a l l that a l l other men Think, as a stone remains E s s e n t i a l to the world, inseparable from i t , And r e j e c t s a l l other l i f e yet. Great work cannot be combined with surrender to the crowd. (SLSU 51)  At the same time, MacDiarmid maintains, co-holding opposites,' this crowd to which we cannot surrender i s our master, our task, our j u s t i f i c a t i o n :  The empty hand of my brother man, The humanity no culture has reached, the mob. I n t e l l i g e n t s i a , our impossible and imperative job! (SLSU 55)  Only i n the evolutionary context (over spaces of time as great as those experienced by the stones) can these opposites be held together.  - 99 The stones have one f i n a l lesson to teach, which i s proclaimed i n the penultimate paragraph of the poem.  I t concerns death.  Some of  MacDiarmid's finest poetry i s about death, notably "At My Father's Grave" (289), or the great closing l i n e s of "The Wreck of the Swan" (399).  The  stones, which have challenged men's views of r e a l i t y , and of time, must also talk of death.  The stones on a grave are also immobile;  there i s  no "Christophanic rock that moved." (SLSU 43).  I l i f t a stone; i t i s the meaning of l i f e I clasp Which i s death, for that i s the meaning of death • ••  Each of these stones on this raised beach, Every stone i n the world, Covers i n f i n i t e death, beyond the reach Of the dead i t hides (SLSU  55-6)  This kind of apprehension of death, and the acceptance of i t ("Death i s a physical horror to me no more" - SLSU 49) i s part of MacDiarmid's ethos;  i t has a Stoic n o b i l i t y .  What i s remarkable about  this poem, what i s unique i n MacDiarmid's work, i s the closing assertion:  But l e t us not be a f r a i d to die. No heavier and colder and quieter then, No more motionless, do stones l i e In death than i n l i f e to a l l men. It i s no more d i f f i c u l t i n death than here - Though slow as the stones the powers develop To r i s e from the grave - to get a l i f e worth having; And i n death - unlike l i f e - we lose nothing that i s t r u l y ours. (SLSU 55)  MacDiarmid s view of eternal l i f e i s usually on a more m a t e r i a l i s t i c 1  - 10G -  basis.  Compare this with the l a t e r "Island Funeral" (324).  That  poem begins xjith a magnificent description of a funeral i n the Shetlands: the grey stones are again omnipresent.  The islanders, with a dry-eyed  certainty, r e j e c t the "sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal l i f e " .  At the end of the poem, MacDiarmid presents an alternative  hope:  Yet i f the nature of the mind i s determined By that of the body, as I believe, I t follows that every type of human mind Has existed an i n f i n i t e number of times And w i l l do so. Materialism promises something Hardly to be distinguished from eternal l i f e . Minds or souls with the properties I love - The minds or souls of these o l d islanders Have existed during an eternal time i n the past And w i l l exist for an eternal time i n the future. A time broken up of course By enormous intervals of non-existence, But an i n f i n i t e time. I f one regards these p e r s o n a l i t i e s As possessing some value There i s a certain s a t i s f a c t i o n In the thought that i n e t e r n i t y They w i l l be able to develop In a l l possible environments And to express themselves In a l l the ways possible to them - A l o g i c a l deduction from thoroughgoing Materialism (330-1)  I quote this passage at some length, as i t seems important to set this thoroughly l o g i c a l view, which seems to me more consistent with the whole trend of MacDiarmid's thought, against the strange and almost mystical view which closes "On a Raised Beach".  (Of course, someone with a greater  f a i t h i n the individual than MacDiarmid has might retort to this argument that the number of possible individuals i s also i n f i n i t e . )  - 101 No exposition of the ideas i t contains can- do f u l l justice to "On a Raised Beach".  This i s of course true of any poem, but less so i n the  case of MacDiarmid, whose poems are so often poems of ideas. the ideas are the things which come across most strongly.  That i s , "On a Raised  Beach" i s an exception, i n that what comes across most strongly i s the image of the stones themselves.  The stones are real to us quite apart  from the ideas which MacDiarmid builds around them; way round, the ideas don't exhaust the image. in MacDiarmid.  or, to put i t another  This i s comparatively rare  Even i n such a great poem as A Drunk Man Looks at the  T h i s t l e , one gets the f e e l i n g that the images of the T h i s t l e and the moonl i g h t have been milked for everything they are worth, that the poet has squeezed out of them every possible application. the stones:  and this i s one reason why  This i s not so with  the poem i s l i k e l y to appeal  strongly to readers who would not normally get along with MacDiarmid. Another reason i s that the poem, for a l l i t s anti-humanistic professions, does present more strongly than most a picture of MacDiarmid himself as a person.  Perhaps the intensity of the image of the stones  overflows into the intensity of h i s response.  Certainly, the experience  seems to have taken MacDiarmid back to a questioning of fundamentals, re-assessment  of the grounds of his whole position, which i s a phenome-  non more widely shared than the position i t s e l f . how  a  I have t r i e d to show  the ideas i n the poem are related to the ideas i n other MacDiarmid  poems;  but what i s most interesting, and perhaps most a t t r a c t i v e , about  "On a Raised Beach" i s that i n i t the ideas are of secondary  importance.  To say that this makes i t a greater poem, would be begging questions of value judgments, on the answers to which we must base our estimation of  - 102 almost a l l of MacDiarmid's later poetry.  Certainly the poem stands  apart from much of MacDiarmid's other work; poem;  and certainly i t i s a great  but we must be careful about using i t s kind of greatness as a  standard for other poems. In Lucky Poet (110), MacDiarmid quotes the following statement. (It was written by Van Wyck Brooks about H.G.  Wells;  MacDiarmid applies  i t to Karel Capek, but admits i t s a p p l i c a b i l i t y to himself.)  He i s an i n t e l l e c t u a l , rather than an a r t i s t ; that i s to say, he naturally describes and interprets l i f e i n the l i g h t of ideas, rather than i n the l i g h t of experience.  In this sense, MacDiarmid i s certainly an i n t e l l e c t u a l ;  but "On a Raised  Beach" i s the work of an a r t i s t . The l a s t of the three central poems of Stony Limits i s the "Lament for the Great Music"  (248;  SLSU 121).  MacDiarmid s introduction to the 1  1956 edition speaks of the book's  concern with Scottish Gaelic and i t s e f f o r t to bring out the underlying unity of the Scots and Gaelic elements of Scotland and rebut the sedulously cultivated idea of an i r r e c o n c i l a b l e d i v i s i o n between them. My "Lament for the Great Music", celebrating the piobaireachd of the MacCrimmons and other great pipers i s a key poem i n this connection. (SLSU vi)  The Ceol Mor  i s , for MacDiarmid, the greatest achievement of Gaelic art  in Scotland, and upon i t , more than-upon any other single foundation, ha bases his theories and ideals about a r t , and about the Gaelic Idea.  - 103 -  Of the pibrochs, R.L.C. Lorirner writes:  A l l but very few of the pibrochs that we possess were composed at various dates between 1600 and 1760. Pibroch was, indeed, a product of the efflorescence of native Scottish Gaelic culture which began during the sixteenth century, and ended soon after the suppression of the l a s t Jacobite R i s i n g i n 1745-46; and no completely c l a s s i c a l pibrochs have been composed since early i n the nineteenth century. E s s e n t i a l l y i t i s a highly sophisticated kind of early post-medieval art-music, with i t s own tonal system, i t s own i n t r i c a t e metrical forms, i t s own c h a r a c t e r i s t i c a l l y heroic style; and much of i t s unique fascination i s due to the fact that the West-European c l a s s i c a l music of the l a s t three or four hundred years has had l i t t l e or no influence upon i t .  The Ceol Mor, as opposed to popular bagpipe music (Ceol Aotrom or Ceol Beag), i s an extremely complex musical structure, with l i t t l e  relation  to Western music, but with great s i m i l a r i t i e s to the Indian ragas and other forms of Eastern music:  hence i t s importance for MacDiarmid's idea  of an East-West Synthesis. The "Lament" i t s e l f follows a familiar pattern.  I t begins by  lamenting the loss of the Great Music, the fact that i t no longer exists, and that i n modern society i t would, perhaps, be impossible for i t to exist.  The present debased idea of what bagpipe music i s , i s b i t t e r l y  attacked, with the analogy, already used i n A Drunk Man and elsewhere, of the contrast between Christ and the present-day Church. of  the present i s then contrasted by a high v i s i o n of the Ceol Mor i t s e l f ,  as an image of the ultimate s p i r i t u a l r e a l i t y . of  The degeneracy  And i n the closing sections  the poem, we are back again i n the evolutionary context, with  MacDiarmid explaining how i t i s necessary to work for the salvation of the  - 104 debased present, so that i n the future society w i l l come to be an embodiment of the v i s i o n .  There i s the familiar pattern;  two opposites,  then their evolutionary synthesis. The poem i s , e s s e n t i a l l y , a Lament: i t i s one of loss, of separation. the  and the strongest emotion i n  MacDiarmid i s acutely conscious of  distance which separates him from the great masters of the pibroch:  a distance not only temporal but mental.  your music As I hear i t i s not as you did and may well be Unrecognisable to you. You were good Catholics - Watching me narrowly now from the dachaidh bhuan (eternal home) And your attitude to the course of history And to your contemporary duties was similar to t h e i r s . (252)  The poem i s f i n a l l y about MacDiarmid's attitude to the course of history and h i s contemporary duties.  These pipers had values MacDiarmid could not  share:  Your occasions were trumpery .. and far from my l i k i n g , Welcomes to Royalty, Salutes to Chiefs; and I marvel At the music that towered into E t e r n i t y from them - From the k i s s of a king's hand I would have given nothing for And the l i k e . (255)  And not only their values:  their whole attitude, their means of per-  ception, were formed by an environment which has gone. not  The Lament i s  simply for the passing of a form of music, or for the men who created  i t , but for the whole ethos which could produce such music.  It is a  - 105 lament for an idea of Scotland.  These things w i l l pass. "The world w i l l come to an end But love and music w i l l last for ever." Sumeria i s buried i n the desert sands, A t l a n t i s i n the ocean waves - happier these Than Scotland, for a l l i s gone, no travesty Of their ancient g l o r i e s l i v e s On the l i p s of degenerate sons as here. That i s what i s hard to bear. • • • *  This Scotland i s not Scotland. How can I think of you In these c i t i e s you never saw, a d i f f e r e n t world altogether, Swollen huge with thoughts not thought that should have been thought, Watchwords not proclaimed, songs not sung, Tears unshed for ever and deeds undone beyond achievement now? (253,  258)  This lament culminates i n a short passage (256-7) which presents an image of a Solway landscape at dusk.  I t i s a magnificent piece of  imagistic writing ("the hunting tide of the Solway"), one of MacDiarmid's f i n e s t pieces of simple natural description;  but the symbolic interpre-  tation of i t f i t s i n so naturally, unobtrusively, that both become integral parts of one glorious image. The image of loss, of time passing, has, immediately p r i o r to this passage, been extended onto i t s largest scale, eternity.  Yet the waves w i l l not wash the feet Of MacLeod's Maidens for ever ... « The State has i t s root i n time. I t w i l l culminate i n time. Greater things than this w i l l f a l l . A l l r e l i g i o n w i l l f a l l . Neither moral p r i n c i p l e s nor a r t i s t i c forms Have any eternity ahead of them. (256)  - 106 I t i s i n this kind of context that MacDiarmid can contemplate that which the Ceol Mor r e a l l y embodied.  I t begins with the image of the  glass of pure water held up to the sun, here used i n c i d e n t a l l y , later to become the central image of a complete poem (469).  I t i s a moment of  revelation, outside time, i n which paradox i s p o s s i b i l i t y :  l i k e a man bending h i s head As from outside, as a man can, to look at h i s whole mind As i f i t did not belong to him though he knows I t i s yet that by which he knows a l l that he knows. (258)  "Mind" i s the key word here.  Although MacDiarmid seems to be talking a  kind of s p i r i t u a l mysticism ("Our s p i r i t i s of a being i n d e s t r u c t i b l e . / I t s a c t i v i t y continues from eternity to e t e r n i t y " - 259), i t i s always rooted i n the human mind i t s e l f :  I t i s the movement which the mind invents For i t s own expression ... I t i s the supreme r e a l i t y (not the Deity of personal theism) Standing free of a l l h i s t o r i c a l events i n past or future, Knowable - but v i s i b l e to the mind alone. (259)  I t i s for this reason that the p a r t i c u l a r form of the Ceol Mor i s able to embody the vision:  But the Ceol Mor i s only yours i n your own perfect form ... I t i s world-wide, ageless. I t i s the Sufi Nida and Saut; I t i s the Indian Ragas, and melodies of the o l d slokas and ghazals, Deliberately cast i n a non-rhythmic mould because the composers knew That rhythm i s an animal function, whereas poetry and music,  - 107 -  I n v o l v i n g no b o d i l y a c t i v i t y o f the a r t i s t i n t h e i r making, Can e x i s t i n a p u r e l y p s y c h o l o g i c a l r e l a t i o n to s o c i e t y And would be e q u a l l y " t r u e " i n a w o r l d o f disembodied s p i r i t s ... The supreme r e a l i t y i s v i s i b l e to the mind a l o n e .  (260)  The  p a r t i c u l a r forms o f G a e l i c a r t here p o i n t , f o r MacDiarmid, the way  forward f o r the i n c r e a s i n g l y "dehumanized" e v o l u t i o n o f the human mind, until  t h a t mind i s capable o f g r a s p i n g  m a t e r i a l i s t apocalypse:  the u l t i m a t e r e a l i t y .  It isa  e t e r n i t y w i l l n o t break i n t o time, time  shall  become e t e r n i t y by i t s own e f f o r t s . The  v i s i o n , which f i l l s  i s a p a s s i n g one. passing,  the poet w i t h  " l i g h t n e s s and e x a l t a t i o n " ,  I t l e a v e s him i n an even g r e a t e r  i t l e a v e s him a l o n e .  darkness from i t s  Worse, i t i s a v i s i o n o f a p a s t  some see the f u t u r e d e s t i n y o f t h e i r  glory:  nation  But I am companioned by an i r r e c o v e r a b l e p a s t , By a m y s t i c a l sense o f such a d e s t i n y foregone ... Time o u t o f mind ... Oh, A l b a , my son, my son!  (262)  Another n a t u r a l image, again one o f g r e a t beauty, i l l u s t r a t e s t h i s .  It  i s a v i s i o n o f dawn i n the mountains,  But The  the shadows o f the h i l l s i d e c l o s e d upon the s a l u t e , s i l e n c e came a g a i n , and i n a minute or two the dawn was gone.  (263)  He i s l e f t  i n the m i r e o f p r e s e n t  society:  I am h o r r i f i e d by the t r i v i a l i t y o f l i f e ,  by i t s c o r r u p t i o n and helplessness,  - 108 -  No prospect of eternal l i f e , no f u l l n e s s of existence, no love without betrayal, No passion without satiety.  (263)  This dejection, however, is' only temporary, the immediate aftermath the great v i s i o n ;  of  and the poem enters i t s l a s t phase with the mag-  n i f i c e n t assertion:  Yet there i s no great problem i n the world to-day Except disease and death men cannot end I f no man t r i e s to dominate another. The struggle for material existence i s over. I t has been The need for repressions and d i s c i p l i n e s has passed. The struggle for truth and that indescribable necessity, Beauty, begins now, hampered by none of the lower needs.  won.  (264)  It i s men who  have achieved  t h i s , not Gods.  (MacDiarmid i s careful  to note that "Scottish genius has played a foremost role.")  There i s a  kind of grandeur i n the sweeping optimism of MacDiarmid s v i s i o n . 1  such l i n e s could be written by a man  l i v i n g In poverty on a desolate  island, i s a tribute to the greatness of his s p i r i t . optimism;  That  I t i s no easy  i t ignores none of the d i f f i c u l t i e s , none of the i d i o t i c  aberrations of men;  i t i s , simply, an overwhelming statement of f a i t h i n  a species which affords l i t t l e r a t i o n a l ground for i t . words f a c i l e rhetoric:  Nor are these  i n their careful control of tone, their simplicity  informed by passion, they are poetry. MacDiarmid now with h i s :  turns back to the pipers, and compares their p o s i t i o n  - 109 -  This i s the darkness where you have been; I think forever. (265)  and have l e f t  But his place i s s t i l l here, his duty i s here, to work on the long, slow task of regeneration.  This must be done to lead men to cosmic consciousness And as i t cannot be quick, except on occasion And that the creative instant, the moment of divine r e a l i s a t i o n , When the s e l f i s l i t up by i t s own inner l i g h t Caused i n the s e l f by i t s i n t e n s i t y of thought Possibly over a long period, i t must be thought of as a c r a f t In which the consummation of the idea, not i n analysis but i n synthesis, Must be the subject of the object - l i f e . (266)  This he continues to see as the duty of the "Scottish genius", always more prone to synthesis than to analysis.  I t i s the work of the many, and  of the few:  C i v i l i s a t i o n , culture, a l l the good i n the world Depends ultimately on the existence of a few men of good w i l l . The perspective w i l l converge upon them yet. (255-6)  In that l a s t l i n e , a l l of MacDiarmid's evolutionary v i s i o n i s packed into one concise image.  The poem closes with a. v i s i o n of  my beloved Scotland yet As the land I have dreamt of where the supreme values Which the people recognise are states of mind Their r u l i n g passion the attainment of higher consciousness, (267)  - 110  -  a l a n d i n which the makers of the Ceol Mor  would a g a i n be a t home.  The  c l o s i n g images do not q u i t e come o f f - there i s r a t h e r too much of the l u d i c r o u s about them - as " A l l ever born crowd the i s l a n d s and Coast of S c o t l a n d / Which has to the Ceol Mor,  and  s t a n d i n g room f o r them a l l "  (267)  to  too p r e c i s e l y v i s u a l i s e d , and c o r r e l a t i v e of the great  o f them.  i s a b s u r d l y inadequate  The  event i s  as an o b j e c t i v e  vision.  "Lament" i s perhaps the l e a s t s u c c e s s f u l o f the three  central  poems o f Stony L i m i t s , m a i n l y because i t takes r a t h e r a l o n g time going.  The  first  i t a l s o shares  few pages are confused,  which he  times  c l e a r and  g a r b l e d , and r a t h e r d u l l .  But  I t s e t s out MacDiarmid's world-view:  the p a s t i n which he p a s s i o n a t e l y b e l i e v e s , and  the p r e s e n t ,  d e s p i s e s , but which,he knows, c o n t a i n s the seeds o f the f u t u r e ,  the i n h e r i t a n c e o f the p a s t . At  to get  t h e i r v i r t u e s , which are the c h i e f v i r t u e s of a l l Mac-  Diarmid' s p o e t r y of t h i s p e r i o d . the f u t u r e and  listen  MacDiarmid the p o e t / v i s i o n a r y gains h i s u l t i m a t e  reward by l e a p i n g forward and h i d i n g behind one  The  the West  These poems s t a t e t h i s view c o h e r e n t l y .  i t gets l o s t i n v e r b i a g e and splendid.  confusion;  but a t o t h e r times i t i s  T h i s can happen i n two ways - e i t h e r  through i t s  b e i n g embodied i n a c l e a r and memorable image (such as, on a l a r g e s c a l e , the stones or the Ceol Mor;  o r , on a s m a l l e r s c a l e , the b e a u t i f u l  des-  c r i p t i o n o f the Solway i n the "Lament") o r , more o f t e n , as i t i s s t a t e d in d i r e c t , passionate  rhetoric.  What happens to MacDiarmid's p o e t r y a f t e r must now  the 30's,  and what  we  go on to examine, i s t h a t he comes to r e l y l e s s on the p o e t r y o f  images, or even on the p o e t r y o f r h e t o r i c . the p o e t r y o f  fact..  I n s t e a d , we  are f a c e d w i t h  - Ill In Memoriara James Joyce i s the central example available to us of the kind of poetry MacDiarmid has been engaged on for the past t h i r t y years or so;  and i t , l i k e everything else written i n that time, i s to be con-  sidered as only part of a vast and all-embracing project, which has over the years undergone numerous changes of t i t l e , from Mature A r t to the l a t e s t Haud F o r r l t (announced i n the Prefatory Note to A Lap of Honour.) In Memoriam James Joyce describes i t s e l f as an excerpt "from A Vision of World Language".  Nevertheless, i t possesses a certain unity as a separate  work, and can best be treated as representative of that vast whole which, when i t f i n a l l y appears, w i l l represent MacDiarmid s ultimate contribution 1  to l i t e r a t u r e . On page 64 of In Memoriam James Joyce, MacDiarmid states:  Shirokogoroff s Psychomental Complex, of the Tungus; (If that l i n e i s not great poetry i n i t s e l f Then I don't know what poetry i s l ) 1  Many readers have taken him at h i s word, and decided that he doesn't know what poetry i s .  Douglas Young, for instance:  A great deal of his stuff to me i s exciting enough to read in the way of polemical rhetoric, but i t ' s not poetry. I have the sensation of one climbing a slag-heap and just now and again picking up a semi-precious stone, semi-precious. That's what I feel about the later MacDiarmid. I'm devoted to MacDiarmid, but I don't think his later work w i l l l a s t at a l l ; i t ' s too formless, i t ' s too diluted. He's a jackdaw. He seems to think that scissors and paste of heterogeneous ideas largely culled from the Times L i t e r a r y Supplement somehow or other can be made into a poem. But i t i sn' t so.  - 112 MacDiarmid himself, i n the "Author's Note" to In Memoriam James Joyce, pages 16 to 17, indicates that he now  considers i t " f o l l y " to make any  d i s t i n c t i o n between poetry and prose, and c i t e s such examples as Plato and Marcus A u r e l i u s .  He quotes with approval Jacob Fichman's statement that  In the region of the pure s p i r i t everything i s resounding poetry - even the barest geometrical formulae.  I t appears to me that trying to decide whether or not In Memoriam James Joyce i s "Poetry" i s a f a i r l y f r u i t l e s s task, since i t too often attempts to use the word "poetry" i n an evaluative manner rather than a descriptive manner, and since i t too often proceeds from an undiscussed assumption of one p a r t i c u l a r d e f i n i t i o n of "poetry". In the f i r s t case, I do not think that the word should be used i n this evaluative way.  To say "In Memoriam James Joyce i s / i s not poetry"  i s not, c r i t i c a l l y , very h e l p f u l .  One may  attempt to describe the work's  form (and then, possibly, to relate this form to accepted genres and d e f i n i t i o n s ) , but the c r i t i c a l task i s not to question' the v a l i d i t y of the form i n the abstract, but to evaluate i t s v a l i d i t y i n the p a r t i c u l a r context of this one poem, i t s theme, and i t s treatment. As to what "poetry" i s , there are obviously some limited definitions which would exclude In Memoriam James Joyce.  These l i m i t a t i o n s have their  value, i n that they provide certainty amidst flux, giving both reader and c r i t i c f i x e d handrails to hold onto.  But they do exclude a great deal  of experimental writing, which could not be f i t t e d into a correspondingly limited d e f i n i t i o n of "prose", ranging from In Memoriam James Joyce at one  - 113 extreme to "concrete" poetry at the other.  I t seems to me that there  i s a wider sense of the word "poetry" that does include these categories, and which we must accept, unless some more precise word can be  found.  I t i s , after a l l , good MacDiarmid doctrine that the more complex must always oust the more simple:  As i n the clash between Red Indian and white man Sophistication wars with simplicity everywhere With only one possible conclusion. (IMJJ 143)  Thus I am quite w i l l i n g to describe In Memoriam James Joyce as "poetry", but I draw no evaluative conclusions from that description. In fact, i n certain notable ways, In Memoriam James Joyce d i f f e r s decisively from a prose exposition of the theme. simply, divided into l i n e s .  For one thing, i t i s ,  And, even i f the rhythm i s so loose as to  be almost non-existent, even i f the l i n e d i v i s i o n appears completely arbitrary, t h i s fact does a f f e c t the reader. rather than prose.  I t makes him expect poetry  I f he feels he's not getting i t , at the very least  i t challenges him to r e a l i s e what d e f i n i t i o n of poetry he i n fact holds, and forces him to compare t h i s with "the kind of poetry I want". Even i f he consciously rejects what he's reading as "poetry", I still  think the l i n e d i v i s i o n creates certain subconscious responses which  are too deeply ingrained to be e a s i l y or quickly dispensed with.  The  experience of reading prose i s fundamentally different from the experience of reading poetry.  This i s true even i f the words are i d e n t i c a l :  take  the long passage on Karl Kraus, which i s taken almost word for word from  - 114 a laad a r t i c l e i n the Times L i t e r a r y Supplement. May  1953.)  (IMJJ 44-51;  TLS 8th  I t i s not just that MacDiarmid has brought out certain rhythmi-  cal patterns latent i n the o r i g i n a l , and not just that he has interjected the superb analogy to medicine, but that the very fact of the l i n e a t i o n sets up a tone, both i n the poem and i n the reader's mind, a tone of "being a poem" which gives the reader an e n t i r e l y d i f f e r e n t set of expectations from the expectations aroused by prose, a tone without which the medicinal analogy i t s e l f would be impossible. David Daiches has said of MacDiarmid's later poems that they  represent an attempt to include i n each phrase of the utterance every relevant phase of human experience, an attempt to thrust multiple ideas at the reader more quickly and f o r c e f u l l y than can be done i n prose e x p o s i t i o n . ^  The key, I f e e l , i s i n the words "multiple ideas":  for the form of In  Memoriam James Joyce allows MacDiarmid to "thrust multiple ideas" i n multiple ways, using at one moment one type of verse and the next something quite d i f f e r e n t .  Within the same e l a s t i c form he can switch from  passages of prosaic exposition to b r i l l i a n t l y conceived "far-fetched" analogies from a l l the arts and sciences;  from passages of intense  l y r i c i s m (such as the section on the wild hawthorn) to impenetrable catalogues of authors and t r e a t i s e s .  What holds this a l l together, as  I believe i t i s held, however loosely, i s that overall tone, that assertion the l i n e a t i o n makes of simply "being a poem". Of the devices which MacDiarmid does use, the one which has attracted most unfavourable attention i s that of the catalogue, a long l i s t of  - 115 names, books, or miscellaneous facts, without comment, and often i n t r o duced by such unfortunate phrases as "We are of course also familiar with".  This aspect of In Memoriam James Joyce has been c r i t i c i s e d by 24  even such a sympathetic reviewer as Edwin Morgan. The main c r i t i c i s m i s that the poem simply states a name, without giving any information about i t .  When the reader encounters whole  pages of names, scarcely any of which are familiar to him, and i s given no comment on them, no guide to their significance or r e l a t i v e  importance,  he i s l i k e l y to retreat i n bafflement, or simply skip the catalogue and carry on with the rest of the poem.  I t i s the difference between the  fascinating exposition of Karl Kraus's theories and their application to Nazi Germany, and coming across the name "Karl Kraus", unglossed, i n a l i s t with a hundred others. I put this point to MacDiarmid when I interviewed him: Q. Another c r i t i c i s m of your longer poems i s that they tend sometimes to be catalogues, to l i s t the names without doing anything with them. What do you feel about this? A. Well, what I f e e l about this i s , that some of the greatest poetry i n the world has been catalogues i n that sense. I t seems to me that the c r i t i c i s m arises i n the minds of people who accept too e a s i l y the conventional idea of poetry, that applies to the bulk of English poetry. But i n C e l t i c poetry, and i n Indian poetry, and i f you go back to Homer, for example, with his Catalogue of Ships, and so on, you find the same device of cataloguing. And I think i t ' s an admirable way of bringing together a sense of the variety and the massiveness of Creation; and you don't need to say anything, you don't need to do anything with these items that you p i l e up i n that way. You simply leave i t to the imagination of your readers. And that seems to me a much more desirable thing than to spoonfeed them with things that are too e a s i l y assimilated.  I do not find this answer completely satisfactory.  The l i s t s and  - 116 -  catalogues  i n In Memoriam James Joyce certainly do convey a sense of the  massiveness, and perhaps the variety, of world language:  but the same  e f f e c t could be achieved by the index of a l i n g u i s t i c s textbook.  Whereas  we do not expect MacDiarmid to expand this index i n the manner of a textbook, we do I think have a reasonable the manner of a poem.  r i g h t to demand i t s expansion in  Edwin Morgan points out that i t i s a f a u l t , both  of the catalogues and of the work as a whole, that " i t s information i s 25 too i n c l u s i v e , too u n c r i t i c a l . " leads us into a new,  MacDiarmid behaves l i k e a guide  who  vast, and wonderful t e r r a i n , and then abandons us,  l o s t , i n the middle of i t . material i n a poetic way  Surely the task of the poet i s to order his  (that i s , i n a way which bears upon the themes  and organisation of his poem):  this may  not be the same kind of  organisation as a textbook would use, but i t i s organisation.  And i t  i s t h i s key task which the catalogues especially f a i l to perform. In conclusion, and i n fairness, i t should be pointed out that MacDiarmid i s not e n t i r e l y unaware of the oddity, or even the inherent humour, of the form he has chosen.  Too often i n t h i s poem the unsympa-  thetic reader can f i n d himself laughing at the poet;  but there i s at  least one passage where we are e n t i t l e d to laugh wi th him: Hence t h i s hapax legomenon of a poem, this exercise In schablone, bordatini, and prolonged scordatura, This divertissement philologique, This wort-spiel, this torch symphony, This ' l i b e r a l education , t h i s c o l l e c t i o n of fonds de t i r o i r , This - even more than Kierkegaard's 'Frygt og Baeven' - ' d i a l e c t i c a l l y r i c ' This rag-bag, this Loch Ness monster, this impact Cf the whole range of welt l i t e r a t u r on one man's brain, In short, this ' f r i a r ' s job', as they say i n Spain 1  - 117 -  Going back i n kind To the Eddie 'Converse of Thor and the All-Wise Dwarf' ( A l - v i s s Mai, 'Edda die lieden des Codex Regius', 120, 1 f) E x i s t i n g i n i t s present MS form Over five centuries before Shakespeare. You remember i t ? (IMJJ 35)  Thematically, In Memoriam James Joyce i s an extension of the themes and concerns of the poems of the 30s, and many of the ideas and attitudes w i l l be familiar to the reader.  There i s the same b i t t e r l y cynical  attack on many aspects of present day society ( i n the section "The Snares of Varuna", pages 103-5), balanced against the v i s i o n of evolution. (Also, MacDiarmid's  l i t e r a r y Anglophobia reaches new and b r i l l i a n t heights  in the section "England i s Our Enemy", pages 119-129.) The visionary sections of In Memoriam James Joyce are very intense, and amount at times almost to a "mystical" attitude.  The v i s i o n  towards which a l l evolution i s moving i s one of unity;  Making what a moving, t h r i l l i n g , mystical, t r o p i c a l , Maniacal, magical creation of a l l these oppositions * • •  Timeless, a symbol of the r e a l i t y That l i e s beyond and through the apparent • • •  I know that i n the f i n a l a r t i s t i c - The highest human - v i s i o n There i s neither good nor e v i l , Better nor worse, But only the harmony Of that which i s , The pure phenomenon Abiding i n the eternal radiance. (IMJJ G7,  98.)  This takes us back to the v i s i o n of the Great Wheel, or even to "A  - 118 -  Moment i n E t e r n i t y " , from Annals of the Five Senses. This v i s i o n of unity and harmony reaches i t s climax i n the f i n a l section of the poem, " P l a i t e d Like the Generations of Men",  which  u t i l i s e s again MacDiarmid's favorite i l l u s t r a t i o n from Gaelic poetry, Aodhagan 0'Rathaille's "Gile na G i l e " . The opening pages of this section contain some of MacDiarmid's best visionary writing.  There i s i n i t a kind of exaltation, which  communicates i t s e l f to the reader as a deeply emotional  experience.  MacDiarmid's poetry i s often cerebral, depending for i t s impact on the reader's response to i t s ideas, and the dynamic of their i n t e r r e l a t i o n s ; and this has often been held against  him.  I t i s , for instance, the centre of I a i n Crichton Smith's argument against MacDiarmid i n his pamphlet The Golden L y r i c .  Crichton Smith's  argument i s that, whereas an idea can be contradicted, a poem cannot be, or should not  be.  I f you take a poem l i k e In Memoriam James Joyce, a l l you have at the end of i t i s just an additional b i t of kno\\rledge, that i s to say, you've got an additional b i t of mental knowledge, which you could get from a philosopher, or from a h i s t o r i a n , but I don't think this i s what poetry should be doing. One should f e e l , when one has written a good poem, when one has read a good poem, one should be changed by i t . . 0  When the ideas i n the poem are detachable they can be contradicted and often are. MacDiarmid can be contradicted when one discusses his In Memoriam James J o y c e . ^  I think this i s grossly unfair to In Memoriam James Joyce, and to MacDiarmid's work as a whole, though there are i n d i v i d u a l poems, and b i t s  - 119 of poems, to which i t could be applied.  But what i t ignores i s that  In Memoriam James Joyce i s not simply giving us 'an additional b i t of :  knowledge ': 1  i t i s the statement of a v i s i o n which proceeds from that  knowledge. And the exaltation, the excitement of this v i s i o n , provide the emotional depth which i s too often missing i n MacDiarmid s poetry: 1  Now you understand how stars and hearts are one with another And how there can nowhere be an end, nowhere a hindrance; How the boundless dwells perfect and undivided i n the s p i r i t , How each part can be at once i n f i n i t e l y great and i n f i n i t e l y small, How the utmost extension i s but a point, and how Light, harmony, movement, power A l l i d e n t i c a l , a l l separate, and a l l united are l i f e . (IMJJ 133-4.)  This unity i s set i n the context of eternity.  The  thoroughly  m a t e r i a l i s t i c view of i n f i n i t y and immortality, which we saw i n "Island Funeral", i s now  supplemented by the further assertion:  In this r e a l i s t i c mood I recognise With a grim animal acceptance That i t i s indeed l i k e l y enough that the 'soul' Perishes everlastingly with the death of the body, But what this r e a l i s t i c mood, into which My mind f a l l s l i k e a plummet Through the neutral zone of i t s balanced doubt, Never for one single beat of time can shake or disturb Is my certain knowledge, Derived from the complex v i s i o n of everything i n me, That the whole astronomical universe, however i l l i m i t a b l e , Is only one part and parcel of the mystery of L i f e ; Of this I am as certain as I am certain that I am I. The astronomical universe i s not a l l there i s . (IMJJ 88)  MacDiarmid's doubts c e r t a i n l y remain, and late i n the poem he  - 120 -  can s t i l l turn back on himself and  say  Ah I no! no! Intolerable end To one who set out to be independent of f a i t h And of mystical perception. (IMJJ 139)  ('MacDiarmid always shies away from the word "mystical".) Here we come to the f i n a l union of opposites i n MacDiarmid's work: on the one hand, the m a t e r i a l i s t i c distrust of the "mysticism"  inherent  in his nature, the prosaic insistence on the minutiae of human achievement and knowledge;  and on the other, the vision of i n f i n i t e harmony.  The uniting of these opposites i s achieved, as i t i s throughout h i s work, i n his f a i t h i n evolution, which i s the basic theme of In Memoriam James Joyce. Edwin Morgan describes the "general meaning and argument" of the poem i n these words:  Evolution i s a fact, but man's evolution i s being held up because the great d i v e r s i t y of human cultures and languages haven't learned yet how to communicate with one another, how to pool a l l their resources, how to make a single worldwide advance. Things of value are i s o l a t e d and not known. I t i s the duty of the poet to help to bring cultures and languages together, and eventually to create a world language, just as the modern a r t i s t has drawn together so many styles and forms of a r t from distant periods and countries, because for the f i r s t time i n human history modern methods of reproduction have made i t possible for any one man to know a l l about a l l the arts of the world.  I think myself that the poem goes further than that.  I t i s not  - 121 -  merely that the d i v e r s i t y of language i s a hindrance to evolution.  This  i s the negative side of the coin, but the positive side seems to me more important. important  Such a world language, once achieved, w i l l be the most  single tool i n the process of evolution:  for MacDiarmid's passion for language as such. whole system.  and this i s the reason  I t i s the centre of h i s  The central statement of the poem i s that made on page  52, and repeated and expanded thus on page 65:  Concerned, I repeat, with the shrewd analysis of the  space-time network  As the d i s t i n c t i v e character of human consciousness And of language as the instrument For the progressive a r t i c u l a t i o n of the world In spatial and temporal terras. Not retaining The naive or 'copy' theory of language and creating An a r t i f i c i a l d i f f i c u l t y about space. As speech flows i n time, As i t i_s time, there i s no d i f f i c u l t y i n i t s expressing Temporal ordering, but how can the f u g i t i v e Express or translate the s t a t i c ordering of things i n space? The answer takes us beyond the theory that language Reduplicates or reconstructs a pre-existently given world And leads i n the direction of the theory outlined In Cassirer's masterly discussion of speech In h i s 'Philosophie der Symbolischen Formen' In which the temporal as well as the spatial functions Are exhibited as underived, or properly creative, functions Through which speech actually shapes and extends our experience; Not reproductions of the given But conditions of anything being given And of its.progressive elaboration, 'The supreme organ c f the mind's self-governing growth.'  I t should be noted that this passage reads exactly l i k e some of the theoretical j u s t i f i c a t i o n s of the bases of concrete poetry. we can f u l l y understand  While  that the kind of poetry MacDiarmid has produced  in his l a t e r years i s completely a n t i t h e t i c a l to that valued by Ian Hamilton  - 122 -  Finlay, i t i s also true that there are great s i m i l a r i t i e s i n their view of language as creating experience.  Edwin Morgan's interest i n both  concrete poetry and In Memoriam James Joyce i s i n fact a much more sensible attitude than Finlay's and MacDiarmid's r e j e c t i o n of each other. The key term i s obviously "progressive a r t i c u l a t i o n " , for evolution w i l l end when a l l p o s s i b i l i t i e s have been r e a l i s e d , when language has a r t i c u l a t e d the ultimate unity - and this i s the goal towards which a l l mankind i s moving.  So this i s what our l i v e s have been given to find, A language that can serve our purposes. (IMJJ 88)  This i s the connection to Joyce, who,  although (as Edwin Morgan  points out) he had l i t t l e or no interest in the kind of evolution MacDiarmid i s talking about, takes his place i n the poem as a mighty force i n the development of language i t s e l f , the tool of evolution. i t i s Joyce who  And  i s addressed in the magnificent passage at the climax of  the poem which describes b i o l o g i c a l evolution i n terras of l i n g u i s t i c evolution, and vice versa, so that the two become fused, both being metaphors for something far greater, as well as being essential parts of it.  Even as nerves before ever they function Grow where they w i l l be wanted,' levers l a i d down i n g r i s t l e Become bone when wanted for the heavier p u l l Of muscles which w i l l clothe them; lungs, s o l i d glands Yet arranged to hollow out at a few minutes' notice When the necessary a i r shall enter; limb-buds F u t i l e at their appearing, yet deliberately appearing  - 123 In order to become limbs i n readiness For an existence where they w i l l be all-important; A pseudo-aquatic parasite, voiceless as a f i s h , Yet containing within i t s e l f an instrument of voice Against the time when i t w i l l talk; Organs of skin, ear, eye, nose, tongue, Superfluous a l l of them i n the watery dark Where formed - yet each unhaltingly preparing To enter a d a y l i t , a i r y , o b j e c t - f u l l manifold world They w i l l be wanted to report on. Everywhere we f i n d Prospective knowledge of needs of l i f e Which are not yet but are foreknown. A l l i s provided. As A r i s t o t l e says, 'To know the end of a thing i s to know the why of i t . ' So with your work, vastly outrunning present needs With i t s immense complication, i t s erudition, (The i n t r i c a c y of the connections defies description. Before i t the mind halts, abased. In tenuis labor.) But providing for the developments to come . . . . (IMJJ  143)  And this takes us a l l the way back to the climax of A Drunk Man Looks at the T h i s t l e :  And organs may develop syne Responsive to the need divine 0' single-minded humankin . 1  The function, as i t seems to me, 0' Poetry i s to bring to be At lang, lang l a s t that unity. (147)  Only a very s u p e r f i c i a l view of MacDiarmid's poetry could see any decisive break or discontinuity i n i t .  I t i s a l l a unity, being i n  i t s e l f , with i t s immense variety yet continuity, a total prefiguration of that harmony which i s i t s ultimate v i s i o n .  - 124 - And a l l this here, everything I write, of course Is an extended metaphor for something I never mention. (IMJJ 27)  1:  }V  >v  <v  What then i s to be our f i n a l summation of Hugh MacDiarmid? things there can be no doubt. to  About some  C r i t i c s may disagree about whether or not  c a l l him a "great poet" (I myself have no doubt), but as a man of l e t t e r s  he has been, for half a century, an endlessly interesting writer and an immensely f e r t i l i s i n g influence. His various works, i n verse and prose, i n pamphlets and polemics, have presented a continual challenge to accepted ideas i n almost every area of Western l i t e r a r y culture.  I f he i s s t i l l too l i t t l e known,  this i s due p a r t l y to the e c c e n t r i c i t y of many of h i s views, but also to the p o l i t e indifference, or empty l i p service, which has so often j u s t i f i e d his own worst indictments of the English l i t e r a r y establishment.  His  reputation stands higher i n Budapest or Peking than i n London. His influence i n Scotland i s all-pervasive.  He can be held  d i r e c t l y responsible for the emergence of a whole group of poets, and for  the r e v i v a l of poetry i n the Scots language.  How long that r e v i v a l  can l a s t , i s something which s t i l l remains to be seen:  but that i t  should have happened at a l l i s s u f f i c i e n t l y remarkable, and something which could not have been l o g i c a l l y foreseen f i f t y years ago.  H i s poetic  influence has not been confined to poetry i n Scots, however, for he has also created, or re-created, i n Scotland a climate i n which any poetry of i n t e l l e c t u a l stature i s again possible.  I f a poet l i k e Sydney Goodsir  - 125 Smith owes much of h i s poetic existence to MacDiarmid, this i s no less true of Norman MacCaig. There now seems to be a r i s i n g i n Scotland a younger generation of poets who do not feel this debt to MacDiarmid, who are at best i n d i f f erent to h i s work, or even openly h o s t i l e .  While i t i s true that this  attitude i s p a r t l y the product of the f i e r c e l y partisan nature of much of MacDiarmid's own l i t e r a r y polemic, I feel i t i s to be greatly regretted. Any young poet who dismisses MacDiarmid's achievement i s depriving noone but himself. Direct imitation of MacDiarmid i s probably impossible, for h i s type of writing i s too highly individual to be copied, so direct signs of influence are few and far between.  Certainly, none of h i s poetic  followers have taken up h i s central theme of evolution;  and the attempts  of a young poet l i k e Alan Bold to extend MacDiarmid's poetic treatment of Communist p o l i t i c s and s c i e n t i f i c fact have been, so f a r , f a i r l y disastrous.  But we must remember that twenty years elapsed between  A Drunk Man Looks at the T h i s t l e and the so-called "second wind" of the Scottish Renaissance.  MacDiarmid's later poetry may yet bear f r u i t  in some new and unexpected way. But quite apart from h i s influence and his reputation, apart even from h i s p o l i t i c a l and polemical prose, we are l e f t with MacDiarmid's achievements as a poet.  I f I have concentrated on this aspect of h i s  work, i t i s because I believe i t to be the most valuable and l a s t i n g part of h i s achievement.  I t i s not s u f f i c i e n t to say that MacDiarmid i s  Scotland's f i n e s t poet since Burns, or that no English-born poet of this century comes close to him.  MacDiarmid i s a poet who has produced some  - 126 -  of the world's f i n e s t short l y r i c s , and a long l y r i c a l - d r a m a t i c - r e f l e c t i v e poem (A Drunk Man Looks at the T h i s t l e ) o f unequalled complexity and assurance;  who has introduced into poetry the most extreme of p o l i t i c a l  views and the most erudite of s c i e n t i f i c facts and yet related them to a t o t a l poetic v i s i o n of the world;  and whose poetry i s informed by a  f a i t h i n the p o t e n t i a l i t i e s of human evolution which i s t r u l y epic i n scale. By any standards, Hugh MacDiarmid i s a great poet.  - 127  -  PART TWO  SYDNEY GOODSIR SMITH ROBERT GARIOCH NORMAN MACCAIG IAIN CRICHTON SMITH  - 128 -  INTRODUCTION  The four poets discussed i n this section, Sydney Goodsir Smith, Robert Garioch, Norman MacCaig, and Iain Crichton Smith, seem to me to be the most important writers i n Scots and English to have come to the fore i n the period (roughly 1945 - 1960) of what E r i c Linklater c a l l e d the "second wind" of the Scottish Renaissance. (MacDiarmid i s , as i t were, the " f i r s t wind.") resemblances  As I have said, their  to MacDiarmid are more accidental than e s s e n t i a l , but  MacDiarmid waa responsible for the kind of atmosphere i n which they were working.  This atmosphere i s perhaps best r e f l e c t e d i n the industrious  e d i t o r i a l work of Maurice Lindsay, whose anthology of Modern Scottish Poetry for Faber i n 1946 provided a convenient summary of the achievements so f a r , and whose magazine Poetry Scotland, i n i t s four issues from 1943 to 1949, provided a platform for further achievements.  The  idea that poetry of l i t e r a r y worth and i n t e l l e c t u a l standing could be produced i n Scotland seemed more possible to young writers i n these years than i t had done to their predecessors a generation before, faced with what was to them the s t u l t i f y i n g influence of the " K a i l y a i r d " poets, or Scottish V i c t o r i a n s . But the actual achievements of this period are to be found i n the individual contributions of the poets themselves, rather than i n the programmes they drew up.  The most obvious i l l u s t r a t i o n of this i s the  vexed question of language. The Renaissance poets, i n the f i r s t flush of their enthusiasms,  -  128^  looked forward to a complete renewal of Scots, i n which i t would once again become a spoken tongue, used not only i n l i t e r a t u r e but also i n everyday commerce, i n newspapers, etc. failed.  Even the l i t e r a r y use i s less common now  years ago.  than i t was  twenty  Few of the young Scottish poets use Scots for anything  other than comic e f f e c t . 1920,  In this they have obviously  I t i s always possible, as i t was possible i n  that a great poet w r i t i n g i n Scots w i l l again appear:  but  MacDiarmid's example suggests that, even i f such an event were to occur, i t s e f f e c t s would be limited and temporary. I t i s worth looking at the l i n g u i s t i c practice of the four poets of this section i n this connection.  For two of them, the question of  writing i n Scots simply never arises:  indeed, for both MacCaig and  Crichton Smith, the more natural language to turn to would be Gaelic. Goodsir Smith learned Scots, as i f i t were a foreign language;  only  with Garioch i s i t f u l l y natural. One of MacDiarmid's central contentions was  that Scots was  as  capable as English was of being used i n serious i n t e l l e c t u a l poetry, a poetry of ideas:  but A Drunk Man Looks at the T h i s t l e stands as a sole,  i f magnificent, vindication of this statement. either Goodsir Smith or Garioch. emotional purposes; l o c a l humour.  I t i s not borne out by  Goodsir Smith uses Scots for primarily  Garioch uses i t naturally as a part of h i s intensely  iSIeither of them writej anything which could be called  "poetry of ideas."  MacCaig and Crichton Smith, on the other hand, do:  their poetry concerns ideas such as perception and duality. not to say that either of them are o r i g i n a l thinkers:  This i s  few poets are.  - 129 Their achievement, l i k e MacDiarmid's, i s to synthesize other people's ideas into a personal v i s i o n , and, again l i k e MacDiarmid, their best poetry i s that which proceeds from this v i s i o n rather than that which proceeds more d i r e c t l y from the ideas- themselves. I t i s interesting, surely, that these poets do bear out the very d i s t i n c t i o n which MacDiarmid quarrelled with, namely, that Scots i s a language of the emotions, and that when a Scot wants to think i n abstract ideas he has to resort to English. as Tom  Even a poet as stubbornly Scottish  Scott i s , i n e f f e c t , writing i n English i n passages such as the  following, from h i s most recent work, At the Shrine o the Unkent Sodger (Akros, 1968, page 16):  Therefore the s o l i d a r i t y we need In face o r e a l i t y ' s indifference t i l us, Is no an " i n t e r n a t i o n a l " non-entity, (Veiled imperialism), but a true Federal Union o Nations, free and equal, The least wi the greatest, as aa human sauls, The i d i o t and R u s s e l l , are equal afore God.  Scots i s a language which i s immensely r i c h and e f f e c t i v e for certain purposes;  and the success of Goodsir Smith and Garioch l i e s  largely i n the extent to which their own poetic purposes were exactly served by (or perhaps created by) the p o t e n t i a l i t i e s of the language. But equally, we have to acknowledge tha extent to which the poetry of Norman MacCaig, I a i n Crichton Smith, and other Scottish poets, depends upon the q u a l i t i e s of the English language.  - 130 -  SYDNEY GOODSIR. SMITH  - 131 -  Of a l l MacDiarmid's followers i n the use of Scots for poetry, none, except possibly Robert Garioch, has been more consistent or more successful than Sydney Goodsir Smith. ledges the debt.  Smith himself c e r t a i n l y  acknow-  He says that he started w r i t i n g i n Scots as a r e s u l t  of reading A Drunk Man Looks at the T h i s t l e , and he has always retained a great admiration for Hugh MacDiarmid, as well as a personal friendship with C.M. Grieve. They have many things i n common (not least their a f f e c t i o n for the pubs of Rose Street), but i n at least one aspect they are very different.  Whereas a concern for the personal, individual relationships  of men and women, for sex and/or love, i s seldom apparent i n MacDiarmid's work, i t stands at the centre of Goodsir Smith's. admittedly, a poet of the i n t e l l e c t ; the passions.  MacDiarmid i s ,  Sydney Goodsir Smith i s a poet of  This applies also to their p o l i t i c a l views.  MacDiarmid, the Scottish-Nationalist-Communist  For  l i n e of John Maclean''' i s  valued as a v i t a l constituent part of his s o c i a l v i s i o n ;  for Goodsir  Smith, i t i s the p r a c t i c a l embodiment of that love for l i b e r t y to which he gives a strongly emotional allegiance.  The centre of his poetry i s  the " h a i l l t r i n i t i e " (VPS 27) of Love, L i f e , and Liberty. The two poets do, however, share a certain duality of approach, that which MacDiarmid has described as the Caledonian Antisyzygy. 2 Goodsir Smith, i n his Short Introduction to Scottish Literature,  con-  c i s e l y defined this as: the combination at once of two or more seemingly irreconc i l a b l e q u a l i t i e s ; for instance .. the combination i n one  - 132 poem of seriousness or tenderness with buffoonery or mockery.  This quality, as we have already seen, i s r e f l e c t e d i n the Scots language i t s e l f : out h i s work.  and Goodsir Smith has used Scots consistently throughHe shares MacDiarmid's passion for language as such;  but his main delight i s in the pun. apotheosis of this delight.  Carotid Cornucopius represents the  The Scots he uses could be c a l l e d "synthetic";  when I asked him what kind of Scots i t was he replied:  "It's juist  Scots - vernacular and l i t t e r y mixed - l i k e ony ither damned lingo." (Letter to the author, 20th August 1967.)  The mixture of vernacular  and " l i t t e r y " i s i n fact Goodsir Smith's most c h a r a c t e r i s t i c feature, and from i t he draws many of his finest e f f e c t s . His poetry r e l i e s more on aural than on visual e f f e c t s . imagery i s not always v i v i d or o r i g i n a l , but his ear r a r e l y f a i l s He i s a master of tone: dichotomy functions.  His him.  and i t i s here that the vernacular/literary Goodsir Smith can reproduce with equal f a c i l i t y  either the d i g n i f i e d sonorities of Dunbar at his most r h e t o r i c a l , or the natural comic force of the common speech of the Edinburgh pubs. are the poles between which he operates.  These  He r a r e l y uses (as Burns was  wont to do) the contrast between "low" Scots and "high" Anglo-Scots; rather he finds both "high" and "low" styles within the Scots language itself. The t r i n i t y of Love, L i f e , and Liberty also implies" two more dichotomies within his work. politics:  F i r s t l y , there i s that between love and  an inward-turning concern with a p a r t i c u l a r relationship, and  - 133 -  an outward-turning  concern with the whole s o c i a l community.  This c o n f l i c t  appears several times i n his early poetry ( i n Under the Eildon Tree, i t i s debated i n Propertian terms), and i n the l a t e r poetry there i s a series of attempts  to reconcile i t .  Secondly, there i s the fundamental  dichotomy between L i f e and Death, and the theme of mortality, the necessary imperfection of human l i f e , underlies his attitudes to both love and politics. The Scots language does provide a context i n which Goodsir Smith can reconcile the opposites inherent i n his style; inherent i n h i s themes are harder to reconcile. work  but the opposites A great deal of his  consists of the search for a context i n which this r e c o n c i l i a t i o n  might become possible.  This search i s complicated by the fact that his  love poetry i s generally much more successful than his p o l i t i c a l poetry. These themes are apparent throughout Goodsir Smith's work, although there i s a central period (roughly, 1948  to 1958)  i n which the p o l i t i c a l  theme i s dormant. In the early books, however, especially The Wanderer and The Deevil's Waltz, the p o l i t i c a l concern i s to the fore, but i t does not exclude short love l y r i c s i n both books.  "The Wanderer" i t s e l f , or, to  give i t i t s f u l l t i t l e , "Peter Morrison or The Wanderer, a Poem i n 12 Cantos," i s a loosely connected series of poems on the theme of Scotland's freedom, presented as the musings of Peter Morrison, a wanderer and social outcast.  To him Goodsir Smith applies a l l his favourite words:  "gangrel", "skalrag", etc.  "outlan",  This figure of the disreputable drunken  outsider i s to become the central part of Goodsir Smith's imagery, ....  - 134 culminating i n "The Grace of God and the Meth Drinker" (FT 18);  but  i n "The Wanderer" he emerges more as an imitation Byronic hero, standing  Sterk upo y i r darklin crag Brou naked tae the t o u r b i l l o n . (WP  11)  The "outlan"'s p o s i t i o n i n society i s akin to the poet's, and the poet stands along with him, both i n his r e j e c t i o n of society, and i n his love of alcohol.  The climax of the poem comes i n Canto X:  and the Rebel Bards Rampage at Kenmore".  "Pushkin  Among the "rebel bards" are  Byron, Burns, Lermontov, Lorca, Rimbaud, V i l l o n , and Htilderlin, and to them Peter Morrison addresses this admonition:  Gangrels, makars, "subjugated lanns, My Scotland - aa y i r weirds are ane. (WP  20)  "The Wanderer" i s by no means one of Goodsir Smith's better poems. I t i s heavy-handed i n i t s e f f e c t s , and too often gives the impression of s t r i k i n g cliched Romantic poses of r e b e l l i o n .  This i s not to question  Goodsir Smith's s i n c e r i t y , but only to say that he had not yet s u f f i c i e n t control of the language to speak with his own voice.  We must remember  that Scots was not native to Goodsir Smith, who was born i n New i t i s a language he learned e n t i r e l y from the outside.  Zealand;  In this poem i t  seems rather too determined to be Scots, and the rhythms tend to get bogged down i n the long l i n e s .  As with most of Goodsir Smith's p o l i t i c a l  - 135 poetry, the ideas are unoriginal, and remain on the level of slogans when not animated by the language.  While the basic emotion - the  desire for freedom - comes across strongly, one misses the precision, and the i n t e l l e c t u a l concern for a l l aspects of a problem, which are present i n MacDiarmid s best p o l i t i c a l poetry. 1  "The Wanderer" does, however, give a f i r s t clear statement of Goodsir Smith's themes of the outcast, and the poet as rebel, which, together with the poet as lover, form the central figures of his poetic world. The Deevil's Waltz i s more systematically divided into three sections:  Venus, Prometheus, and Mars.  World War;  "Prometheus" with the Scottish situation.  are simple: war,  "Mars" deals with the Second The  the love of freedom, the bravery of those who  statements die i n the  the determination that their death should bring freedom not only to  Europe but to Scotland also. The most elaborate exposition of the theme comes i n "On the August, 1942"  Don,  (DW 47), which takes the form of an imaginary conversation  between a Russian soldier at Stalingrad and a Scots soldier who wishes to "Mak  Embro toun Sevastopol."  The Russian soldier r e p l i e s that  Ye'se get ye free, I ken, as we did, frae The Mongers.  The idea i s s t r i k i n g , but the poem as a whole suffers from a certain naivety of sentiment, which i s apparent i n most of the p o l i t i c a l poems in the book.  These are slogans, s t i r r i n g r a l l y i n g - c r i e s ,  competently  - 136 -  v e r s i f i e d propaganda, but they are not good poems.  They lack any  strong sense of individual experience forming i t s e l f under pressure into words and l i n e s . of  Perhaps the best way to explain the unsatisfactoriness  so much of the "Mars" and "Prometheus" sections i s to look at the one  r e a l l y successful poem i n them, for i t contains what i s lacking i n the others. This i s "Largo" (DW 33), s t i l l among Goodsir Smith's best poems, and one of his few successful p o l i t i c a l l y r i c s .  To start with, we are  confronted with a p a r t i c u l a r situation, the decline of the f i s h i n g port of  Largo, which can be expressed i n a v i v i d image of direct experience:  Ae boat anerlie nou Fishes frae this shore, Ae black d r i f t e r lane Riggs the crammasie daw, Aince was a f l e e t , and nou Ae boat alane gaes oot.  There are s t i l l romantic overtones i n the picture of the single black boat seen against the crimson of the dawn, but the single boat i s not simply a romantic image, i t i s also a hard economic fact. In  the second stanza, the single image i s concisely related to  the whole economic pattern of depopulation:  War i r Peace, the trawlers win An the youth turns awa Bricht wi baubles nou An t h i r l e d tae factory i r store; Their faithers fished their a i n , Unmaistered; - ane remains.  -  137  -  G o o d s i r S m i t h s mastery o f the language and verse 1  apparent:  i n the t h i r d  line,  forms i s now more  the long s t r e s s on the f i r s t  s y l l a b l e of  "baubles" i n e v i t a b l y produces a tone o f contempt i n the speaking and  i n the l a s t l i n e ,  the very  voice;  s t r o n g caesura i s e x a c t l y r i g h t f o r the  c o n t r a s t i m p l i e d between p a s t and p r e s e n t . The w i t h great  t h i r d stanza  completes the g e n e r a l i z a t i o n o f the image,  concision.  The poem's economy o f means i s among i t s c h i e f  v i r t u e s , and a l s o suggests the s t r e n g t h o f the emotion which inform  again  could  such understatement.  And never the c l o c k r i n s back, The f r e e days a r e owre; The w a r