Scottish poets choose a line of poetry from a compatriot’s work
- Yasmin Sulaiman
- 2 November 2012
‘Granda, A miss yer voice,
A miss yer han’
from ‘First Gemme’ by Derek Ross
The poem recaptures a boy’s association with his grandfather who was taking him to his first football game. It is evocative of a special relationship and experience, the kind that never dies; the reader is immediately carried to their own version of such an event while experiencing the fondness and love embedded in the narrative. The summation of feeling in the last line would bring a tear to a glass eye.
‘We thought we walked by moonlit rills, or listened half the night to hear the spring wind whistling through the hills’
from ‘The Voyage’ by Edwin Muir
Mystical and magical dreamlike wanderings captured in a few words.
’soillse crwuinne an lasadh t’ aodainn’
(‘lighting of a universe in the kindling of your face’)
from ‘Dain to Eimhir XVII’ by Sorley MacLean
This beautiful line, intimate and all-encompassing, glows with sincerity and love and brings about a kind of mental refulgence. In my reading, Sorley recalls Dante’s dazzling phrase, ‘the love that moves the sun and the other stars’. It also reminds me of the Buddhist word ‘dharmadhatu’, the realm of phenomena, often imaged as an endless net of threads (the horizontal being space, the vertical time).
‘Time, teach us the art/
That breaks and heals the heart’
from ‘The Heart Could Never Speak’ by Edwin Muir
It’s impossible to explain the profundity of these lines, but if they don’t refer to poetry I don’t know what does.
‘Mars is braw in crammasy/
Venus in a green silk goun’
from ‘The Bonnie Broukit Bairn’ by Hugh MacDiarmid
I first read it in A Poet’s Quair, a Scottish school’s anthology, circa 1962, when I was 13. The language, chewy and alliterative when spoken, compellingly strange visually on the page, a mixture of popular Scots (‘braw’) and scholarly Scots (‘crammasy’: crimson), lines, I now know, in which Scottish left modernism met the kailyard, and won, hands down.