Showing posts with label Hugh MacDiarmid. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hugh MacDiarmid. Show all posts

Saturday 31 August 2019

The Pen is Really Mightier than the Sword

ITom Paine’s pamphlets made the American Revolution. Without his words there would have been no victory – His ideas reflected Enlightenment ideals of transnational human rights.Common Sense was so influential that John Adams said: "Without the pen of the author of Common Sense, the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain". (Rights of Man 1791/ Common Sense 1776) 

WB Yeats – 
Yeats gave the Irish ‘who they were’ before the endless fighting. He elevated the old heroes and gave the political expression of the people.
Nations are not about lines. Every people need their myths. There is “no fine nation without literature and no fine literature without nationality.” 

Robert Burns
No one wrote poetry like Burns. After reading Tom Paine’s 'Rights of Man', he wrote the best loved poem that speaks of equality for all - "A  Mans A Man For A That." Burns was a radical who wrote about equal rights for all men regardless of rank.  He also wrote , the Liberty Tree, The Slaves Lament, Parcel of Rogues to the Nation. 

Poet Hugh MacDiarmid wanted to write of a Scottish voice – his best known poem is ‘The Drunk man talked to the Scottish Thistle.
George Buchannan, tutor to James VI, wrote thatall political power resides in the people, and it must reside in the people: and that it is lawful and necessary to resist kings (or queens, or we might say all rulers) if (or when) they become tyrants.

A short distance from my home there is a monument in the small town of KiIlearn to one of the most important writers on democracy, reformer George Buchanan. He was one of the most significant literary and political figures of the 16th century -  poet, playwright, historian, humanist scholar, and teacher to the great French essayist Michel de Montagne, Mary Queen of Scots and later to her son James VI of Scotland and I of England (United Kingdom.)Buchanan was a native Gaelic speaker from lower loch Lomond. He was deeply impressed that the Gael had held on to their language and culture for more than two thousand years. He was a Catholic, who was committed himself to the Reformation and he joined the Reformed Protestant church in 1560s and published several books.

Are we in danger of loosing cultural confidence. In todays world of turmoil we are  loosing sight of what really matters. We have false and shallow leaders who blow with whatever wind is blowing – they have no backbone, morals or compassion.

Pen Not Guns,  We need new stories. 

Sunday 27 November 2016

Scotlands Many Voices

Thinking this over – it seems England views Scotland as a north region, like Yorkshire say – rather than a separate country that has centuries old entirely separate history, many ancient traditions and old Celtic ballads and a distinct culture. Before James VI left to become King of England, Scotland had its line of Scottish Kings, from King David and later the Stuart kings. It's really a question of - does Scotland's separate identity matter for the success of the country and for the UK too?
Scotland is one of the oldest countries in Europe. Scotland is also a land of many huge contrasts from the great imposing drama of the highlands; the misty heathers and fast running streams; the green and cultivated lands of the north east; the quiet beauties of St Andrews and Fife and the coastal walks; and the charm of the borders.  

Alasdair Moffat and Alan Raich in their book, Arts of Resistance write of the destruction of Scottish culture. 
“The wholesale reduction of a culture to tartan tourist clichés. Ian Crichton Smith evoked images of the white streams screaming through the moonlight of the Cullen’s – a permanent scream of protest against all the trivialization of our history that has been foisted upon us.”  

Keeping Scots Alive!; culture, words, art and Music
In the 18th century after union of Parliament – many poets and others worked diligently to keep Scots and what the Scots believe in, alive...such as Allan Ramsay, Fergusson and Robert Burns.
They felt it was vitally important.
In the 17th century after Union of the Crowns, the Scottish royal court left Holyrood for London. This was good! It meant all the hangers on left too -  and meant the Thinkers and the Philosophers, were free to voice opinions! The Scottish Enlightenment led Europe. Many great Scottish thinkers left a huge mark on the world.

The poet Hugh MacDiarmid said in his Lost Interview, ""Lord [Harold] Acton, the historian, has said that no small nation in the history of the world has had a greater impact on mankind at large than the Scots have had. That influence flowed from the national character which is utterly different from the English. To analyze that national character is to discover the factors comprising our Scottish culture."

*Some Forgotten Scots Heroes – Thomas Muir, George Hamilton, James Clerk Maxwell, (Maxwell is the greatest physicist ever – and yet it was only in 2008 that a statue of him was unnveiled in Edinburgh. Odd really considering)

James Clerk Maxwell
*Scottish Artists – Arthur Melville, Rennie Mackintosh, Margaret MacDonald, Glasgow Boys, Henry Raeburn, 

*Great Scottish Poets – Allan Ramsay, Robert Fergusson, James MacPherson, Robert Burns, Hugh MacDiarmid,

*Scottish Writers – Walter Scott, Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, Iain Banks,
Alasdair Gray, Irvine Welsh, Janice Gallowy, Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Nan Sheperd, George MacDonald,

*Scottish Scientists  - James Watt, Alexander Graham Bell, James Chrichton, Alexander Fleming, John Napier, John Leslie, Joseph Black, James Hutton, John Leslie, James Clerk Maxwell.

(I'm ashamed and saddened that growing up in Edinburgh I learned practically nothing of Scottish history, culture and the arts. I used to walk down the Royal Mile and wonder about all the history here... I am now teaching myself.

‘To be truly internationalism, we must first be nationalists.’ Hugh MacDiarmid.
The sky in Scotland changes with often rapid speed – when the wind gets up one moment and is suddenly still and clear the next. Then a sharp wind catches us as the skies darken and heavy clouds roll over and there will be a sudden heavy shower as we hurry for cover and wait for the weather to shift and for some warm rays to descend and we are grateful.

The dark and light of our weather.


Monday 14 March 2016

Scottish Poets

The stories we tell and pass on through our songs and poets inform and illuminate who we are, how we wish others to see us and how we view our future and past. 

I studied higher 'English' at school and also at college in Edinburgh. I am sad that I never learnt of Burn's story or of other Scottish stories or poets. Has Scottish history, arts and music been suppressed the past decades? Of course it has! - and often deliberately.  Robert Crawford mentions how the establishment sought to 'tone down' Robert Burns.

In the 1930s there was a Scottish Enlightenment that happened in Montrose led by poet Hugh MacDiarmid. He is one of Scotland's leading contemporary poets and a founding member of Scotland's national party.
*Liz Lochhead, Scottish poet, playwright, translator and broadcaster. She has been the Scottish Makar  2011 - 2016, or National Poet of Scotland. She is a great character and I have met her and taken her photo at Edinburgh International book festival (EIBF).

* James MacPherson
I read of the Ossian poems and their effect on Robert Burns. When I went to research this blog I was astonished at his story! (more on another blog) The author of the epic poems of Ossian - supposedly about the Celtic hero Fingal (more later). At this time in the late 18th century there was a rebirth in romantic thinking which led to the Romantic movement and had a big impact on all the arts in Europe. Macpherson tapped into this revival and had huge international success. Today most accept that he used poetic licence to create his own Celtic hero. 
According to the clan Donald site Fingal of the Ossian poems was based on the Greatest Hero of the Celtic Race -  (Somerled) Somhairlidh mac Gillebride mhic Gilledomnan.  (and not an ancient Irish hero as some made out at all).  Did Macpherson equate the Scottish hero to Irish legend, in order to have his works published at all? At this time, after the Jacobite 45 wars, Highland culture was being severely repressed (the punishment was Transportation) Poetic license in other words - and one of the beauties of poetry - that we can express ideas, concepts and beliefs we cannot so clearly in prose.   The Scottish Highlands suddenly became a place of great beauty and romance - rather than one of wild warriors and hardships.

*Robert Burns.  Then there is of course our very famous national bard , the incomparable Robert Burns, who is revered and admired the world over. Especially in Russia, where they value the great emotional sweep that Burns expresses in his poetry.  In the footnotes to his first Book of Poems Mostly in the Scots Dialect 1786, Burns mentionedcxccc Ossian and how he too wanted to be a national bard. After this other countries, such as England, also wanted to have a national poet.

Robert Burns, Robert Fergusson, Edwin Morgan, Walter Scott, James MacPherson,
Hamish Henderson, Frances Wright, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, Liz Lochhead, Hugh MacDiarmid, Jackie Kay, Norman MacCaig, Sorley MacLean .... and more. 

Scottish Writers Museum?
We lack a serious and expansive writers museum in Edinburgh on the scale of Dublin's which is housed in a impressive Georgian mansion -  most of our great writers are not represented properly. It is a massive disgrace. I believe there is talk of housing a new decent sized Scottish Writers Museum perhaps near the Scottish National Library in George IV bridge?   The present one is in Lady Stairs Close up a winding narrow staircase has poor access. And only houses three Scottish writers - Burns, Scott and Stevenson.   
I heard an Irish lady remark at Celtic - when I mentioned the Scottish Writers museum and the wonderful Irish writers museum she remarked that Scotland had few great writers!  
 Much of Scottish culture has been lost and forgotten - so that the teachers are no longer able to pass on . Unless we stand on the shoulders of greatness we are as nothing. 

The Scottish Visionaries.  One of the highly interesting aspects of the SNP and Scottish nationalism is that it is primarily inclusive and outward looking.  Is this because it was started by visionary poets - Robert Burns,  Hugh MacDiarmid and others?

What is civic nationalism?
It is not about any national superiority or about being narrow and inward looking - as compared to other right wing nationalist parties. Rather it is about our past stories. 

Friday 6 November 2015

Montrose Enlightenment

Trip to Montrose and Stonehaven - 'I'll hae nae halfway-hoose, but aya be whaur/ Extremes meet.'

I visited Melrose museum which has some Celtic and Pictish relics – and the lady gave me a pamphlet on Montrose’s most famous son – the poet Hugh MacDiarmid - she said he had began a Scottish Enlightenment, a new Scottish Renaissance
He is one of Scotland’s leading contemporary poets and a founding member of Scotland’s national party. MacDiarmid grew up over a library. There were other writers in Montrose then such as the poet Edwin Morgan and Montrose became an artists colony and a  magnet for other artists, poets and writers. 

Christopher Grieve, the young reporter who arrived in Montrose in 1920, wanted to start a modern revolution in Scottish literature. 
Dunnottar castle
I also visited Stonehaven and took the walk along to the historic Dunnottar castle which sits on a rocky outcrop in the sea. The weather was beautiful blue skies. The castle was remote and practically impossible to penetrate and Cromwell, William Wallace and others stayed here. The castle was used to films such as Hamlet.
Stonehaven is a small picturesque fishing town. Here I visited a Celtic music shop where I bought a book on Burn’s songs. The harbour has several top rated hotels and restaurants. 

Also - Melrose’s golf course is one of the oldest and there its one of the best beaches in Scotland.  And The Cheviot and the Stag and the Black, Black Oil is being performed by the Dundee Rep.

Hugh MacDiarmid
His fascination with language inspired experimentation with Scots and Hugh MacDiarmid was born. Hugh MacDiarmid is remembered for his fiery and contradictory personality - his modernists and nationalist views and his long poems. He was the father of the Scottish Renaissance.

In the 1920s an important cultural Renaissance happened in Melrose. An Authentic cultural Scottish identity - creatively distinct.  MacDiarmid wished to create a Scottish cultural renaissance with a distinct Scottish art and cultural identity.
One that looked to the new rather than to the past traditions and to place Scottish culture in an international perspective.  Later during the 1930s the Scottish Renaissance was centred in St Andrews. The Scottish independence movement rejected the fascist nationalist movements in Europe. 

What began in Montrose in the 1920s Inspired a confidence for artists and writers to be Scots – a confidence which has helped to give Scotland a unique voice in the world. Our Scottish Renaissance.
Christopher Murray Grieve (1892 – 1978), known by his pen name Hugh MacDiarmid, was a Scottish poet, journalist, essayist and political figure. He is best known for his works written in 'synthetic Scots', a literary version of the Scots language hat MacDiarmid himself developed. 
After the war he continued to work as a journalist, living in Montrose where he became editor and reporter of the Montrose Review as well as a Justice of the Peace and a member of the county council. In 1923 his first book, Annals of the Five Senses,followed by 'Sangschaw' in 1925 and 'Penny Wheep' and his most famous poem 'A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle' in 1926.