Showing posts with label poems. Show all posts
Showing posts with label poems. Show all posts

Monday, 31 May 2021

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (EBB)

 “After the first Anglo-Sikh war in India, one of these days our great Indian empire, will stand up on its own legs and make use of our own rope to scourge us. … what right has England to an Indian empire?

No more than the Duke of Sutherland to his broad estate, wait  a little, we shall see it all arranged, according to a better justice, on the small scale and the large”  


Her family made its money on the sugar planation of Jamaica


Elizabeth Barrett Browning     (1806 –  1861) 

was an English poet of the Victorian era popular in Britain and the United States during her lifetime. Born in Count Durham, the eldest of 11 children, Elizabeth Barrett wrote poetry from the age of eleven.  At 15 she became ill, suffering intense head and spinal pain for the rest of her life. 

In the 1840s Elizabeth was introduced to literary society through her cousin, John Kenyon. Her first adult collection of poems was published in 1838 and she wrote prolifically between 1841 and 1844, producing poetry, translation and prose. She campaigned for the abolition of slavery and her work helped influence reform in the child labour legislation. Her prolific output made her a rival to Tennyson as a candidate for poet laureate on the death of Wordsworth. 

She was married to Robert Browning. Elizabeth's work had a major influence on prominent writers of the day, including the American poets Edgar Allan Poe and Emily Dickinson. She is remembered for such poems as “How Do I Love Thee” (Sonnet 43, 1845) and "Aurora Leigh" (1858). 

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Scots Makar Jackie Kay


Excellent chat with Jackie Kay with Janice Forsyth about her 5 years as the Scots Makar on BBC Scotland’s afternoon show -


Poem for new babies - Lullaby welcome wee one

Poem for the Queensbury crossing - The long view

Poem for the Homeless, 

Scottish Parliament 2020 – Farewell for Hogmanay

plus the baton from poem to song.


Jackie chose singers – Celeste Lean on Me, Nina Simone, Peggy Seeger, 


BOOK - Elif Shakaf, How to Stay Sane in a world of Divisions 


“Its been a joyous , interesting ride to have been to every major city and to have been to so much of the highlands an disbands, rural part of Scotland. And incredible journey..


Nicola Sturgeon, “Jackie Kay made an enduring and positive impact –and has widened the  appeal of poetry.”


Thursday, 5 March 2020

The Highest Apple

The Highest Apple

An Abhal as Airde

"The best apple will be on the higher bough."

 An Anthology of Scottish Gaelic literature, 7th century  to present of 
 Saints, Scribes and Sea lords 600 - 1600

Professor Alan Raich of Glasgow University, highly recommends this book in the National newspaper. He writes this is the most important book of recent times. 

 “For the health of our nation and enrichment of all our people” 

The book explores connections to Ireland; Bards schools; the Ceilidh house; Narrative prose. 

And the adventures of warriors – such as Fionn mac Cumhaill, Alasdair mae Mhaighstir

And the Greatest Gaelic poems of the 1700s

Gaelic proverbs – “An end will l come to the world, but love and music will endure.”

Thig crioch air an t-saoghal, ach n airidh goal is ceol.”

Saturday, 23 November 2019

The Songs of Carolina Oliphant, Lady Nairne

*The Flower of Strathearn*

Carolina loved to sing and dance, and studied music from the great fiddler Niel Gow – she composed and improved on Scots folk ballads. She expressed the feelings of people of highlands about Charles Edward Stuart.

Carolina Oliphant’s BEST KNOWN SONGS -
Will ye no come back again
We a hundred pipers an ‘a, an ‘a, 
Charlie is my Darling
The hand O the Leal

Carolina Oliphant is second only to Robert Burns in importance in our Scots culture. Born in 1766, in an ancient Jacobite noble family. Their lands were confiscated after the 45, they stayed at the royal court france for 19 years and later returned to Cask house.

At 39 she married and moved to Edina, where she wrote 87 songs for the Scots Minstrel Collection by RA Smith – she signed herself BB. No one knew of her writing. She moved ot Kingston Ireland and then travelled with her son on the continent. She died in 1845 and after her sister published her songs – in the book Lay of Strathearn .
The White Rose of Cask: the Life and Songs of Carolina Oliphant by Freeland Barbour. Barbour is a key figure in Scots Trad music – musician, radio and record producer and composer.

Carolina wrote more on a romantic past –
Wheras Burns was more forward looking, with optimism for a better future. 

Our Bard Robert Burns. Did Burns die of exhaustion? (as Hamish Macpherson and others claim). 
Certainly reading his biography I wonder at his exertions – particularly with supporting his young family at Ellisland and Dumfries, by travelling long distance on horseback for the Excise work, the farm work, and his passion of collecting reworking and composing Scots song.

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Centenary Hamish Henderson at Edinburgh book festival 2019

Hamish Henderson
Like Burns before him, he looked to the traditions of the Gaelic and Scots ballads, and he gave expression to a nations heart. 

Spring quickens. 
In the Shee Water I'm fishing. 
High on Whaup's mountain time heaps stone on stone. 
The speech and silence of Christ's world is Gaelic, 
And youth on age, the tree climbs from the bone. 

A piper played in Henderson’s well kent and loved song Freedom Come All Ye,and we all sang along, The event was part of Edinburgh International book festival 2019,
Tonight was a tribute concert for Scotland’s great poet and song collector Hamish Henderson. 
On the centenary of his birth, poets have come together to celebrate his rebellious spirit and influence with a unique poem anthology. – THE DARG

Poet, translator, Highland folklorist, Henderson was part of the Scottish folk revival and a co-founder of the Edinburgh university’s Scottish studies. He was a campaigner for the Scottish parliament and guiding light behind the Edinburgh fringe festival.

I first saw photos of Hamish at the Old Fruitmarket venue Glasgow. I heard of his song, Freedom Come all Ye. That he had been a frequent visitor at Sandy Bells bar, Forrest road; a collector of Scots song and a co-founder of Scottish studies at Edinburgh university. I was also a frequent visitor at Sandy Bells back in the 80s, before I moved abroad.  

He became a folklorist and collector of Scots Bothy ballads and Gaelic song, to keep Scots voices alive. He spent years tracking down storytellers and folk singers with the American folklorist Alan Lomax. Together they recorded hours of traditional ballads, Gaelic work songs, children’s songs and contemporary folk songs from all over Scotland. His ambition was to record a people’s history before it has disappeared. To preserve the tales told around the campfires, tinker storytellers and songs of the singer Jeanie Robertson. .
Tribute concert for cemetery for Hamish Henderson

Our Oral Histories. Author, critic and broadcaster Stuart Cosgrove, (writing in the Sunday National 15.09.19 ) wondered, who will record the significant oral history of our vital Scots independence movement today?Who is there to collat our energetic indy movement – of all those who gave up so much of their time and energy to work tirelessly. All those how “gave up their jobs, rode Yes bikes, stuffed envelopes, designed flyers and pounded the streets.” 

He writes of the importance of such histories - “Oral histories require many volunteers, researchers and recorders willing to travel extensively… “Oral history is a collection of historical information using interviews with ordinary people who have unique perspectives on important events, first hand evidence of the past which captures people’s experiences and opinions often in ways that contrast with or contradict official history.”  It is “history from the bottom up, told by onlookers, joiners, unemployed – not through the eyes of the powerful. “

**Scotland present desire for our self-determination and independence has deep, creative and authentic roots because of visionaries such as Hamish Henderson. 

**Hamish Scott Henderson (1919 – 2002)grew up in a cottage in the Spittal of Glenshee. And like Burns his mother was s singer of Gaelic songs. He was also a soldier in the Second world war: He studied Modern Languages at Cambridge. In the years leading up to the war, as a visiting student in Germany, he ran messages for a Quaker organization aiding the Germans resistance and helping to rescue Jews. Later he moved to Edinburgh and frequented the folk bar Sandy bells.

**Biographer Timothy Neat  wrote in the Guardian March 2002, “Like Burns, Henderson was, first and last, a poet, and poetry was for them both language rising into song, responsible to moment, people, place and joy.” 
“The tryst of Hamish Henderson, who has died aged 82, was with Scotland. It was a meeting of high consequence - across the 20th century, in darkness and in sun, Scotland informed all that Henderson was as a man and a poet. “
“Not for Henderson Auden's conceit that poetry never made anything happen; he believed that "poetry becomes people" and changes nations, that poetry elevates and gives expression to the deepest and best being of mankind, that poetry is a measure that extends far beyond the written word, that poetry is pleasure and a call to arms.” Timothy Neat

As he states in his prologue to the Elegies: 
Let my words knit what now we lack 
The demon and the heritage 
And fancy strapped to logic's rock. 
A chastened wantonness, a bit 
That sets on song a discipline, 
A sensuous austerity. 

Freedom Come All Ye
Roch the wind in the clear day’s dawin
Blaws the cloods heelster-gowdie ow’r the bay,
But there’s mair nor a roch wind blawin
Through the great glen o’ the warld the day.
It’s a thocht that will gar oor rottans
– A’ they rogues that gang gallus, fresh and gay –
Tak the road, and seek ither loanins
For their ill ploys, tae sport and play
Nae mair will the bonnie callants
Mairch tae war when oor braggarts crousely craw,
Nor wee weans frae pit-heid and clachan
Mourn the ships sailin’ doon the Broomielaw.
Broken faimlies in lands we’ve herriet,
Will curse Scotland the Brave nae mair, nae mair;
Black and white, ane til ither mairriet,
Mak the vile barracks o’ their maisters bare.
So come all ye at hame wi’ Freedom,
Never heed whit the hoodies croak for doom.
In your hoose a’ the bairns o’ Adam
Can find breid, barley-bree and painted room.
When MacLean meets wi’s freens in Springburn
A’ the roses and geans will turn tae bloom,
And a black boy frae yont Nyanga
Dings the fell gallows o’ the burghers doon.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

*Poetry changes Lives - W B Yeats

POETRY – is the window to our souls, the hidden beauty, the longed for memory, the secret truths, the way nature sings…. Poetry is connected to music, rhythm images and changing seasons…

William B Yeats is widely considered to be one of the greatest poets of the 20th century. He belonged to the Protestant, Anglo-Irish minority that had controlled the economic, political, social, and cultural life of Ireland since at least the end of the 17th century. Most members of this minority considered themselves English people who happened to have been born in Ireland, but Yeats was staunch in affirming his Irish nationality.

Although he lived in London for 14 years of his childhood (and kept a permanent home there during the first half of his adult life), Yeats maintained his cultural roots, featuring Irish legends and heroes in many of his poems and plays.


The poet was staying in England at the time of the Rising, and learnt of developments in sketchy news reports, and in letters from his friends and family. Yeats and his family were horrified.
It was left to the poet to conjure up the phrases that summed up the events, and the mixed feelings felt by the public towards the rebels, who had seized the GPO. As he put it himself, all had "changed, changed utterly".  Revolutionaries, who were initially heaped with opprobrium by a significant section of the populace, were turned into heroes.
Yeats wrote his poem 'Easter 1916' in the months after the rebellion, but he waited for four years to publish it in the magazine The New Statesman. He predicted that the rebels would take their place in history:
I write it out in a verse -
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly: (YB Yeats)
*And I write of Robbie Burns
Who wrote of our being at one with nature, and of being created equal..
Then let us pray that come it may, 
(As come it will for a' that,) 
That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth, 
Shall bear the gree, an' a' that. 
For a' that, an' a' that,
It's comin yet for a' that 
That man to man, the world o'er, 
Shall brithers be for a' that.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Scottish Women Poets & Writers

 Over the centuries it is the women of Scotland who passed down the oral stories and folk ballads. Most histories were told in poem form.  There were Oral Folk Poets; Ballad singing and Song composition.  Here are a few Scottish Women Poets, we never hear of – strangely. I am certain there must be many more! 

When students study literature – it is the literature of men that is studied.  Many wonder – where are the women writers? 18th century Scottish culture was transitional and interactive with regard to both oral and written literature.

**Poet Jenny Little
Little was born in 1759, the same year as Burns. She was also a servant to Mrs Dunlop, Burn’s patron. She was the daughter of a farm worker and as a servant to a local clergyman, she had received a good education. She developed a love of reading and became a local poet.  She wrote in both Scots and English as Burns did too. She even wrote an ‘Epistle to Mr Burns.

Because of their class both Burns and Little struggled to be taken seriously. Burns was the ‘Heaven taught ploughman’ and Little was the ‘Scotch Milkmaid’ poet.  She came out with a Poetry Collection in 1792. She is studied in North American universities as significant in the study of 18th century studies, while she is mostly untaught in Scotland.  She wrote of gender, class and nation.

**Lady Anne Bernard
She was from a noble family of Fife Scotland, born 1750 and wrote the well known ballad ‘Auld Robin Gray’. She lived in Georgian society during the Scottish enlightenment. To reward the nobility of Edinburgh a grand new town was built.

The Scottish aristocracy sold out. Her family were the Lindsay’s of Balcarres and these families carried the Union flag around the globe and helped to shape Britain’s empire. Her father said, “You were born after the Union, Scotland is no more and never likely to revive.”
Was it so great though? Of her 8 brothers, 4 entered the army and 2 went to sea and one joined the East India co. Three died in different corners of the world and a fourth spent years in a Mysore dungeon. Eventually Bernard moved to London, married at 42 and went to live in the Cape of Good Hope.

**Willa Ewina Muir
Willa was a writer and poet, born 1890 – 1970. She and her husband Edwin Muir were part of the Montrose Scottish Renaissance between the great Wars. The Muirs were part of the “restless intellectual group of writers and thinkers” in 1920-30s active during the Renaissance of Montrose along with the poet Hugh MacDiarmid.

Born Wilhemina Anderson in Montrose of Shetlandic parents (unlike her husband Edwin who did not attend secondary or higher education) Willa earned a 1st class degree in Classics from University of St Andrews in 1910. She taught languages before marrying Edwin 1919. For 40 years the couple travelled and worked in Europe before their five years at Newbattle, and went from there to Edwin’s post as Norton Professor of Literature at Harvard University in the United States.

Much of her work explores feminism, gender & the position of women of 1920-30s and is said to contain “perceptive comments of the patriarchal world she existed in”. There has been a recent re-evaluation of her published and unpublished work, including Aileen Christianson’s 2007 Moving in Circles: Willa Muir’s Writings. 1996 Imagined Selves: Willa Muir and many translations with her husband and under the pseudonym ‘Agnes Neill Scott’

Her publications include: Women: An Inquiry, Imagined Corners, Mrs Ritchie, Mrs Grundy in Scotland, Living with Ballads, Belonging

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

BURNS Night 25th

Burns, Scotland’s national bard, was known as Robin. ‘Robin was a rovin boy, Rantin Rovin Robin..’
Each January the life, poems and songs of Robert Burns are celebrated across the world on Burns night 25th January to celebrate his birthday.  He is the only poet that has a day to celebrate his writings.    
 ‘Address to a Haggis’
`The Immortal Memory’
‘Toast to the Lassie’

Burns wrote some of the best loved songs and poems Ye Banks and Braes, Ae Fond Kiss, Red Red Rose, Auld Lang Syne, A Mans a Man, and more) and he was a leading Romantic Poet.
Oddly Burns was hardly mentioned in the Romantic Poets book I bought at the National Portrait galleries or on Wikipedia. He was not a Heaven Taught Ploughman poet and he was not simply the son of a poor tenant farmer – but – in fact he knew four languages - Scots, English, Latin and French and he was a great reader. His father was highly articulate and taught his sons and daughters a great deal. His mother and aunt taught them about local songs and stories. They also had a young teacher for several years who encouraged reading, writing, French, Latin.Mathematics, Geography and more. 

Burn’s father’s family had fallen on hard times in Aberdeenshire west of Stonehaven, after the Earl of Marischal lost his estates after the Jacobites 45. These were also difficult times for many in Scotland during the American revolutionary wars.

BURNS wrote some of the best loved poems and songs of our kinship with nature, love and on radical politics.

The nervous first entertainer follows immediately after the meal. Often it will be a singer or musician performing Burns songs such as:-
                        My Luve is Like a Red Red Rose;
                        Rantin', Rovin' Robin;
                        John Anderson, my jo; or
                        Ae Fond Kiss, and Then We Sever.
Alternatively it could be a moving recital of a Burns poem, with perennial preference for:-
                        Tam o' Shanter;
                        Holy Willie's Prayer;
                        To a Louse;
                        Address to the Unco Guid; or
                        For a' that and a' that.
                                    The immortal memory
The keynote speaker takes the stage to deliver a spell-binding oratoration on the life of Robert Burns: his literary genius, his politics, his highs and lows, his human frailty and - most importantly - his nationalism. The speech must bridge the dangerous chasm between serious intent and sparkling wit, painting a colourful picture of Scotland's beloved Bard.
The speaker concludes with a heart-felt toast: “To the Immortal Memory of Robert Burns!”

Monday, 5 January 2015

*Poet Robert Burns and The Romantics

He remains today, not only Scotland's, but one of the world's greatest poets. He notably wrote one of the greatest love poems and songs My Love is Like a Red Red Rose and also Green Grow the Rashes O.
One of the greatest parting songs, Ae Fond Kiss
He also wrote one of the greatest poems ever to friendship, Auld Lang Syne.

I recited and sang Burn's poems at primary school, I remember well, Up in the Mornings' No For Me and To A Mouse as well as Ca the Knowes. Recently the beautiful versions of Ae Fond Kiss by Scottish female singers Eddi Reader and Karen Matheson have brought Burns back into my life. As has the powerful version of Green Grow the Rashes O by Michael Marra. 

He wrote some of the greatest poems on nature such as To a Mouse, Westlin Winds, Mountain Daisy and more
He wrote political poetry, sometimes over looked and even ignored - on slavery Slaves Lament, on selling people down the river and on the rich being bribed in Parcel of Rogues to the Nation.

Few poets have managed to do this so clearly, beautifully or so movingly.  His words have musicality and fit perfectly to melodic tunes (not written by Burns) 

He also wrote one of the greatest poems on equality, A Mans a Man For All That -
that in  another place might have been made into a song
and caused a revolution.

The Romantic Poets and Their Circles
Oddly, I wonder is Burns taught in English schools while we learn Shakespeare here in Scotland. I am reading a book by professor Richard Holmes on 'The Romantic Poets and Their Circles' which includes Burns. Surprisingly Burns's important and world-renowned catalogue of work is squeezed into two simple pages.
Walter Scott is also squeezed in somewhere as another after thought.

Robert Southey is remembered for his Three Bears story, Wordsworth for his daffodils;  
Shelley, To a Lark; Keats, Ode to a Nightingale. I am not sure that many can recite or sing these poets words though.  
There are other errors too - Jerusalem, written by William Blake, is referred to as a substitute British national anthem! 

We understand Burns, he is everyman – he grew up with nothing yet he brought words of magic and spiritualism. I read of the romantic poets, of Shelley educated at Eton and many of them attended Cambridge University and I realise that many of them were men and women of privilege - Shelly in his yacht, Turner travelling Europe. Wheras Burns received a chequered and diverse education as the oldest son of a poor farmer. 

There are similarities between Scots, Irish, Welsh and `English but there are also profound differences.
I was surprised to learn during the referendum that Scotland is a third of Britain's land mass. I was saddened that the better Together campaigners knocked on old lady pensioners doors to scare them about loosing the pound and their pensions.  A fight based on fear and lies does not produce harmonious results.  

Robert Burns (1759-96) remains Scotland's greatest poet, songwriter and song-collector. Regarded by Keats and Wordsworth as a morning star of the Romantic Movement in verse, he was also admired by Beethoven and Haydn who set accompaniments for many of his songs. A farmer turned excise officer, he attracted censure for his outspoken advocacy of electoral and parliamentary reform, yet he died a serving soldier in a Volunteer Regiment during the wars with post-revolutionary France. The Burns Encyclopaedia was first published in 1959 by Maurice Lindsay and this is the fourth edition - the first since 1980. All aspects of the poet's biography and literary output are covered, as are his correspondents and contemporaries, many of the latter set against the backdrop of Enlightenment Edinburgh. The present edition has been thoroughly