Wednesday, 11 November 2020

The Significance of Ideas

 Last night I had a flash back nightmare, it was bad enough to set my dog barking at 4 am and brought me awake with smells, sounds, tastes and on the sharp edge between cowardice and competence; along which folk stagger in combat situations. It is not the sort of nightmare you wake and can go straight back to sleep. It is the sort of nightmare that is far too real in your own experience to do that. It is the nightmare state where you almost strangle your wife because you can't see her as such. This sort of nightmare requires time to recover your senses, it needs a book.

Last night was not the time to delve further into the venal failings of the papacy nor was it fit to chew through an Iain M Banks Sci-Fi so I went to the shelf and selected an auld threadbare pal o mine; "Twelve Modern Scottish Poets". In itself it is a throw back as all the poets in it are noo deid and few fowk would consider poets writing between 1920 and 1960 as "modern", yet that is hoo this particular tumshie tummles.

So I sat and reread, for the umpteenth time, Hugh MacDairmid's "In sic transit Scotia" a poem where he rages against "shortbread, tartan and bagpipe" Scotch over the world. His particular ire is for those Scotch in select Burns Clubs who pontificate about Burns without any understanding of what he is actually saying:

"Mair nonsense has been uttered in his name, Than in ony barrin liberty an Christ"

 "Rabbie wads't thou wert here - the warld hath need, And Scotland mair sae, o the likes o thee,"

 MacDairmid is the man in the corner of the pub, pipe in his moo, sat in a fug o smoke an whiskey fumes, chuntering tae hisel aboot how Scots need tae ca lug tae whit he's speirin as aa body else is wrang. A werse curmudgeon wha's ae wies up fir a fecht.

 Take his view of England in "My quarrel with England":

"For I stand still for forces which, were subjugated to mak way, For England's poo'er, and tae enrich The kinds o' English and o Scots, the least congenial tae ma thochts"

There are many today in Scotland who have come to agree with McDairmid in this, a poem written just short of a hundred years ago.

Edwin Muir, a contemporary of MacDairmid, but from Orkney; is more open of the world around him and memories of plough horses:

"Their conquering hooves which trod the stubble down, Were ritual that turned the field to brown"

 There is not the anger or bitterness of Edinburgh's famous flytin man, even when Muir turns to the subject of Scotland he reflects the pass Scotland had become, more in sadness than anything else in "Scotland 1941":

"And spiritual defeat wrapped warm in riches, no pride but pride of self."

 From the Western Isles, Lewis in particular, came Ian Crichton Smith. A native gaelic speaker to whom Scottis was a second language and English a foreign one in "Culloden and after" he makes the point of the suppression of his native language and culture:

 "And how much later, bards from Tiree and Mull, would write of exile in the hard town, where mills belched English, anger of new school:"

 Again there is not the anger of MacDairmid, in fact there is a hint the Gaeltacht have given in and failed to protect their voice from the abuse offered it by the imperialism of English culture and language:

"The silly cows were heard mooing their sorrow and their Gaelic loss."

 The underlying drive in all the poems is one based on the belief that Scots do not have the courage to stand up for themselves against all the known abuses of the British State in its suppression and control of Scottish culture, the attempt to kill off its defined languages and its support of those Scots who "Up; and play the game". They each, in their own way, attack what we now call the "Scottish cringe", the concession of British Imperialism being superior to Scotland's native culture, abilities and place in the world.

Here we now sit in 2020, still facing the Scottish cringe in all its manifestations, opposed by a British Imperial State, still ever more oppressive, run out of control and yet, the sunny uplands of independence are ever nearer as there is less of the cringe about Scotland, more of the assertion that to be Scottish is a "guid thing" no matter from where you hail or your colour, religion, culture or creed. 

Maybe all we had to do was remember we are truly are, "Aa Jock Tamson's bairns" anent our family squabbles and stramashes.

On the matter of us being "Aa Jock Tamson's bairns" I will leave the last word to Edwin Morgan, from "King Billie":

"Deplore what is to be deplored, and then find out the rest."


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