The Herald



Norman Maccaig responds with typical imaginativ­e energy to two Highland settings. The poems, both written in February 1967, can be found in the great posthumous collection of his work edited by his son Ewen and published by Polygon.


A mountain is a sort of musical theme And counter theme displaced in air amongst

Their own variations.

Wagnerian Devil signed the Coigach score;

And God was Mozart when he wrote Cul Mor.

You climb a trio when you climb Cul Beag.

Stac Polly – there’s a rondo in seven sharps,

Neat as a trivet.

And Quinag, rallentand­o in the haze, Is one long tune extending phrase by phrase.

I listen with my eyes and see through that

Mellifluou­s din of shapes my masterpiec­e

Of masterpiec­es:

One sandstone chord that holds up time in space –

Sforzando Suilven reared on his ground bass.


Gannets fall like the heads of tridents, bombarding the green silk water of Rhu Mor. A salt seabeast of a timber pushes its long snout up on the sand, where a seal, struggling in the straitjack­et of its own skin, violently shuffles towards the frayed wave, the spinning sandgrains, the caves of green.

I sit in the dunes – the wind has moulded the sand in pastry frills and cornices: flights of grass are stuck in it – their smooth shafts shiver with trickling drops of light.

Space opens and from the heart of the matter sheds a descending grace that makes for s moment, that naked thing, Being, a thing to understand.

I look out from it at the grave and simple elements gathered round a barrage of gannets whose detonation­s explode the green into white.

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