The Herald - - Obituaries - WITH LES­LEY DUN­CAN

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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