Jenny’s Story: Alexander Gray’s ‘Scotland’ Monday, 25 January 2010Posted by edincityoflit in Stories.
Tags: Alexander Gray, Hugh MacDiarmid, Iain Crichton Smith, John Betjeman, Norman MacCaig, Robert Burns
How can I nominate just one favourite poem? It depends on my mood. Norman MacCaig, Robert Burns (especially Tam O’Shanter for a fine narrative poem), Iain Crichton Smith, John Betjeman, even a 4-liner I wrote for my children about warthogs, might all feature. And where do I keep them? Some in my head, some in my heart, some in my book shelves, some on my e-book reader.
If I can’t even have two, then I’ll discard Hugh MacDiarmid’s, “… little white rose of Scotland/That smells sharp and sweet – and breaks the heart.”. I’ll plump, not for the more commonly quoted fourth stanza, “This is my country,/The land that begat me. . .”, but for the evocative first verse of Alexander Gray’s ‘Scotland’, that always reminded me of home in the equally unforgiving parched landscape around me during my years in Africa:
Here in the Uplands
The soil is ungrateful;
The fields, red with sorrel,
Are stony and bare.
A few trees, wind-twisted –
Or are they but bushes? –
Stand stubbornly guarding
A home here and there.
Jenny Dawe is the Leader of the City of Edinburgh Council.