On the poetic front, I was down in Glasgow for Aye Write! Reading my poem Croftwork. It’s in my collection There Is No Night and James Naughtie had selected it. I was keeping company with Liz Lochhead, Jennifer Williams, Jim Carruth, Angus MacNicol and Tom Pow. Jim had chosen our poems and introduced us, along with Colin Waters from the Scottish Poetry Library. It was good to catch up with Jim. Years ago I interviewed him about his music teacher, Ronald Center, whose music we both admire.
Each poet got to choose another poem from any period of Scottish poetry. I was the only one to choose a poem not from the late 20th century. It’s a sonnet by William Drummond (1585-1649) of Hawthornden. Down the Esk gorge from Roslin Chapel you can see his house perched on the edge of the red sandstone cliff. The poem is brilliant, so here it is:
“Sound hoarse sad Lute, true Witnesse of my Woe,
And strive no more to ease selfe-chosen Paine
With Soule-enchanting Sounds, your Accents straine
Unto these Teares uncessantly which flow.
Shrill Treeble weepe, and you dull Basses show
Your Masters Sorrow in a deadly Vaine,
Let never joyfull Hand upon you goe,
Nor Consort keepe but when you doe complaine.
Flie Phoebus Rayes, nay, hate the irkesome Light,
Woods solitarie Shades for thee are best,
Or the blacke Horrours of the blackest Night,
When all the World (save Thou and I) doth rest:
Then sound sad Lute, and beare a mourning Part,
Thou Hell may’st moove, though not a Womans Heart.”
The sun is shining away but the air is cold and it is windy, so even though we are working hard at the peats, Arran-Island sweaters are the order of the day. We had great help from family with the first two long bogs, but the last bog had to be skinned, which we did with me marking out the turf with the chain saw and Ross using the ceapair lar to lift the sods and, with a twisting action, turn them into the ditch for Bar to set them out neatly. I get pleasure out of the combination of the chain saw in its growling modernity and the ceapair lar, which dates back in design to the Iron Age. I used to do both jobs but it’s tough work so these days Ross does the tough bit. Yea! Bless him!.
Now Bar and I are cutting the peats and doing away not too badly for septuagenarians.
John Purser is widely known as a composer, musicologist, poet, playwright, and broadcaster.