A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Friday, 11 September 2009

Decorator And Disturber

I'll end my brief meditations on MacCaig with this - one of his less well known poems, and one I absolutely love.

Elemental you

As the rain makes
Blue gold-shines on the puddled mud at gates
And tinily trickles over small estates

And as the wind
Hullabaloos a tree against its will
To stop the nonsense of just standing still,

On any day
You, decorator and disturber, make
Me unexpected: my gray turns crimson lake,

My thoughts that are
Great liers on their backs get up and dance
And my face shines, though I lose countenance

Being forced to agree
Mud can be trampled bright and - look at me!
I can dance too, if only like a tree.

This is such a perfect poem, so up-beat, so simple - yet perhaps not quite as simple as it first appears. Who or what exactly is the 'elemental you'? The rain and the wind for sure - but it's also creative inspiration, isn't it? And something to do with the joy, and the transforming and transformative nature, of life and thought - a magic sourced in the natural, elemental world, and which comes to us unsolicited, like an act of grace (I'm reminded of D. H. Lawrence and his poem Song Of A Man Who Has Come Through with its line about 'the wind that blows through me'). But MacCaig puts all this across in the lightest, the wittiest and the most deftly underplayed of styles.

May all our muddy puddles be 'trampled bright', and may we all dance - in body and in thought - to our own tune. I certainly hope all my own days 'make me unexpected' - for therein lies the pulse and the thrill of life (or 'the throb and mewl of life' as The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe once wrote so memorably!)


Mister Roy said...

Just two words for now: thank you

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

I've been remiss in not commenting sooner on MacCaig's wonderful poems…though there have been extenuating circumstances.

Still, I've enjoyed each and every post and poem, and appreciate very much your thoughtful comments.

I don't quite know what to make of this particular poems—though it seems to be about both awareness and action, joy, astonishment (at least surprise) and the power of elemental nature to reach into us, mind and body, and fill us with energy, joy, purpose.

You know, we often say we walk and go upon our small adventures to find the unexpected...but I sometimes wonder if it isn't just as much to reassure ourselves that the unexpected is still out there, awaiting.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

I like this very much indeed.

As you say, not quite as simple as it first appears.

Rachel Fox said...

It is a marvellous piece. I particularly like 'to stop the nonsense of just standing still'.

I've not read it before and my first assumption was that the 'decorator and disturber' was something like his god (was he religious?). But I like the creative inspiration idea too.

And of course the dancing idea links to so many things...including a poem by Anna Dickie that I refer to in my current post! And a really good (but quite long clip) that I watched via another blog - see here.


Rachel Fox said...

And of course the god/creative inspiration ideas don't have to be separate...so I'm told.

The Solitary Walker said...

Yes, and in that video Elizabeth Gilbert also connects God, the divine spark, with the creative source, doesn't she, when talks about the Spanish 'Ole' deriving from the Moslem 'Allah'. (This reminded me of another Spanish word, the difficult-to-translate 'Duende', that powerful, soulful component of music and dance which seems to come from some divine or supernatural place.) BTW, I really liked Gilbert's clever, entertaining, wise and informative video - and urge everyone to see it.

Don't know much about MacCaig's own religious beliefs - he did once call himself a 'Zen Calvinist', but that was probably a little tongue-in-cheek. It's clear from his poems he's interested in the numinous, but doesn't broach it directly (as for instance someone like Kathleen Raine does in her very obviously mystical poems). I like much more this indirect, disguised, suggestive, lightly-worn approach to 'Big Ideas', to metaphysics, in poems.

Oran Mor said...

Thank you for introducing me to this wonderful poet. I lived several years in Scotland, off and on, and never ran across MacCaig. Nor had I ever heard of him in all my English literature classes.I am so glad to have found him.

The Solitary Walker said...

I'm glad my posts on MacCaig have led you to discover him, Oran Mor!