For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Beautiful In A New Way

Norman MacCaig had a friend in Inverkirkaig (where he spent his summers for many years) called Angus MacLeod. When his friend died, he wrote a moving sequence of poems in his memory - Poems For Angus.

A. K. MacLeod

I went to the landscape I love best
and the man who was its meaning and added to it
met me in Ullapool.

The beautiful landscape was under snow
and was beautiful in a new way.

Next morning the man who had greeted me
with the pleasure of pleasure
vomited blood
and died.

Crofters and fishermen and womenfolk, unable
to say any more, said,
'It's a grand day, it's a beautiful day.'

And I thought, 'Yes it is.'
And I thought of him lying there,
the dead centre of it all.


This affects me deeply. It's so bare and simple and understated. And what a truth MacCaig recognizes when he writes of the village people not knowing what to say - except to comment on the weather. I think we can all understand this. For words are inadequate in the face of death. Perhaps we can say more through some homely truism or short comment such as 'It's a grand day' - or through silence - than we ever could through some wordy lament or grandiloquent speech.

3 comments:

The Weaver of Grass said...

As long as we say something, Robert. When one is grieving then silence from one's friends and neighbours is too hard to bear.
My favourite McCaig poem is the one about him finding the skeleton of a deer and the skeleton of a boat and comparing them. Can't remember the name of the poem but it is wonderful.

Rachel Fox said...

It's very different to poems of his I've seen so far. It's very bare, yes, and the language couldn't be less poetic or flowery. It's very raw.
Can't say I like it particularly...but it's interesting.
x

The Solitary Walker said...

Yes, the language as as raw and bare as that Assynt landscape, Rachel.

Insufferable pain, grief, loss...are all incredibly difficult to 'poeticize'. But the starkness and understatedness here...work very well, I think.

(Gone are the days when we could write classical elegies, formal laments etc.)