I’ve never done anything but dream. This, and this alone, has been the meaning of my life. My only real concern has been my inner life. FERNANDO PESSOA

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Breathing In The Darkness

...how ordinary/extraordinary things are or/how extraordinary ordinary/things are, like the nature of the mind/and the process of observing... From An Ordinary Day by NORMAN MACCAIG.

Really you could consider most of MacCaig's poems 'praise' poems - in the tradition of Gaelic poetry and in the tradition of many great poets such as Rilke (see a post on Rilke here). Here are 2 more of MacCaig's animal poems, which celebrate the lives of a collie dog and a hare. They are sad poems, but life-enhancing poems too, celebrating as they do the energy and vitality of these animal lives...

Praise Of A Collie

She was a small dog, neat and fluid -
Even her conversation was tiny:
She greeted you with a bow, never bow-wow.

Her sons stood monumentally over her
But did what she told them. Each grew grizzled
Till it seemed he was his own mother's grandfather.

Once, gathering sheep on a showery day,
I remarked how dry she was. Pollochan said, 'Ah,
It would take a very accurate drop to hit Lassie.'

She sailed in the dinghy like a proper sea-dog.
Where's a burn? - she's first on the other side.
She flowed through fences like a piece of black wind.

But suddenly she was old and sick and crippled...
I grieved for Pollochan when he took her for a stroll
And put his gun to the back of her head.


I love the line She flowed through fences like a piece of black wind. The next poem is, I think, more profound, and plumbs some deeper places...

Interruption To A Journey

The hare we had run over
bounced about the road
on the springing curve
of its spine.

Cornfields breathed in the darkness.
We were going through the darkness and
the breathing cornfields from one
important place to another.

We broke the hare’s neck
and made that place, for a moment,
the most important place there was,
where a bowstring was cut
and a bow broken forever
that had shot itself through so many
darknesses and cornfields.

It was left in that landscape.
It left us in another.


This poem is as much about us as it is about the hare - our reaction to the mercy killing, our transportation from one emotional landscape to another in the face of death... I think it's a very fine poem. It's sad, and it's dark, and it's mysterious about the mysteries of life and death. But it's transformative too... I also like the fact that both these poems are written in a very moving way, but without any trace of sentimentality.

5 comments:

am said...

Thanks so much, solitary walker. These are just right today, along with the link to Rilke on praise.
As Leonard Cohen wrote and sang, "Hallelujah!"

Word verification: fatemil

Alan Sloman said...

a bow broken forever
that had shot itself through so many
darknesses and cornfields


a wonderful description of the hare's life

Thanks SW

TheChicGeek said...

Lovely. Thank you for sharing them with us. Your poet is really quite special. And Rilke...I love!

Have a Wonderful Day!

Loren said...

Love both of them. I looked at Amazon for works by McCaig but could only find works about him. The only book of poems was $150, so it must have been a rare edition.

Little more than I can afford, unfortunately. I'll keep my eyes open for a cheaper edition.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Beautiful - both of them - love all of his poetry Robert.