MacLean first became aware of his work probably through his friends J. B. Caird and George E.
Davie, who introduced him to MacDiarmid’s poem, ‘A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle’. J. B. Caird recollected that the three of them spent an evening either in Sorley MacLean’s digs or in George Davie’s reading and discussing the poem. It was George Davie who then introduced Sorley MacLean to Hugh MacDiarmid in Rutherford’s Bar in Drummond Street, a former haunt of Robert Louis Stevenson, in May 1934 when MacLean was completing his studies at Moray House. Their meeting established a friendship that continued until MacDiarmid’s death in 1978. By the time they first met, MacDiarmid had already developed an interest in Gaelic poetry and, in particular, in the poetry of the 18th-century Jacobite poet, Alexander MacDonald (Alasdair MacMhaighstir Alasdair). In a letter written from Raasay on 27 July 1934, held in Edinburgh University Library, Sorley MacLean writes to Hugh MacDiarmid to tell him that he has finished translating Duncan Ban MacIntyre’s ‘Ben Dorain’ and Alasdair MacMhaighstir Alasdair’s ‘Moladh Moraig’, and that he is now engaged on translating Alasdair MacMhaighstir Alasdair’s ‘Birlinn’
Old Town Bookshop 8 Victoria Street, Edinburgh, Midlothian EH1 2HG
Sorley MacLean’s view on the influence of Hugh MacDiarmid is complex. In a letter to Douglas Young in 1941, he stated: ‘I immediately recognised the lyrics of Sangschaw and Penny Wheep as supreme. … There is nothing on earth like the greatest of these lyrics’. He referred to MacDiarmid’s early lyrics as having a ‘tremendous influence on me’, but at the same time he wrote, ‘I wouldn’t say that these lyrics of Hugh MacDiarmid influenced my own poetry much though they had a kind of catalystic influence …’ Elsewhere, he wrote, ‘I was committed to Gaelic poetry before I had read a single poem by MacDiarmid’. The two men remained close friends although geography made it less easy for them to meet frequently after Sorley MacLean moved to Plockton. MacDiarmid contributed a note to the sleeve of the first published recording of Sorley MacLean reading his own work, Barran agus Ashbuain, in 1973, and MacLean visited the older poet at his home at Brownsbank, near Biggar, in February 1977. By this time, MacDiarmid was in failing health, and at his death on 9 September 1978, Sorley MacLean wrote a moving obituary, ‘Lament for the Makar’, in The Times Educational Supplement on 15 September 1978
ROBERT GARIOCH (1909-1981)
B. respected and appreciated one another. Robert Garioch Sutherland. returning to Edinburgh upon retirement in 1964. on his return to Edinburgh in 1937 to take up a teaching post at Boroughmuir High School. Seventeen Poems for Sixpence. During the Second World War. and of how his friend George Davie had spoken of ‘a young Edinburgh teacher called Sutherland. who. a second issue. Robin Fulton in 1983. describes how he met Robert Garioch in the Freeman office at the top of India Buildings in the West Bow in Edinburgh. Caird. 17 Poems for 6d. was educated at the Royal High School. he wrote that he saw MacDiarmid as ‘a woolly lamb. Caird has commented that Sorley MacLean’s relationship with Garioch was not as close as his intellectual friendship with Hugh MacDiarmid. with the imprint date 1940. Robert Garioch served in the army. Garioch was inclined to view both poets as politically naïve.
. J. who wrote under the name Robert Garioch. with corrections. intelligent all right.Sorley MacLean first made the acquaintance of Robert Garioch. At one level. who was making effective poetic use of the language of the Edinburgh streets’. This was Robert Garioch’s first publication from his press. B. but so soft emotionally that they give up thinking when their feelings take over …’ As a poet. Edinburgh. and Sam Maclean also. and was imprisoned in Italy and Germany between 1942 and 1945. later. in turn. Robert Garioch had his own hand press and from it there appeared a slim pamphlet by Sorley MacLean and Robert Garioch. when he was an undergraduate in the University of Edinburgh. ed. Robin Fulton. the poet. Collected Poems. he renewed his friendship with Garioch. but that they liked. He spent his career teaching for a while in Edinburgh but mostly in the south in London and Kent. was published a few weeks later. ed. Robert Garioch had a special affinity with the 18th-century Edinburgh poet. which restores entirely Garioch’s own ordering of his poems. and the University of Edinburgh. another friend
of Sorley MacLean’s. and in a letter to Sidney Tremayne on 15 August 1977. invited him along to the weekly gatherings of poets that took place in the Abbotsford Bar in Rose Street. His single prose work was Two Men and a Blanket (1975): and his Collected Poems (1977) was followed by The Complete Poetical Works. and in 2004 by Robert Garioch.
J. Then. Robert Fergusson.
This period is written about in Goodsir Smith’s Under the Eildon Tree (1948). and his mother was Scottish. and he comments on how Goodsir Smith’s unconventional ways and witty conversation intrigued Sorley MacLean. and he also published Carotid Cornucopius about life in Edinburgh in 1947. J. During this time Sorley MacLean entered actively into the literary life of Edinburgh. he was full of amusing stories about his fellow poet. The young Goodsir Smith was educated at Malvern College and started on the medical course at the University of Edinburgh. Goodsir Smith’s first book was Skail Wind (1941). who held the Chair of Forensic Medicine in the University of Edinburgh. They became firm friends. Sydney Goodsir Smith’s father was a New Zealander. Renee.
DOUGLAS YOUNG (1913-1973)
. Sorley MacLean married in 1946. and after his marriage he and his wife. both families sharing a house in Craigmillar Park for about eighteen months.
His distaste for practical anatomy.SYDNEY GOODSIR SMITH (1915-1975)
Sorley MacLean was introduced to Sydney Goodsir Smith. the poet. and he saw a lot of Sidney Goodsir Smith. and to move to Oxford to study at Oriel College before returning to Edinburgh. however. before the MacLeans then moved to Atholl Place. by Robert Garioch in 1939. as one of the coterie of poets who frequented the Abbotsford Bar in Rose Street in Edinburgh. Caird recollects how whenever he saw Sorley MacLean during this period. as he was known. became close friends with Sydney Goodsir Smith and his wife. ‘The Auk’. B. eventually led him to abandon the medical course at Edinburgh.
too. Joy Hendry has commented that Sorley MacLean did not feel the same sense of political kinship or intimate feeling of closeness politically with Douglas Young as he did with Hugh MacDiarmid. There was an Irishwoman. Culturally he makes references to Celtic mythology with Dierdre and Diarmad but also European mythology e. where his father was involved in the jute industry.
By 1940. on 5 June 1913. where he lectured in Greek. After the war. Fife. the task of overseeing the publication fell to the Rev. then lecturer in the Department of Celtic in the University of Aberdeen. He seems to have been very interested in William Butler Yeats and his infatuation with the Irish Republican heroine Maud Gonne who never returned his love. He followed a distinguished career as a scholar. Sorley MacLean commented in a letter to Hugh MacDiarmid that he had left his poems with Douglas Young in Aberdeen and John Macdonald. he was in correspondence with Sorley MacLean. He was educated at Merchiston Castle School. Cuchulainn's wife. Critical Essays). Yeats' "Politics" has echoes of Gaoir na h-Eorpa (The cry of Europe):
. He was active in Nationalist politics both before and after the War. and some months before going abroad on war service in 1941. in a letter written to Sorley MacLean on 21 April 1943. Eimhir was Setanta. Douglas Young was. John MacKechnie. until his death at an early age on 23 October 1973
Dain do Eimhir is a series mostly of love poems. and afterwards studied classics at the University of St Andrews and New College Oxford. Sorley MacLean. Douglas Young was imprisoned in 1942 because of his repeated public objection to the British Government’s authority to conscript in Scotland.Douglas Young was born in Tayport. leading the Scottish National Party for some years. and was known as a poet and writer. admired Douglas Young whom he described as ‘of an aristocratic mind and temperament’. and while he was imprisoned. able to continue his work of translating Sorley MacLean’s poems into Scots while he was in prison. however. and spent his early years in India. In 1938 he was appointed to lecturer in Greek in the University of Aberdeen. refers to him as a consummate Gaelic poet. In her essay on ‘Sorley MacLean: the Man and his Work’ (Sorley MacLean. and represented to Sorley more than one woman who passed though his life at that time. and these were published in Auntran Blads in 1943. Douglas Young went from Aberdeen to Dundee and thence to the University of St Andrews.g Diana the Greek goddess. Nessie O'Shea and two Scotswomen. Christopher Whyte’s introduction to his edition of Dàin do Eimhir (2002) offers the most detailed account of the correspondence surrounding Young’s preparation of the poems for publication. Douglas Young.
And there's a politician
That has read and thought.
My attention fix
On Roman or on Russian
Or on Spanish politics?
Yet here's a traveled man that knows
What he talks about.
And maybe what they say is true
Of war and war's alarms.How can I. that girl standing there.
But O that I were young again
And held her in my arms
there nevertheless has to be some kind of tightrope on to -which the poet goes. differences in line length and stress. Blake and Baudelaire as his favourites though he rated Hugh MacDiarmid just as highly though he never influenced the way Sorley wrote. Metre does not make poetry.(DDE ltd.
Mura b 'e thusa bhiodh na cuantan
'nan luasgan is 'nan tamh
A' togail cair mo bhuadhan.
"however slack the rope of auditory shape may be. Sorley felt traditional Gaelic poetry had become staid. " (DDE ttd. 150) Am Mur Gorm (The Blue Rampart) (XLIII):
End-rhyme in even lines and aicill. In terms of metres and rhythm he stuck reasonably close to traditional metres with heavy use of end-rhyme and aicill (rhyming between an end-word on one line and a word in the middle of the following line). cliched and parochial. Europe and America.
. However he did keep close to traditional metres but they were not overly complicated. but I am not satisfied that poetry can exist without it. Sorley broke the mould by taking in a much wider subject matter and expressing his poetry through his native Gaelic. but the subject matter and symbolism was new. I am not prepared to allow to the word 'rhythm' the vagueness sanctioned by much contemporary theory in Britain. as perhaps this would have led to a fettering and narrowing of his thoughts. 27)
University gave him further influences and he mentions Shakespeare.
Sorley's pain resulting in great poetry
Agus air creachainn chein fhasmhoir
Chinn blathmhor Craobh nan Teud.Ga cur air suaimhneas ard
(But for you the oceans in their unrest and in their repose
would raise the wave crest of my mind
and settle it on a high serenity)
MacLean here uses the landscape of Skye to represent desirable states all transcended by Eimhir's edict.
'na meangach duillich t' aodann.
mo chiall is aogas reil.
(And on a distant luxurious summit t
here blossomed the Tree of Strings
among its leafy branches your face
my reason and the likeness of a star)
An uair a labhras mi mu aodann (When I spoke about a face) (XXXIV):
End-rhyme in couplets. Interesting to note that in the Dain do Eimhir version there is a line. More use of the landscape of Skye to express the hardships he knows the Spanish people are suffering and his painful decision on whether to go and fight.
"sa bheil a' bhuirdeasachd a' bathadh ". (in which the bourgeoisie are drowning)
sniomhanach. Does this reflect the defeat of the Spanish Republic. In this poem the Irishwoman is addressed directly. The heavy use of adjectives could be a pointer to MacLean's respect for William Ross as there are similarities with his poem "Oran air gaol na h-oighe do Chailein " e. boidheach. which at the time the poem was written was still undefeated by the forces of reaction? (DDE ttd 241)
Gaoir na h-Eorpa (The Cry of Europe) (IV):
End-rhyme in six quatrains. or-bhuidhe.g
Bha fait cama-lubach. 'na dhuail.
Bachlach.In Nua-bhardachd Ghaidhlig "a' bhuirdeasachd (the bourgeoisie) " is changed to "dochas (hope) ". fainneach
golden.(Her hair cross-looped. pretty
Crook-like. twisted ringlets)
compared with MacLean's:
A nighean a'chuil bhuidhe. heavy-yellow. throm-bhuidh. (DDE ltd 163)
An Roghainn (The Choice) (XXII):
fonn do bheoil-sa 's gaoir na h-Eorpa
(Girl of the yellow. in curl
Crisp-yellow. gold-yellow hair the song of your mouth and Europe s shivering cry)
The mention of the Asturian Miners Revolt of 1934 and also the slaves sold from Skye to the American colonies reveal Sorley's wide political knowledge combined with his own native Highland background and his superb ability to link these events distant in time and location.
(DDE ltd 220)
(I walked with my reason
out beside the sea
we were together but it was
keeping a little distance from me)
. A song and a conversation between himself and his understanding. If he goes to Spain he may well die and never have the love of the woman he desires. A nowin situation. The dilemma is finally addressed in this poem. If he doesn't go then he may not be worthy of her love anyway.
bha sinn comhla ach bha ise
a'fuireach tiotan bhuam.Mostly aicill rhyming again.
Choisich mi cuide ri mo thuigse
a-muigh ri taobh a' chuain.
the connection between the underworld (Tir nan Og).. especially of 'my highfalutins of love'but they are probably fairly harmless. the earth and all living things coming from it e.The next set of poems are not from the Dain do Eimhir sequence and show much more use of nature as a symbol and are less self-conscious in the subject matter. Here Sorley uses a pre-Christian Celtic. We see below a comparison between the generations of the Clearances and how Sorley sees them in the landscape of the trees.
Nafir 'nan laighe air an lianaig
Aig ceann gach taighe a bh ' ann. I am very much ashamed of my preoccupation with my own private troubles and think of many of the other enthusiasms of my poetry as silly idolatries.g the trees. A change in Sorley's attitude to his own poetry can be detected in his letter to Douglas Young from North Africa dated March 15th 1942. "
This poem speaks about the cleared village of Hallaig on the eastern side of Raasay on a steep-sided slope down from the volcanic summit of Dun Cana. shallow and meretricious. caves.
. I could now write a pretty crushing review of all my own poetry.. pagan view of nature. "nowadays I am always finding my own stuff false. spring and cairns belonging to both the world above ground and the world below it.
He reveals how Highland he actually is here as opposed to his more Euro-centric appearance in the Dain do Eimhir poems
A' Chorra Ghritheach (The Heron)
the girls a wood of birches
straight their backs. crom an ceann
(the men lying on the green
at the end of every house that was.
Direach an druim. Sorley also uses an almost Buddhist-like concept of time being circular. bent their heads)
The comparison between the indigenous trees and the imported Scots Pine forests is likened to the generations that were cleared and the new settlers who arrived.Na h-igheanan 'nan coille bheithe.
but I admire the way he expressed these concepts in his own native Gaelic using local imagery and symbolism.
Whyte. Not only are his views on independence and socialism concurrent with my own although set in a different timeframe. Glasgow:
The Association of Scottish Literary Studies.
For me personally Sorley MacLean is my favourite poet for several reasons.It was during the writing of this poem that . Christopher (2002) Dain Do Eimhir. In this he meditates on the simple existence of the Heron and the animal kingdom compared to the sometimes painful human existence. Sorley realized he could write better in Gaelic than in English though it was written before . the Eimhir series in 1934.
Gaidhlig an 20mh Ceud. Spring 2005
. Edinburgh: Polygon
(This article orginally appeared in the Scottish Workers Republic. Domhnall (1987) Nua-bhardachd
Ghaidhlig. Raghnall (1999) An Tuil.
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