MacDiarmid on Burns

A post for Burns night – well, why not? My students tell me I quote Hugh MacDiarmid too much; maybe, but he is unquestionably Scotland’s greatest modern poet, perhaps alongside Burns and Dunbar one of the three greatest this land has produced. I tend, I confess, to his more philosophical, later, and lesser poems written in standard English. His masterpiece, though, is the early (1926) Scots poem, ‘A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle’: some stanzas from there on Burns: Rabbie, wad’st thou wert here – the world hath need, And Scotland mair sae, o’ the likes o’ thee! The whisky that aince moved your lyre’s become A laxative for a’ loquacity O gin they’d stegh their guts and haud their wheesht I’d thole it, for ‘a man’s a man,’ I ken, But...

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Romanticism and Pantheism

Nicholas V. Riasanovsky, The Emergence of Romanticism (Oxford: OUP, 1992) is a fascinating little book that I wish I tripped over before. Apart from anything else, any author with the guts to start a book ‘To quote Wordsworth:’ and to follow that line with seven pages of poetry excerpts deserves some respect! The book offers readings of Wordsworth, Coleridge, Novalis, Wackenroder, and Schlegel, together with some analysis. The readings of the English poets are convincing to me, but perhaps incomplete (see below); I don’t know enough about the Germans to judge. Riasanovsky suggests that Romanticism in its original form is a remarkably brief movement, arising roughly simultaneously in England and Germany in the mid-1790s and lasting less than a...

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