Now and again, other bloggers I read write posts about their personal view of life, the universe and everything. When I read them I invariably feel inspired to do so myself. I've always ended up deleting my efforts, though. One of the great things about blogging is that the act of writing down one's thoughts is a great test of those thoughts. What seems to be profound a revelatory when one mulls it over in the confines of one's own head often looks trite and full of holes when written down. I'm sure I'm not the only person to experience this.
I've recently read And the Land Lay Still by James Robertson. I've rarely enjoyed a book more. It's a panoramic exploration of Scottish society in the fifty years that followed the Second World War. I'm not going to go into detail here - except to mention that the book features a walk-on part for the Scottish poet, Hugh MacDiarmid. I also spotted several allusions -surely deliberate- to his poem, On a Raised Beach. As soon as I'd finished the novel I reached for my complete MacDiarmid and started to reread it. I found myself reading that blog-post I could never write, written far better than I could ever write it! There is an insidious side to reading: one can read something and be profoundly influenced by it, only for the memory of the details of the book, poem or article to fade and influence remain.
From On a Raised Beach:
Deep conviction or preference can seldom
Find direct terms in which to express itself.
Today on this shingle shelf
I understand this pensive reluctance so well,
This not discommendable obstinacy,
These contrivances of an inexpressive critical feeling,
These stones with their resolve that Creation shall not be
Injured by iconoclasts and quacks. Nothing has stirred
Since I lay down this morning an eternity ago
But one bird. The widest open door is the least liable to intrusion,
Ubiquitous as the sunlight, unfrequented as the sun.
The inward gates of a bird are always open.
It does not know how to shut them.
That is the secret of its song,
But whether any man’s are ajar is doubtful.
I look at these stones and know little about them,
But I know their gates are open too,
Always open, far longer open, than any bird’s can be,
That every one of them has had its gates wide open far longer
Than all birds put together, let alone humanity,
Though through them no man can see,
No man nor anything more recently born than themselves
And that is everything else on the Earth.
I too lying here have dismissed all else.
Bread from stones is my sole and desperate dearth,
From stones, which are to the Earth as to the sunlight
Is the naked sun which is for no man’s sight.
I would scorn to cry to any easier audience
Or, having cried, to lack patience to await the response.
I am no more indifferent or ill-disposed to life than death is;
I would fain accept it all completely as the soil does;
Already I feel all that can perish perishing in me
As so much has perished and all will yet perish in these stones.
I must begin with these stones as the world began.
Shall I come to a bird quicker than the world’s course ran?
To a bird, and to myself, a man?
And what if I do, and further?
I shall only have gone a little way to go back again
And be like a fleeting deceit of development,
Iconoclasts, quacks. So these stones have dismissed
All but all of evolution, unmoved by it,
(Is there anything to come they will not likewise dismiss?)
As the essential life of mankind in the mass
Is the same as their earliest ancestors yet.
My apologies to any Facebook friends who may have read this passage already. Oh well, if you ask me it's worth re-reading!