“The Bedrock: Poems on themes from the Great Tapestry of Scotland” by Henry Marsh
I have posted reviews of Henry Marsh's poems before. His latest collection, “The Bedrock: Poems on Themes from the Great Tapestry of Scotland” is heartily recommended.
He was asked to write poems to go with the panels of the Great Tapestry. There are twenty-seven here. “The Bedrock” (published by Maclean Dubois) only costs £5.00. I would like to say it is available from all good bookshops, but you may have to order a copy. Possibly it is easiest to buy them from the Tapestry website which is http://www.shop.scotlandstapestry.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=67 . I know Blackwells in Edinburgh stock them.
His method has been to take one of the panels and then to immerse himself in the history before letting his original and powerful imagination go to work. This “immersion” has included visits to the places – Flodden for example - as well as reading on the subject. The result is a wonderful series of lights shone on Scottish history from unexpected angles. I have no hesitation, as a historian, in saying that these poems add extra levels of meaning and understanding, even if one has a reasonable level of conventional historical knowledge
He has a most warm and effective way with words. The filthy, de-humanising horror of the Black Death, the zeal of the Covenanters, the shape of the Forth Bridge, the dignity in poverty of the Hungry Thirties are all conjured up for us. So is the imagination of Robert Louis Stevenson:
was forged in an Edinburgh smiddy”
Likewise the original genius of James Clerk Maxwell who:
a glimpse of that fundamental beauty
on which all beauty builds.”
The poems range from the earliest times to the modern age. In the first he imagines a mother, 8,000BC, telling her child stories of how they came north:
“Your grandfather would tell
how we came from a land beyond
Near the end of the book he remembers
“… the hustling Archie Gemmill,
now sailing like a swan
past three defenders.”
Some of you will remember that too. Argentina 1978.
If you care about Scottish history, if you enjoy contemporary Scottish poetry, if you have seen the Great Tapestry, do get hold of this little book.