I used to be in Raasay the opposite day.
Sorley MacLean’s Raasay, I ought to say, for each step I walked was stuffed with the bàrd’s recreation of the island in his poetry. The very place names have much less which means when you don’t know Sorley’s poetry, ideally within the unique Gaelic. Baile Chùirn, Screapadail, An Clachan, Suisinis, and naturally Hallaig, the place the lifeless have been seen alive.
Literature’s capability to create a spot is outstanding. I used to be in Paris final 12 months (earlier than the lockdown) and, a lot as I loved Montmartre and the meals and occasional and almond croissants, I spent most time with Balzac and Proust and Zola and Fitzgerald and Hemingway, within the Paris they create each time I learn or keep in mind their work.
I didn’t even go to any of the museums devoted to their lives and works. They’re all over the place.
Similar with Wordsworth: I’ve been a number of occasions to the Lake District in all its loveliness, and but it’s his strains that carry me by the area. Not a lot the daffodils (which you’ll even discover in South Uist) however the wishing gate within the vale of Grasmere and the outdated Cumberland beggar and the leech gatherer. Oh, particularly the leech gatherer, who lives endlessly up on that lonely moor.
Nice literature breathes life into empty areas
What’s it about literature that provides extra life to an individual or a spot or a time than that particular person or place or time ever had?
I suppose it has to do with that miraculous bit within the e book of Genesis the place “the Lord God fashioned man of the mud of the bottom, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man turned a dwelling soul”. Seeing that we’re all made within the picture of God, will we not too mirror that life-giving breath?
What such nice literature does is to raise issues to immortality
I believe what nice literature does is to breathe life into each crushed and empty areas.
It grants us all honesty, in the long run. Not by platitudes or cliches, however by trying afresh (typically with awe, typically with anger, typically with cynicism, typically with despair) on the actuality round, and by confronting it. Reimagining it. In order that it turns into reworked.
It’s not in regards to the window – nevertheless it’s all in regards to the window
Sorley’s finest poem, Hallaig, performs that magic. It begins with the well-known, prosaic strains: “The window is nailed and boarded / by which I noticed the west”.
I’ve at all times regretted that I didn’t ask him the place the window was. I do know wonderful he’d refuse to reply, for the poem has a a lot better function, talking of the window of historical past and reminiscence and schooling and religion and hope and want by which he noticed the world, regardless that there would have a been a selected window that will have birthed the poem. For all our lives are plagued by ruins and home windows nailed and boarded.
After which, phrase by phrase, and phrase by phrase, and picture by picture, Sorley pinches the nails out and removes the boards in order that we will see his love on the Burn of Hallaig, a birch tree, the place she has at all times been, between Inver and Milk Hole, right here and there about Baile-Chùirn: she is a birch, a hazel, a straight slender younger rowan.
The entire island turns into reworked and time melts and the lifeless stroll, clear within the thriller of the hills, the place there may be solely the congregation of the women maintaining the limitless stroll. In order that by the tip of the poem the cleared village of Hallaig turns into all the pieces that it ever was or wasn’t, or might be, or might be. It’s became being.
Can good writing make actuality disappointing?
What such nice literature does is to raise issues to immortality. It eases you into seeing the potential for all issues, in order that Wordsworth’s leech gatherer is forever there, roaming from pond to pond, from moor to moor, housing – with God’s good assist – by alternative or likelihood, and in that method gaining an trustworthy upkeep.
There’s a hazard that the place literature has created a picture the truth itself will disappoint.
We might go to the Mearns hoping to satisfy Chris Guthrie, and if we all know the work, we are going to. As a result of she is there at each peewit’s name, in each breath of wind.
The identical as pricey Sorley was with me each step of the best way final week as I walked by the woods of Raasay to his birthplace at Oscaig, with the women chumming us in silent bands going to Clachan as at first.
Oh, and Anna Karenina is asking in for a cèilidh tonight. She’s nice firm.
Angus Peter Campbell is an award-winning author and actor from South Uist