I’m extremely happy to learn that there there is an book of unpublished poems by Hugh MacDiarmid, The Revolutionary Art of the Future: Rediscovered Poems. ReadySteadyBook has a review:

By all accounts an irascible and rather forbidding character, MacDiarmid was a titanic figure in Scottish literature and should be seen as a major poet: to discount him is to give in to the mania of the chattering classes for middlebrow lyricists rather than to rise to the challenge of his complex work…
Macdiarmid isn’t all politics. His writing is sometimes quite lovely, unexpectedly tender – and there is a religiosity often forgotten. But the poems were primarily written in the 30s and should be understood in this context: a context in which MacDiarmid’s politics had a keener resonance than perhaps they do today.

And as an accompaniment, here‘s “An Introduction tae Metrics and Grammetrics exemplified by The Eemis Stane by Hugh Macdiarmid” (pdf file; here‘s an HTML cache):

Stress: we pit mair stress on some syllables that ithers… Listen to the stress patterns in exemplary and orchestra. (We dinnae need tae concern wirsels wi maitters o primary and secondary stress. Jist stick tae a binary description o mair nor less stress than the syllables roond aboot. Sae exemplary wad be x / x / whaur x is less stressed and / is mair stressed. Orchestra wad be / x /.

Yes, it’s a discussion of metrics in Scots, and a fine read it is. As promised in the title, it uses a MacDiarmid lyric as an example, and concludes:

This craftsmanlike yiss o metre and syntax combines wi his rich, varied and aften mystical imagery, nae tae mention his orra vocabulary, tae mak some o his poetry fell obscure. A gey few readers hae been content tae dook in the rare soond and jist be daein wi the bittockie o meanin that got through til them but the mair ye howk in McDiarmid, the better he gets. Ye’ll find that the mair ye look at the wark o the best poets, the mair ye find. Dinnae be pit aff if a poem luiks a bittie difficult at first glisk. Tyauve on!

If you need help, the Dictionary of the Scots Language is only a click away. (Both titular links via the always dependable wood s lot.)


  1. Vance Maverick says

    MacDiarmid pronounced exemplary and orchestra with a stress on the final? As if the imagery and the “orra” vocabulary weren’t enough.

  2. Those are secondary stresses, which are common in American pronunciation too — that’s why it’s so hard for Americans to correctly pronounce Russian, which has absolutely no secondary stress.

  3. Vance Maverick says

    That makes sense, thanks. (I’m not sure it’s consistent with MacDiarmid’s description, but it does sound like what he’s doing.)

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