Scotland Has Inspired Millions of Words Through the Ages.
Who said what?
Odd indeed, that wee Scotland and its many grand names – Caledonia, Pictland, Scotia and Alba – loom SO huge in world history and mythology, imagination and inspiration. What other small country has inspired so many scribes over so many centuries to write so many millions of words about it?
These days, visitors to Scotland tend to spin 'round and 'round the same old heavily promoted tourist circuits, embedded in Mother Earth like grooves in an old Victrola record. They follow the scratchy needle to the same old tunes-- The Edinburgh Festival Stomp, The and Over the Sea To Skye. This gives even more air play to the already well-known Scottish "tourist products" that steal most of Scotland's travel media coverage.
Why not cut some new grooves? Let the observations - fair and unfair - and the bletherings, ponderings and exclamations of the many who have passed through Scotland amuse, bemuse, outrage, enlighten and inspire you.
from AN AMERICAN LADY'S FAREWELL
by Kate Douglas Wiggan
I canna thole my ain town,
Sin' I have dwelt i' this;
To hide in Edinboro reek,
Wad be the tap o' bliss.
Yon bonnie plaid aboot me hap,
The skirling pipes gae bring,
With thistle fair tie up my hair,
While I of Scotia sing.
The collops an' the Cairngorms,
The haggis an' the whin,
The Stablished, Free an' U.P.kirks,
The hairt convinced of sin,--
the parrich an' the heather bell,
The snawdrap on the shaw,
The bit lam's bleating on the braes,
How can I leave them a'!
How can I leave the marmalade
And bonnets of Dundee?
the Haar, the haddies, and the brose,
The East win' blawing free!
I lo'e the gentry o' the North,
The Southern men I lo'e,
The canty people o' the West,
The Paisley bodies too.
The pawky folk o'Fife are dear--
Sae dear are ane' an' a',
That e'en to think that we maun pairt
Maist braks my heart in twa
.....from AN AMERICAN LADY'S FAREWELL,©Kate Douglas Wiggan, Penelope in Scotland
I went to Scotland
and found nothing there
that looks like Scotland.
.......Arthur Freed, defending studio production of the
film Brigadoon 1950's
The true magic of north-eastern, Scandinavian Scotland begins with the yellow shores of strange Fife, where seaside names like Dysart, Leven, Elie Pittenweem, Anstruther and Crail most perfectly express what can still be felt there: the keen, keen air, the sands strewn like a fair boy's hair, sands up which the Viking boats ploughed to disgorge their hordes of red-barbed predators.
SCOTLAND: THE LAND AND THE PEOPLE, © Donald Cowie, 1973 by A.S. Barnes and Company, Cranbury, NJ and London: Thomas Yoseloff Ltd., London ISBN 0-498-01169-0
...consider the geography of Scotland. One needs only to look at a relief map of the country to realize how divided up the nation is by mountains and lochs. The Grampians cut north Scotland off from the Lowlands, and everywhere lines of ridges bar one district from its neighbor. Long inlets of the sea, firths and lochs that are often dangerous to cross, segment the country.
...... ©Wallace Notestein, The Scott in History, New Haven Yale University Press, 1947
I've trudged the world; I have learned many bravados, so that my heart never stirred much to the mere trick of an instrument but one, and the piob mhor conquers me. What is it, Colin, that's in us, rich and poor, yon rude cane-reeds speak so human and friendly to?
"'Tis the Gaelic," I said, cheered myself by the air. "Never a road of the drone or a sob of the chanter but it's in the Gaelic tongue."
.....©Neil Munroe in John Splendid
Scotland, the dour granitic wedge atop the British Isles...Scotland has this extraordinarily compact, portable culture, compressed into a handful of potent images and concepts and flogged the world over: the skirling music, the whisky, the tartan, the heritage of oppression and inventiveness, the lowering beauty of the landscape, the adamantine handsomeness of the cities, the wonderfully simple and memorable Saltire waving untainted over all. At the same time Scotland seems to be able to exist anywhere...provided that whisky, tartan and a man called Ewan are present.
...FAINTHEART: An Englishman Ventures North of the Border by Charles Jennings, Abacus, Time Warner Books U.K., www.TimeWarnerBooks.co.uk; © 2001 by Charles Jennings
Scotland does not have to be located on a specific block of land north of the 55th parallel. You can do Scotland wherever Scottish expats are.
......©Charles Jennings, Faintheart: An Englishman Ventures North of the Border, 2001, Abacus, an imprint of Time Warner Books, UK
Samuel Johnson said to James Boswell:
“Your country consists of two things: stone and water. There is indeed a little earth above the stone in some places, but a very little; and the stone is always appearing. It is like a man in rags; the naked skin is always peeping out.'
.......James Boswell, Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides with Samuel Johnson,© 1773 (1785)
Outside observers fool themselves into believing that they can decipher the peculiar recipe of Scottish history. Certainly it contains elements of courage, daftness, greed, madness, genius, saintliness and sordidness, but in what proportions? Ah, there the experts are left guessing and arguing among themselves.
.......©Jimmy Black, History's Mysteries, Saint Andrews Press, Edinburgh, 1993
O Caledonia! stern and wild,
Meet nurse for a poetic child!
Land of brown heath and shaggy wood,
Land of the mountain and the flood,
Land of my sires! What mortal hand
Can e'er untie the filial band
That knits me to thy rugged strand!
.......Sir Walter Scott, The Lay of the Last Minstrel, 1801
Shall I see Scotland again? Never shall I forget the happy days I passed there amidst odious smells barbarous sounds, bad suppers, excellent hearts, and most enlightened and cultivated understandings.
.......Sydney Smith, Letter to Francis Jeffrey, 27 March 1814
Scotland is renowned as the home of the most ambitious race in the world.
.......Frederic Edwin Smith, Earl of Birkenhead, Rectorial Address, Aberdeen, 16 November 1928
How can one ever explain to the go-ahead West the charm of the shabby grey haphazard old land? It is partly the feeling that things just grow and are not made.
.......Freya Stark, Note of 17 February 1929, in Beyond Euphrates, 1951
Most . . . small towns I have seen in Scotland are contentedly or morosely lethargic, sunk in a fantastic dullness broken only by scandal-mongering and such alarums as drinking produces; a dead silence punctuated by malicious whispers and hiccups.
.......©Edwin Muir, Journey into Scotland, 1935
In Scotland there is a rapid loss of all grandeur of mien and manners; a provincial eagerness and acuteness appear; the poverty of the country makes itself remarked, and a coarseness of manners; and, among the intellectual, is the insanity of dialectics.
.......©Ralph Waldo Emerson, English Traits,1856
If there's a sword-like sang
That can cut Scotland clear
O' a' the warld beside
Rax me the hilt o't here,
For there's nae jewel till
Frae the rest o' earth its's free,
Wi' the starry separateness
I'd fain to Scotland gie.
.......©Hugh MacDiarmid(C.M. Grieve),
'Separatism', from To Circumjack Cencrastus, 1930
Let nae man think he can serve you, Scotland,
Withoot muckle trial and trouble to himsel'.
The slightest service -to you compares
Wi' fetchin' a bit o' Heaven doon into Hell...
Nay, fegs, it's wi' you as wi' a lion-cub
A man may fetch hame and can play wi' at first,
But if he has it lang, it grows up and syne -
Suddenly his fool's paradise is burst!
.......©Hugh MacDiarmid (C.M. Grieve),
'Towards a New Scotland, VII',
from Stony Limits and Other Poems, 1934