To end St Andrew’s week, two reflections by Hugh MacDiarmid on the theme of Scotland, both of them free of any disputatious  sentiment.

The exquisite four lines of The Little White Rose contain a world of feeling. (From The Complete Poems of Hugh MacDiarmid, edited by Michael Grieve and W.R. Aitken, Carcanet Press, 1993-4).      


The configuration of a land,

Gradually grow conscious of fine shadings,

Of great meanings in slight symbols,

Hear at last the great voice that speaks softly,

See the swell and fall upon the flank

Of a statue carved out in a whole country’s marble,

Be like Spring, like a hand in a window

Moving New and Old things carefully to and fro,

Moving a fraction of flower here,

Placing an inch of air there,

And without breaking anything.

So I have gathered unto myself

All the loose ends of Scotland,

And by naming them and accepting them,

Loving them and identifying myself with them,

Attempt to express the whole.



The rose of all the world is not for me.

I  I want for my part

   Only the little white rose of Scotland

   That smells sharp and sweet—and breaks the heart.