Anyone connected with Glasgow University should be fascinated by The Hunterian Museum Poems - A History of the World in Objects and Poems, edited by Alan Riach. In it, contemporary poets respond to the amazingly varied collections of the museum – from dinosaur remains and Roman and Egyptian artefacts to products of the Industrial Revolution, and medical advances.

The book is a companion piece to a volume of poems prompted by paintings in the Hunterian collection.

Today’s poem is by Edwin Morgan, Scotland’s first modern Makar and distinguished Gilmorehill academic.


O what a whack of a black of a sleek sweet cheeky tail in its big blue den

Of water! There were no bears then!

Waterworld it was, warm and salty, wet and scary,

Wild shapes, no ships, no sheep, no sheep-dip, a deep deep, very!

Fish but no fishermen, no fishmen, no kingfishers, no kings,

Fish fishing for fish, yes, anglers, rays, jaws, shocks, wings,

And all those early murky milky things,

Stings on strings, things that spring.

Through shoal and shining flock and froth and freath and freaky frisky flashers, like a liner,

The Bearsden shark coasts casually, kinglily, killingly casual, casing the scales, lazily pacing

and chasing, lord of the place, of the plaice, lordly diner.

Little does he know of land and ocean, change and chance,

Little would he care if he knew. Little would he change if he cared. Little would he love if he

changed it. His is reality without remorse or romance.

Heroic long-dead creature, waiting in death

To be discovered, uncovered, recovered, recalled from the cold solid soil that never felt your


We have you in a fosse, a fossil, a fragile long-forgotten force of our growing, growling,

grounded, founded but bounding, bonding and unbonding earth.