The 100 Poets Gathering was brought to a close in an extraordinarily brave
gesture by Alastair Reid. His iconic poem 'Scotland', one of the most frequently
anthologised of all Scottish poems, had become, he said, "a ball and chain
round his neck," and one which he was always entreated to read on all
occasions. Scotland (the country that is) has moved on since he wrote it in
1971, and so has he, he told us. After reading it he announced that he would
never read it again. Then he set fire to it.
It remains, however, a fine poem in its own right, and we reprint it below
as an opportunity for readers to admire the skill of Alastair's construction,
while they may or may not agree with Alastair's assertion that Scotland 2007
is a very different place from Scotland 1971.
It was a day peculiar to this piece of the planet,
when larks rose on long thin strings of singing
and the air shifted with the shimmer of actual angels.
Greenness entered the body. The grasses
shivered with presences, and sunlight
stayed like a halo on hair and heather and hills.
Walking into town, I saw, in a radiant raincoat,
the woman from the fish-shop. 'What a day it is!'
cried I, like a sunstruck madman.
And what did she have to say for it?
Her brow grew bleak, her ancestors raged in their graves
as she spoke with their ancient misery:
'We'll pay for it, we'll pay for it, we'll pay for it!'