Friday, 23 October 2009
I listen to Radio 4 regularly, especially when I am doing the ironing, which I was this morning. In fact, I prolonged the ironing and even tackled the king size bedding, in order to listen to the 2nd of two programmes about the author Gavin Maxwell, famous for Ring of Bright Water and his love of otters. He sounds to have been a very complex character, someone you rather trod on eggshells around, whose sexuality and personality had been affected by an illness whilst he was at boarding school, and someone who didn't gell well with reality.
This is a beautiful poem written by Katherine Raine, who loved Maxwell, but whose affections were rebuffed. It sounds very much to me like she could see the landscape around Camusfearna (Sandaig House) whilst she wrote it. I have linked to the website I found it on, and apologies if they subsequently discover her works are subject to copyright, as they know not.
THE WILDERNESS by Kathleen Raine
I came too late to the hills: they were swept bare
Winters before I was born of song and story,
Of spell or speech with power of oracle or invocation,
The great ash long dead by a roofless house, its branches rotten,
The voice of the crows an inarticulate cry,
And from the wells and springs the holy water ebbed away.
A child I ran in the wind on a withered moor
Crying out after those great presences who were not there,
Long lost in the forgetfulness of the forgotten.
Only the archaic forms themselves could tell!
In sacred speech of hoodie on gray stone, or hawk in air,
Of Eden where the lonely rowan bends over the dark pool.
Yet I have glimpsed the bright mountain behind the mountain,
Knowledge under the leaves, tasted the bitter berries red,
Drunk water cold and clear from an inexhaustible hidden fountain.
HERE is a link to a beautiful website about Maxwell, his life, his Scotland, and his final home on Eilean Ban. Whoever had the bright idea to build a gigantic causeway of a bridge right across the island had no soul whatsoever . . .
More of Kathleen Raine's poetry can be read HERE.
Many thanks to Shandchem on Creative Commons Search for the photograph of Tongue Bay, Sutherland.