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Gone Are The Days -- Norman MacCaig

Guest poem submitted by Amulya Gopalakrishnan:
(Poem #755) Gone Are The Days
 Impossible to call a lamb a lambkin
 or say eftsoons or spell you ladye.
 My shining armour bleeds when it's scratched;
 I blow the nose that's part of my visor.

 When I go pricking o'er the plain
 I say Eightpence please to the sad conductress.
 The towering landscape you live in has printed
 on its portcullis Bed and breakfast.

 I don't regret it. There are wildernesses
 enough in Rose Street or the Grassmarket
 where dragons' breaths are methylated
 and social workers trap the unwary.

 So don't expect me, lady with no e,
 to look at a lamb and feel lambkin
 or give me a down look because I bought
 my greaves and cuisses at Marks and Spencers.

 Pishtushery's out. But oh, how my heart swells
 to see you perched, perjink, on a bar stool.
 And though epics are shrunk to epigrams, let me
 buy you a love potion, a gin, a double.
-- Norman MacCaig
I love MacCaig for the same things, always... the tenderness, the humour,
and oh, the Romance that's still utterly romantic even when it's dedicated
to a 'lady with no e'. The sensuous brunt of the words, his obvious
revelling in the sound and feel of 'perjink' and 'greaves and cuisses', the
whole picture of him 'pricking o'er the plain' and gently saying 'eightpence
please' to the conductress. I don't care, even if epics are shrunk to
epigrams, he's my hero.

Amulya.

72 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Anustup Datta said...

Absolutely delightful, Thomas - there's a little more about MacCaig online at

[broken link] http://www.geocities.com/william_brodie/maccaig/backgr.html

The site also has a fair collection of his poetry. I am reproducing below
his justly-celebrated

Frogs
Frogs sit more solid
than anything sits. In mid-leap they are
parachutists falling
in a free fall. They die on roads
with arms across their chests and
heads high.

I love frogs that sit
like Buddha, that fall without
parachutes, that die
like Italian tenors.

Above all, I love them because,
pursued in water, they never
panic so much that they fail
to make stylish triangles
with their ballet dancer's
legs.

- Norman MacCaig

I think the comparison with Italian tenors is just perfect - makes you
really sit up and chuckle.

Anustup

Anne Hobby said...

I'm not sure what led me to come across this particular poem in the
archives, but I did, and now I have a question. If anyone can explain
to me what "methylated" means in this sense please let me know!! I
asked a friend of mine who is studying chemical engineering but all he
gave me were a bunch of symbols of compounds and such which really
didn't help in my understanding of that line. Thanks :)
Anne

Martin DeMello said...

--- Anne Hobby wrote:
> archives, but I did, and now I have a question. If anyone can explain
> to me what "methylated" means in this sense please let me know!! I

The reference is to "methylated spirits", i.e. alcohol intended for something
other than drinking, and therefore denatured with methanol, and sometimes a
colouring agent as well so that people don't drink it by mistake (the point of
doing all this is that as a drink, alcohol is heavily taxed, but as a chemical
it isn't). MacCaig is referring to the alcoholics (usually homeless) who drink
it anyway (not recommended - you'll go blind).

Judy Hindley said...

Just to say thanks for putting out these poems. It was a joy to find 'Frogs', which I thought I'd lost. Do you have 'Heron'?
Go well to you all.

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