path & gate 


There’s been no song
On this tongue
Since you left,
No notes of laughter, either.

Just change your mind,
Turn around,
Walk back down the path
You walked away on.

Then, opening the door,
You’d practically hear
An almost complete opera.

Smiles would shower on you,
Kisses rain down on you.
Oh, turn around!
Come home!
Let’s spend our lives together.

                              © Gwen Grant


northern musetartan burns


THE NORTHERN MUSE (An anthology of Scots vernacular Poetry)

I’ve had a very small red tartan covered book of Robert Burns poems for years and years, from the days when I was a very impressionable girl in love with poetry. Again, it is a bit battered because it’s been handled and read so much. It is one of my most loved books but now I come to find it today, it’s nowhere to be seen. It had one of my favourite poems in it, ‘My love is like a red red rose,’ but having said that, when I look it up in The Northern Muse, (which is edited by John Buchan who wrote The Thirty Nine Steps) I find the real poem begins, ‘O, My luve is like a red, red rose,’ which makes it somehow more heart-breakingly lovely.

Burns was born in 1759 and died in 1796. His father was an unsuccessful tenant farmer in Ayrshire and life was very hard for all the Burns family. I can understand Robert turning to poetry to offset some of the hardness of that life.

Here’s the poem:

O, my luve is like a red, red rose, / That’s newly sprung in June: / O, my luve is like the melodie / That’s sweetly played in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass, / so deep in luve am I: / And I will luve thee still, my dear, / Till a’ the seas gang dry.

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear, / And the rocks melt wi’ the sun: / And I will luve thee still, my dear, / While the sands o’ life shall run.

And fare thee weel, / my only luve, / And fare thee weel a while! / And I will come again, my love, / Tho’ it were ten thousand mile!

My computer doesn’t like the dialect in this poem and is underlining words with wiggly red lines as fast as it can. ‘Weel,’ is as you have guessed, ‘well.’

I remember reading the line ‘And the rocks melt wi’ the sun:’ in such absolute astonishment at this deep and beautiful image, that I felt somehow I had moved from one world to another. It affected me very much. It was like seeing Burns’ soul written on the page.

It still has the same effect now.


penguin book


On a bitterly cold and snow laden day and looking for something cheerful, I searched my bookshelves for my ancient copy of The Penguin Book of English Verse, which cost 4/6d so many years ago. This book is so old, it’s in pieces. Small children have, at some time or other, drawn rings and very tall stick figures on what is left of the back page. In the middle of the book, I found a drawing of a fire engine and a house. There is only a tattered front cover, the back cover has vanished, so the lovely book above is not the one I have!

But I was looking for two poems. One was Auden’s ‘Lay your sleeping head, my love,’ and the other was Marvell’s ‘To His Coy Mistress.’ These poems have been such good companions for so many years that even when they present themselves on really old and brown edged paper that will tear in an instant without careful handling, they never fail to cheer. It’s the exquisite telling that makes a celebration of life.

Here’s the first verse of Auden’s poem:

Lay your sleeping head, my love, / Human on my faithless arm; /Time and fevers burn away / Individual beauty from / Thoughtful children, and the grave / Proves the child ephemeral: / But in my arms till break of day / Let the living creature lie, / Mortal, guilty, but to me / The entirely beautiful.

And here’s the first few lines of Marvell’s poem:

Had we but world enough, and Time, / This coyness Lady were no crime. / We would sit down, and think which way / To walk and pass our long Loves Day. / Thou by the Indian Ganges side / Should’st Rubies find: I by the Tide / Of Humber would complain…..

Wystan Hugh Auden born 1906 died 1973and the Editor, John Hayward, has this poem written on lst September 1939.

Andrew Marvell born 1621 died 1667.