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Chapter 5 - “A Form of Doric Which Is No Dialect in Particular”

Scotland and the Planetary Classics of Hugh MacDiarmid

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2022

Gregory Baker
Catholic University of America, Washington DC


Emboldened by the success of his 1926 poem A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle, the Scottish poet and critic Christopher Grieve – better known by his pseudonym, Hugh MacDiarmid – set sight on a new creative endeavor, a work that could “glimpse the underlying pattern of human history,” what MacDiarmid called “Cencrastus, the Curly Snake.”

Classics and Celtic Literary Modernism
Yeats, Joyce, MacDiarmid and Jones
, pp. 195 - 235
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

Emboldened by the success of his 1926 poem A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle, the Scottish poet and critic Christopher Grieve – better known by his pseudonym, Hugh MacDiarmid – set sight on a new creative endeavor, a work that could “glimpse the underlying pattern of human history,” what MacDiarmid called “Cencrastus, the Curly Snake.”Footnote 1 For MacDiarmid, Cencrastus represented the “Gaelic (or Scottish) version of the idea common to Indian and other mythologies that underlying Creation there is great snake,” a snake symbolic of “the principle of change and the main factor in the revolutionary development of human consciousness, ‘man’s incredible variation’.”Footnote 2 If this new work, he thought, could engage “an intricate linguistic apparatus which involves Scottish and Irish Gaelic, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Latin, and Greek,” he might “sing as never Scotsman sang afore,” developing a synthetic style as a “Homage of Consciousness – a paean to creative thought.”Footnote 3 Yet to write this new poem – the poem that became To Circumjack Cencrastus (1930) – proved difficult. Frustrated after nearly four years’ work, MacDiarmid complained to a friend that Cencrastus had not achieved what he “intended – I deliberately deserted my big plan.”Footnote 4 While the poem demonstrated “an astonishing knowledge of the whole range of modern European philosophy and religious speculation,” it possessed an “intellectual arrogance,” “pretentious pedantry” and a “super-abundance of needless personalities – scurrilous vilification of great Scotsmen past and present.”Footnote 5 Moreover, he argued, Cencrastus had not illuminated what Scottish literature then needed most, he thought, namely a “new classicism” – one that could extend the country’s “national principle of freedom on the plane of world-affairs” while rebalancing “Europe in accordance with [Scotland’s] distinctive genius.”Footnote 6

MacDiarmid’s pursuit of a “new classicism” for Scotland was unique from the start: what he desired was not the institutionalized “puerilities, elementary, trifling, schoolboy drilling, and very bad drilling” of nineteenth-century Scottish classical instruction but a form of reception that went well beyond the patriotic vision of antiquity espoused by the Scottish radical John Stuart Blackie (1809–95), professor of Greek at the University of Edinburgh from 1852 to 1882.Footnote 7 Blackie, the author of the 1853 essay On the Living Language of the Greeks, had once argued that the Scottish people needed “not new editions of trite Greek plays already edited so often, and tortured so critically, that many a luckless word in them has been put into more antic attitudes” but instead “a scholarship with a large human soul, and a pregnant social significance, which shall not seek with a studious feebleness to avoid, but rather with a generous vigour to find contact with all the great intellectual and moral movements of the age.”Footnote 8 As the outlines of MacDiarmid’s vision of nationalism became clear, he built on Blackie’s thought, believing that, if a ‘new’ Scottish classicism did arise, it would engage more intensely with the fraught politics and social movements of the present while also resolving a central problem plaguing Scottish scholars of the previous century. Though many of Scotland’s prominent Victorians were eager to distinguish themselves from “the dry-as-dust, anti-life affair which English classicism was,” the nineteenth-century Scottish reception of antiquity still seemed to have been effectively split.Footnote 9 Against a ‘Northern’ expression of idealism – motivated by cultural nationalism and a particularly Scottish stress on “democratic intellectualism” – there emerged an opposing ‘Southern’ principle that accentuated “‘Blood and Culture’, according to which, a system of racial exclusiveness was presented as preferable to the anarchism of Scottish democracy.”Footnote 10 While Southern scholars, Davie suggested, were keen to amass “out-of-the-way erudition, their Northern counterparts were animated with the purpose of elevating public taste and impressing on the nation at large a respect for classical restraint in the Arts.”Footnote 11 MacDiarmid, in seeking a ‘new classicism’, aimed to merge something from both these impulses, not merely amassing erudition but articulating a democratic ‘public voice’ in his verse as well. Yet, as he sought this, MacDiarmid’s vision of reception was transformed – not only by his auto-didacticism and incendiary politics but by the erosion of classics’ critical position in British society. As classical learning became increasingly dis-embedded both from its central institutional role as a guardian of British imperial interests and increasingly even from its role as a key accelerant in the ‘nation-building’ movements of Celtic revival, MacDiarmid generated a new and more complex vision. Though he had become, by the early 1930s, irritated with the pragmatism of the National Party, MacDiarmid still believed a ‘new classicism’ might emerge as a catalytic force for Scottish interests, one that would fuse together the project of national reinvention with an anti-imperial, global ideology – principally, the communism of V. I. Lenin (1870–1924).Footnote 12 With this in mind, MacDiarmid turned from the heteroglossic Lallans developed for A Drunk Man to a polyglossic, synthetic English, “a vision of world language.”Footnote 13 Born from his admiration of Joyce, this multilingual idiom proved artistically promising, but, as MacDiarmid adumbrated it throughout the 1930s, he was led into increasingly radical forms of stylistic eccentricity and ideological isolation. His new aesthetic engendered a deep solipsism for which his synthetic vernacular became emblematic: MacDiarmid’s ‘global’ idiom was, as Matthew Hart notes, “the speech of no singular person, place, or nation-state.”Footnote 14 Nonetheless these “private imaginings of a new public discourse” impacted both the range of his poetry and his reputation.Footnote 15 This eccentric vision of ‘classicism’ untethered MacDiarmid’s work from clear substantive links to the literatures of Greece and Rome, and in so dominating his later work, his penchant for both the idiosyncratic and the incendiary made his poetry a “form of Doric” that was indeed “no dialect in particular.”Footnote 16

Though frustrated with the failures of Cencrastus, MacDiarmid outlined his “big plan” in a polemical essay he proposed for the pages of T. S. Eliot’s The Criterion.Footnote 17 Writing to Eliot he asked:

Would you care to consider an article … discussing the way in which, instead of pooling their resources, or at least acting and reacting freely upon each other (and a common bilingual or multi-lingual public) and giving British literature far more variety, Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, and, to a lesser extent, Scottish Vernacular, and even English dialect literature … have been practically excluded from the knowledge of most British people – and consequently have had their potentialities inhibited – by the English ascendancy tendency.Footnote 18

Eliot accepted the proposal, and MacDiarmid later dispatched the essay entitled “English Ascendancy in British Literature.” The piece was published in July 1931, motivated by MacDiarmid’s desire to discuss at some length a recent report on primary education by the London Board of Education. MacDiarmid praised some findings from the Report of the Consultative Committee on the Primary School (1931), especially the new stress laid on the “need to realize that there are many varieties of English; that it is not the function of schools to decry any special or local peculiarities of speech; and that a racy native turn of speech is better than any stilted phraseology, especially for literary purposes.”Footnote 19 As he saw it, the suggestion that schools not discourage “varieties of English” was a welcome departure from long-established practice and policy in Britain, for from the time of Matthew Arnold only the “narrow ascendancy tradition” of English had been encouraged across public life.Footnote 20 The Elementary Education Acts 1870 to 1893 had notably “made no provision for the teaching of/in anything other than English” so that an entire generation, though “intelligent readers of English,” were “content to ignore Scottish, Irish, and Welsh Gaelic literatures, and Scots Vernacular literature.”Footnote 21 Rather than “broad-basing” knowledge of literature through “all the diverse cultural elements and the splendid variety of languages and dialects, on the British Isles,” the public had been systematically confined to the “English central stream” of British literature.Footnote 22 As a result, the British people had heard “but one side of a complicated case” and become victims of what MacDiarmid called “an extensive spiritual and psychological blindness.”Footnote 23 Yet this new report suggested that distinctions were to be drawn between “local variations” of dialect and the clear incorrect use of standard English among children.Footnote 24

There can be no doubt that an attempt to correct local peculiarities too early has a depressing effect upon the child’s power of speech. With young children, the capital aim must be to secure that they begin to use language freely and easily; a nearer approach to the standard speech may be dearly bought by an unnatural reticence on their part. The teacher must boldly face the fact that there are many varieties of the English language; it is not the duty of the school to decry any special or local variations. As the children grow older, more should be done to teach the habits of standard speech. The best dialect words have a picturesque value, especially for literary purposes … Above all, the degenerate speaking of standard English should not be confused with the speaking of dialect.Footnote 25

While the report’s recommendations focused largely on dialect, the insistence that certain linguistic variations could develop “freely and easily” gave MacDiarmid hope that the languages of Scotland, Ireland and Wales might perhaps someday enjoy greater recognition.Footnote 26 Like English dialects these languages were “products of substantially the same environment, and concerned for the most part with the same political, psychological, and practical issues, the same traditions and tendencies, the same landscapes, as poets in English.”Footnote 27 Yet they were often ignored or dismissed as “valuably complementary” to the central stream of English expression.Footnote 28 As MacDiarmid saw it, however, their “ancient technique” provided a “corrective” to contemporary English, for

Few literatures offer within themselves so rich a range of alterative values, of material for comparative criticism, as does, not English, but British, meaning by the latter that common culture – in posse, rather than in esse – which includes not only English (and English dialect) literature, but the Gaelic and Scots Vernacular literatures as well.Footnote 29

Though Britain still possessed these elements within the wider range of its literary culture, the “narrow ascendancy tradition” had shut forms of Welsh, Gaelic and Scots vernacular literature out, keeping the more salubrious cultural influences of the Celtic far from the collective imagination.Footnote 30

The report did provide hope, but MacDiarmid felt that the Celtic languages still faced threats on many sides, not least the various attempts to standardize “‘correct English’” as an International Auxiliary Language (IAL), a movement that in the wake of the First World War had gained greater favor among some prominent intellectuals, linguists and politicians.Footnote 31 Led by Cambridge University critics C. K. Ogden (1889–1957) and I. A. Richards (1893–1979), advocates of “Basic English” felt that if language could be simplified and stripped largely of its idiomatic characteristics, then English might be made a more effective mode of international communication.Footnote 32 Since the Armistice of 1918, Ogden and Richards had pushed for the development of a condensed English, believing that the continued prosperity of postwar Europe depended to some extent on the deployment of a secondary tongue, or common interlanguage, which could more easily traverse national boundaries of language and culture.Footnote 33 “The so-called national barriers of today are ultimately language barriers,” Ogden declared in 1931,

The absence of a common medium of communication is the chief obstacle to international understanding, and therefore the chief underlying cause of War. It is also the most formidable obstacle to the progress of international Science, and to the development of international Commerce. As to the desirability of a Universal Language, therefore, there can be little difference of opinion.Footnote 34

In combatting the problem of ‘Babel’ in Europe, “‘Basic English for all’” offered to do the work that Latin was thought to have once accomplished as the dominant tongue of political, academic and religious discourse – albeit without demanding “the faith of a fanatic” for Rome’s dead language.Footnote 35 Though it comprised only 850 words, Ogden insisted that Basic could “meet the universal demand for a compact and efficient technological medium” of speech.Footnote 36 Complex problems of translation mitigated, ‘Basic’ linguistic exchange could steer nations clear of threats to the

economic, moral, cultural, social, or political status or independence of any person or any people. It must carry no implications of intellectual, technological, or other domination. No one in learning the world language must have excuse for even the least shadow of a feeling that he is submitting to an alien influence or being brought under the power of other groups … We can guard against this danger only by conceiving a world language in a truly planetary spirit – as a universal medium, not as an extension of the sphere of influence of some one pressure group.Footnote 37

Moreover, as they envisioned it, the language would not be imposed upon any people but would rather come “into use freely, as a general convenience, under the urge of the everyday motives of mankind,” for as Anglophone countries grew in power and global prestige, English too had become far more pervasive.Footnote 38 For Ogden and Richards, “Standard English” had been so “enriched and cosmopolitanized,” especially “through the expansion of modern science,” that the spread of its more Basic form might forge greater global understanding and combat claims of a new linguistic imperialism.Footnote 39

On a popular level, the desire to see idiomatic English debrided, to see its dialects condensed to the most basic and ‘standard’ of components, had already had a broad impact, especially in West End theatres of the postwar period.Footnote 40 The notion, espoused by Ogden and Richards, that English was an efficient “Universal medium” for the swift communication of ideas had been, in a crude way, advanced across the daily criticism of London drama throughout the 1920s.Footnote 41 A less literary and less artificial English – an English marked by lack of dialect, accent or artifice – was thought more appealing, better for the understanding of general audiences than anything too experimental. Driven by an aversion for “ornate literary stuff,” St. John Ervine (1883–1971) – the Ulster-born playwright and Unionist – had thus discouraged dialect in theatre, dismissing as “contrived” and “withdrawn from reality” the recent drama of Ireland and England.Footnote 42 Such “‘literary drama’” was, he asserted, “generally full of stiff sentences that have more resemblance to the language used in editorial articles and ‘middles’ printed in the weekly reviews than to the language used in conversation.”Footnote 43 The especial “business” of the modern playwright was, he believed, “to write dialogue which shall have the look of literature and the sound of the street: it must have the similitude of ordinary conversation and, at the same time, be attractive and compact and shapely.”Footnote 44 As such, dialect that was not “selected and shapely” could perhaps become an impediment to effective dramatic speech, an obstruction, Ervine thought, both to the clear communication of a playwright’s “ideas and intentions” and to the commercial success of theatre itself.Footnote 45 His critique – elaborated across a series of reviews he wrote for The Observer in February 1931 – drew out MacDiarmid’s scorn. Ervine had declared “[a]nything that makes oral communication difficult … essentially evil.”Footnote 46 Citing the amateur linguist Richard Paget (1869–1955), he insisted that, though English was “a wild growth” with its “learned words … a potpourri compounded of hedgerow flowers – Greek and Latin,” its speech could be tamed and “made more useful by conscious effort on our part.”Footnote 47 To develop a plainer idiom, Ervine encouraged actors and writers to read Reference PagetPaget’s 1930 treatise Babel, or The Past, Present, and Future of Human Speech, specifically for its methods on making English a “flexible instrument for communication” across the globe.Footnote 48 English was to be standardized through “systematic and scientific study … with a view to its future improvement” even if the “great majority of the literary world at present” still believed that “the fate of our language ought properly to be left to chance, or rather to herd instinct.”Footnote 49 As Paget saw it, artists and writers fond of this “comfortable policy” – this “laissez-faire” approach to linguistic development – were wrong; it was not “practicable to-day, for the fate of English speech is in the balance.”Footnote 50 “If we do nothing,” he exclaimed, “one thing will be likely to happen, namely, that the English language will break up – America going one way, Australia another, and so on, till in the end these different communities will no longer be able to understand one another.”Footnote 51 In this moment of apparent crisis, there were, however, unique opportunities as well, for already “[b]roadcasting, long-distance telephony, the talking film, and the gramophone” had conspired to make better forms of “standardization possible, and even comparatively easy to establish.”Footnote 52 New technological media could indeed provide a “unifying influence,” allowing language to overcome the more tribal and fractious impulses of human socialization.Footnote 53 The scientific precision of a more universal English was within grasp, he thought, but “only by systematic and conscious effort” would there be “unity and an approach to perfection in the future,” an approach that would fulfill the “words of Genesis,” that there be “‘one language – and now nothing will be restrained from them which they have imagined to do’.”Footnote 54

Eager to advance Paget’s vision, Ervine promoted the notion that “[c]lear speech and strong speech and fine speech” was not merely an aesthetic preference but a political imperative of great importance.Footnote 55 English had already, he thought, fast become an “exact and simple” tongue, and indeed it was that very “simplicity” that had made it “peculiarly suitable to be a world-language.”Footnote 56 On that account alone, he claimed, the continued existence (to say nothing of revivals) of other dialect forms and “obsolete languages” across the British Isles served no useful purpose.Footnote 57 The surviving traces of Goedelic and Brythonic tongues in Scotland, Ireland and Wales had done little, he felt, to further the “first principle of speech, that its use is to make us clearly understand each other.”Footnote 58 Echoing to some extent the criticism of Irish that Mahaffy once leveled, Ervine mocked

those reactionaries who are all for the revival of obsolete languages. It would not upset me if knowledge of Gaelic perished out of these islands, and if I had the power of dictating in these matters I should forbid the Highlander and the Irishman and the Welshman to continue in the use of his dying speech. When I hear reactionaries orating about the desirability of a diversity of tongues I feel inclined to remind them that what was wrought at the Tower of Babel was confusion. “Go to,” said the Lord, according to Genesis, “let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”Footnote 59

For Ervine, the desire to preserve a diversity of languages was tantamount to warding off “the day when all men will be able to understand each other,” a time when simply English alone would provide plain-spoken understanding between culturally different peoples.Footnote 60 No longer could language then be exploited for artificial, “sophisticated” aims – the putting on of so-called “literary airs” – but rather “for its purpose, the understanding of each other, and not the preservation of quaintness or the indulgence of literary idiosyncrasies.”Footnote 61

Hugh MacDiarmid vilified the Anglophilia of Ervine’s universal “world-language.”Footnote 62 Denouncing his criticism, MacDiarmid insisted that Ervine had not simply abandoned advocacy for Gaelic languages in Britain but had willingly betrayed his homeland in Ulster as well. Rather than write an English idiom inflected by local dialects of the North, he had chosen to defend the commercial theatre of the bourgeoisie instead, supporting poor, digestible drawing-room comedies focused almost entirely on “winning the London success, and international vogue of a kind, denied to his earlier and better work.”Footnote 63 Robbed of its Ulster English, Ervine’s drama had fallen victim to the same “sorry imperialism which has thrust Gaelic and dialect literatures outwith the pale and concentrated on what has become to use Sir William Watson’s phrase, ‘scriptive English’.”Footnote 64 Contrary to Ervine, MacDiarmid believed that as English slowly became “more and more of a world-language,” the language was “progressively useless for higher literary purposes.”Footnote 65 Without the corrective pressures brought by Scottish, Welsh and Irish literatures, English had become a “far less concentrated and expressive language.”Footnote 66 British literature needed, he argued, not only strong infusions from a variety of local English dialects, but those Gaelic, Scots vernacular and Welsh literary traditions that had been “virtually proscribed by the ‘English Ascendancy’ policy.”Footnote 67 If even Scots alone had been “concurrently maintained with the development of ‘English Literature’,” he speculated

what the results today would have been … Would such a synthesis or duality of creative output (each element of it so very different that they could have complemented and ‘corrected’ each other in a unique and invaluable fashion) not have been infinitely better …?Footnote 68

Nonetheless, in light of the suggestions by the Board of Education, there seemed to be a greater openness to the possibility of better synthesis between the “diverse cultural elements and the splendid variety of languages and dialects, in the British Isles.”Footnote 69 The “children of tomorrow,” MacDiarmid observed, might yet be relieved of that “subtle but far-reaching psychological outrage which has been inflicted on many generations of pupils and seriously affected the quality and direction of those of them who had literary inclinations.”Footnote 70

Relief had already begun to appear in Ireland where the Irish language and literature were experiencing something of an unexpected resurgence in popularity and prestige. During the late nineteenth century, MacDiarmid noted,

highly-educated Irishmen were incapable of conceiving that in this whole corpus [of Gaelic literature] there was anything worth recovering, let alone an entire classical tradition, with its own elaborate technique, its own very different but (if only because incomparable) not inferior values which maintained itself intact – in active intercourse with all contemporary European developments, but unadulterated by them in the integrity of its own modes – for at least two thousand years.Footnote 71

This revitalization of an Irish “classical tradition” had not come about, however, through imitating or adapting the literatures of Greek or Roman antiquity: there had been no need to replicate either its forms or its content, for Irish Gaelic, MacDiarmid insisted, possessed an “alternative value of prime consequence when set against the Greek and Roman literatures which are all that most of us mean when we speak of ‘the Classics’.”Footnote 72 As MacDiarmid saw it, the meaning of ‘Classics’ had been grossly misinterpreted by poets and artists throughout the European Renaissance. In mimicking the formal trappings of Greek and Roman art, that which was in fact unique and ‘classical’ in their own native literatures had been filtered through false international standards. The canons of such neoclassicism, allegedly derived from Greece and Rome, were not classical in any sense but only imitative and productive of arid reformulations of antiquity. Citing Daniel Corkery’s study, The Hidden Ireland (1924), MacDiarmid declared that “Renaissance standards” were clearly “not Greek standards. Greek standards in their own time and place were standards arrived at by the Greek nation; they were national standards.”Footnote 73 “Caught up at second hand into the art-mind of Europe,” Greek principles were acclaimed universal, and under their influence “the youthfully tender national cultures of Europe” slowly atrophied.Footnote 74 The “standards of a dead nation” thus overwhelmed and “killed” the native genius of many latent ‘classical’ traditions in Europe.Footnote 75 Those “aptitudes through which they themselves had become memorable” were, bit by bit, washed away in largely botched efforts to imitate and “re-discover the secret power that lay behind Greek art.”Footnote 76 That power was never retrieved, MacDiarmid felt, and all attempts at doing so had produced only the “sham strength,” “uneasy energy” and “death in life” of “mere neo-classical” formalism.Footnote 77

Although imitations of the Greek and the Roman had helped snuff out forms of “national art” across Europe, MacDiarmid thought contemporary Scottish writers could challenge English dominance and break down its “limited channels” with a “new classicism today.”Footnote 78 Scottish classicism, however, could not be born of neoclassical rigor nor of mere nostalgia for the Celtic past. On the contrary, the country had to “get down to Ur-motives – to get back behind the Renaissance” if it were to “undo that deplorable whitewashing whereby Greek and Latin culture has prevented other European nations realizing their national genius in the way Greece and Rome themselves did.”Footnote 79 Rather than ape a foreign tradition, Scottish writers needed to do for their place, their time, what “Greece and Rome themselves” had achieved in their own.Footnote 80 In this endeavor MacDiarmid felt Ireland’s recent Literary Revival was instructive. While the reputedly Gaelic “values” prized by Yeats and others were, he confessed, “largely phoney and based on misunderstanding and falsification,” the “Celtic Twilight” had provided “probably the only way at first to get even a modicum of Gaelic culture across in an overwhelmingly hostile environment. It succeeded in doing so and led on to the genuine article.”Footnote 81 That genuine article was to be found not only in the apparent revival of the Irish language but also in new “re-translations” of Irish poetry that stressed not “the stars and shadows of Yeats” but the “hard realism and sharp satire” of Gaelic literature.Footnote 82 Yet, even with the gains made in Ireland, Scotland was

still practically a terra nullius. We have no study of it a thousandth part as good as Corkery’s or de Blacam’s or Douglas Hyde’s or Eleanor Hull’s books on Irish Literature; and non-Gaelic readers can still only approach the best Scottish Gaelic poems through such inadequate and distorting translations as were those, in Ireland, of Sir Samuel Ferguson and the beginners of the Irish Literary Revival, which have only to be compared with the re-translations, far ‘harder’ and truer to the original Gaelic spirit and free of the ‘Twilight’ nonsense, of such recent translators as Professor Bergin, Mr Robin Flower, or Mr James Stephens, to show how much has still to be done.Footnote 83

For too long Scottish poets had been focused on composing work in English and thus neglected an “all-in view of the literary production of our country.”Footnote 84 A “mere subsidiary to English letters,” Scottish literary culture had produced no seemingly “first-class work, indispensable or even relevant to the main line of English literary evolution.”Footnote 85 To escape this “creatively inferior” position, poets had to cut through the “crust of imitation” to manifest Scotland’s “potentialities of incalculable difference.”Footnote 86

Though recent Scottish writing had been too “‘hit and miss’ and unscientific” to advance a “renewed manifestation” of the classics in Scotland, MacDiarmid nonetheless set forth three conditions for a broad cultural renaissance.Footnote 87 First, the “rising tide of Scottish national consciousness” had to grow to greater heights: for too long, he argued, the central differences between the English and the Scottish imagination had been obscured by the “increasing Anglicization of the latter” even though Scotland’s “assimilation to the English” had never been effective or complete.Footnote 88 Many “deep-seated and unalterable psychological differences remain,” he argued, “Only the ‘surface minds’ (in the Bergsonian sense) of the Scots have been Englished.”Footnote 89 For that reason, it seemed possible – as a second condition – that the formal education at Scottish institutions could be recentered on the study of native literature. “No other people in the world,” he argued,

have ever preferred an alien literature to their own, and practically excluded the latter from the curricula of their schools and universities, in this way; and it is not to be wondered at that English literature, which has never suffered from any such neglect, should have acquired an importance out of all proportion to Scottish. The disparity between the two today may yet be redressed to some extent if anything like the same attention is given to Scottish literature in Scottish schools and elsewhere in Scotland as is presently given to English.Footnote 90

According to MacDiarmid, this “thorough-going reconcentration” would help spread an “all-in view of Scottish poetry,” not a “hopelessly one-sided” view but one that would see Scotland foster and maintain its own “separate literary tradition.”Footnote 91 To an extent, some of the groundwork for meeting these two conditions was already developing: the National Party was founded in June 1928, and as such the nationalist movement slowly began to gain better organization and wider public recognition. Its establishment brought together previously separated associations and political interest groups, and in so doing, forced these once “somewhat remote, residually cultural organization[s]” to generate a more concrete ideological platform with clear political objectives.Footnote 92 Despite these developments, however, no advent of a renaissance in Scotland could survive, MacDiarmid thought, without mending the radical division of Scottish languages. “The third point,” he suggested therefore, was

the necessity to bridge the gulf between Gaelic and Scots. Both have been tremendously handicapped by circumstances, and yet in their evolution, thus miserably attenuated and driven underground by external factors, they have continued to complement and correct each other in the most remarkable way. I am not going to make use of the terms ‘Romantic’ and ‘Classical’, although these dubious counters do roughly correspond to the Scots and Gaelic traditions in poetry respectively.Footnote 93

As he saw it, if contemporary writers were to somehow fuse together Scotland’s disseminated tongues, ranging from Highland Gaelic through varieties of Lallans, then they might “lead the way in the great new movement in poetry which is everywhere being sought for.”Footnote 94 To “effectively bridge this Gaelic-Scots gulf,” however, was a unique challenge, not least because the number of fluent speakers of Scottish Gaelic had been gradually diminishing for well over a century.Footnote 95 In 1891 more than 250,000 people spoke the language, but only forty years later that number had dropped precipitously: the British census of 1941 reported less than 130,000 speakers.Footnote 96 As Scottish Gaelic slowly became a cultural curiosity from a once Celtic past, its idiom also was said to have been “choked by an excessive formalism.”Footnote 97 By contrast, most varieties of Lowland Scots faced no threat of extinction, yet their parochial reputation preceded discussion of Lallans serving the national interest. Lack of standardization and a “formlessness” reigned over its twentieth-century writing.Footnote 98 Unfit for literary use, Scots had “gradually lost all the qualities befitting them for major expressive purposes rather than for homely, local uses.”Footnote 99 With the dialects of one language disseminated so widely and the other strangled with a slavish stress on form, English made inroads in a Scotland “miserably attenuated and driven underground by external factors.”Footnote 100 Still MacDiarmid believed the “role of our race in history – the special qualities and functions of Scottish nationality” could be articulated in a unifying national language with “necessary dynamic force.”Footnote 101 There would be no nostalgic return to Scottish Gaelic nor indeed a “puerile” retreat to the parochial – “prevalent conceptions” of Scottish language were “all out of date” and had to change, he thought; what was needed was the innovation of a new synthetic vernacular, a flexible idiom that could then merge various Scots dialects with Scottish Gaelic.Footnote 102 Only by bridging this gulf – by forging a new sense of Scottish hybridity – would a “new classicism” begin to take shape.Footnote 103 Advocates of Home Rule, notably Ruaraidh Erskine of Mar, had argued that Scots vernacular possessed no literary merit, that Highland Gaelic alone was fit for national purpose, but MacDiarmid insisted that a new vernacular could be forged if “all the disjecta membra of the Doric” were worked “back from the bits to the whole” through a “synthetic process.”Footnote 104 This remaking of Scots was no ploy to animate further literary provincialism. Scottish letters had already had enough of “Doric infantilism” with its “instinctive suspicion of cleverness and culture.”Footnote 105 What was needed was not further “mental inertia,” he argued, but an idiom that embraced “all progressive and creative tendencies” present in modern literature and forced Scottish poets from their “anti-cultural prejudices,” the

mental and spiritual agoraphobia which has driven them – and to all intents and purposes the rest of Scotland with them! – into a cul de sac, where they bury their minds (as ostriches bury their heads) in the shadow of the blind wall which blocks them out from literature and from life.Footnote 106

MacDiarmid derived his experimental vision for Scots in large part from Joyce’s Ulysses (1922), but it was also the Landsmål movement – perhaps Arne Garborg’s Odyssevskvædet, a Nynorsk verse translation of The Odyssey (1918) – which first showed him a synthetic language of national scope.Footnote 107 With the publication of “The Watergaw” in 1922, MacDiarmid began his own unique renovation of the Doric, and its growing “evolutionary momentum” would see him, over the next four years, “think himself back” into its spirit across three collections of synthetic poetry: Sangschaw (1925), Penny Wheep (1926) and, finally, his landmark long poem A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle (1926).Footnote 108 Composed in 2,685 lines, A Drunk Man was a “gallimaufry,” a satirical patois steeped in polyglot intrusions from other European languages.Footnote 109 The work’s linguistic heterogeneity, he claimed, “pit in a concrete abstraction / My country’s contrair qualities,” what the critic G. Gregory Smith (1865–1932) had called “the Caledonian antisyzygy,” the “zigzag of contradictions” and “sudden jostling of contraries” at work in the modern Scot.Footnote 110 Its “polemical restlessness” set out with some belligerence the “latent potentialities” of “distinctive Scots psychology.”Footnote 111 “(To prove my saul is Scots,” MacDiarmid declared,

I maun begin
Wi’ what’s still deemed Scots and the folk expect,
And spire up syne by visible degrees
To heichts whereo’ the fules ha’e never recked.
But aince I get them there I’ll whummle them
And souse the craturs in the nether deeps,
– For it’s nae choice, and ony man s’ud wish
To dree the goat’s weird tae as weel’s the sheep’s!)Footnote 112

Though he thought his work had drawn on Scotland’s “common trough,” MacDiarmid’s ‘synthesis’ did not fare well commercially, and A Drunk Man was met with some vociferous, critical reviews.Footnote 113 Some considered it sloppy, confusing and peculiar – “It is idle to attempt a coherent account of a poem so deliberately and provocatively incoherent” – while others castigated MacDiarmid for the “constant plangent grieving over his inhibitions.”Footnote 114 Nonetheless, the poem had many early admirers, among them the Irish writer and ancient Greek enthusiast Oliver St John Gogarty, (who lauded A Drunk Man for its “wonderfully flexible and containing form”) and the poet Edwin Muir (who praised its “instinctive rightness”).Footnote 115 “The form of the present poem,” Muir observed,

fixed by the psychological state of the principal character, permits him to express with their appropriate degree of conviction his various intuitions of the world, some of them realistic, some of them fantastic or grotesque. The scheme of the poem might be called indifferently psychological or philosophical; it is the picture of a mind; it is an image of the world as symbolized in the thistle. The world changes its shape, is lost, appears again as Mr M‘Diarmid follows the transitions, daring and yet natural, in the mind of the monologist.Footnote 116

Yet Muir also detected “frequent carelessness of style” in A Drunk Man, a “hasty, slipshod manner,” which suggested, perhaps, that this artificial fusion of dialects could not be sustained as a shared language across Scottish literature.Footnote 117 “Hugh M‘Diarmid,” he later asserted,

has recently tried to revive [Scots Vernacular] by impregnating it with all the contemporary influences of Europe one after another, and thus galvanize it into life by a series of violent shocks. In carrying out this experiment he has written some remarkable poetry; but he has left Scottish verse very much where it was before. For the major forms of poetry rise from the collision between emotion and intellect on a plane where both meet on equal terms; and it can never come into existence where the poet feels in one language and thinks in another, even though he should translate his thoughts into the language of his feelings. Scots poetry can only be revived, that is to say, when Scotsmen begin to think naturally in Scots. The curse of Scottish literature is the lack of a whole language, which finally means the lack of a whole mind.Footnote 118

According to Muir, MacDiarmid’s experiments with synthetic language, however intriguing, were “an isolated phenomenon” unsuited to creating a “complete and homogeneous Scottish literature.”Footnote 119 The “landscape” of its literary world “is not noticeably diversified with poets chanting in synthetic Scots”; he explained: “the village bards who have excruciated us for so long still calmly proceed on their traditional way.”Footnote 120 To have “a complete and homogeneous” literature, writers had to choose “a complete and homogeneous language,” either Gaelic or English: “There seems to me to be no choice except for these: no half-way house if Scotland is ever to reach its complete expression in literature.”Footnote 121 Although the country once possessed a vernacular in which “everything can be expressed that a people wishes to express … we cannot return to it,” Muir insisted, “to think so is to misunderstand history.”Footnote 122 By the time Robert Burns (1759–96) began composing in Scots poetry, the vernacular was said to have already “lost its richness and thinned to a trickle. It could express feeling, but not sustained thought.”Footnote 123 Dispersed as a variety of provincial dialects, the vernacular had become “what the babbling of children is to the speech of grown men and women; it is blessedly ignorant of the wider spheres of thought and passion, and when it touches upon them its response is as irresponsible as that of the irremediably immature.”Footnote 124 Doubtful that Scottish Gaelic provided a better alternative, Muir saw English as the “only practicable” choice for the country.Footnote 125 “This may be a regrettable fact, but it must be accepted,” he explained, “for there is no Scots language to which we can pass over from the restricted and local province of dialect: there is only English.”Footnote 126 There was no present impediment to a national literature, he maintained: the country had simply to “assert its identity” in English following after “the contemporary case of Ireland.”Footnote 127Irish nationality cannot be said to be any less intense than ours,” he explained, “but Ireland produced a national literature not by clinging to Irish dialect, but by adopting English and making it into a language fit for all its purposes. The poetry of Mr Yeats belongs to English literature, but no one would deny that it belongs to Irish literature pre-eminently and essentially.”Footnote 128 Yeats’ example had demonstrated clearly that, even with the strictures of English, new and appropriate forms of expression could be found to express a variety of ‘Celtic identities’ on the British Isles. The tragedy of contemporary Scottish writing lay, as Muir saw it, not in any failure to revive Gaelic or reimagine Scots but with those who clung mulishly to the “bits and patches” of fading dialects while ignoring the precedent of the Irish Revival.Footnote 129

MacDiarmid abhorred the “absurd pro-English prejudice” of Muir’s “sudden attack,” his “stab-in-the-back” betrayal.Footnote 130 He proclaimed him an enemy of Scotland, viciously casting doubt on the Orcadian’s national loyalty and critical skill:

Scotland’s worst enemies have always been Scotsmen themselves, and it is therefore not surprising to find a Scottish writer going far farther in his denigration of Scottish language and literature than even Sir John Squire … Mr Muir is not exactly a Scotsman himself. He is an Orcadian, and in arguing as he does that a writer in Scots handicaps a critic because the critic must criticise in a different language to that in which the work is written he unwittingly destroys the supposed value of his own remarks on Scots literature, which, by his own criterion, he is incapable of judging save through the disabling medium of a different language. The argument is a nonsensical one.Footnote 131

For MacDiarmid, Muir’s insistence that remaking Scots was a “petty provincial fad” was tantamount to a “wholesale attack” on both his poetic idiom and the national aspirations of Scotland.Footnote 132 Muir’s “contemptuous dismissal” simply reflected a characteristically “English inability to tolerate anything that does not ‘do pujah’ to themselves. It is this inordinate English ascendancy policy,” MacDiarmid complained, “that has determined all their history, and accounts for their ruthless treatment of Irish and Scottish and Welsh Gaelic, the Scots vernacular, and their own dialects.”Footnote 133 Yet such a “snobbish English Tendency,” he argued, had certain key facts wrong, for

the Normans at the time of the conquest were as inferior in literary culture and barbarous compared with the inhabitants of England as the Romans were inferior to the Greeks when they made themselves masters of Greece. In precisely the same way it is true that there is nothing inherently inadequate in Scots for the expression of the full range of modern literary purposes – the fact that Scots is not used for a fraction of these is due to other factors than its own inadequacy altogether.Footnote 134

Furthermore, the examples Muir had offered of Yeats and the Irish Revival were equally mistaken, not least because Yeats himself “was an enthusiastic supporter of the Lallans movement and used to go about reciting certain Lallans lyrics which he greatly admired and had memorised.”Footnote 135 Moreover, “the whole Celtic Twilight business” had at best, he claimed, “only tinkered with the fringes” of an authentic renaissance in Celtic literature, perhaps even “dodging … the issue.”Footnote 136 No new reign of classicism in Irish literature had emerged from the behest of Yeats’ literary politics, MacDiarmid argued, and the poet himself had admitted as much, having often confessed profound disappointment with Revival-era writing, writing that spoke in the

sweet insinuating feminine voice of the dwellers in the country of shadows & hollow images. I have dwelt there too long not to dread all that comes out of it. We possess nothing but the will & we must never let the children of vague desires breathe upon it nor the waters of sentiment rust the terrible mirror of its blade.Footnote 137

For MacDiarmid, Yeats had recognized too late the need for a “Gaelic classical tradition,” a tradition forged not with “fine-spun, tenuous, shadowy stuff” – the “accepted products” of Revival – but with a “distinctive Irish-English,” a hard, hybrid idiom whose “variety” and “virility” could “get back, through the twilight, to the Gaelic sunshine.”Footnote 138

By the time his fierce debate with Muir took place, however, MacDiarmid’s incendiary approach to art, life and politics had already embroiled him in significant turmoil of both a political and a personal nature. By the early 1930s his thirteen-year marriage to Margaret Grieve, née Skinner, was disintegrating as broader support for his involvement in the nationalist movement was evaporating as well.Footnote 139 In spring 1933 John MacDonald MacCormick (1904–61), secretary for the Council of the National Party, notified him that the party had declined his renewal of membership.Footnote 140 MacDiarmid’s desire to use “the National Party as a means of introducing Communism into Scotland,” his penchant for preaching “from the Nationalist platform Scots Communism, Republicanism etc.,” was, MacCormick explained, “completely at variance with the Policy of the National Party,” and so by a vote of fifty-five against thirty-eight, MacDiarmid was deemed a political isolate, ineligible for renewed membership.Footnote 141 His strong left-wing sympathies as well as his propensity to savage any opponent were considered too great a liability for the National Party’s plan to merge with the more conservative, more unionist Scottish Party led by John Kevan MacDowall (1891–1958). As MacCormick put it, MacDiarmid was “politically one of the greatest handicaps with which any national movement could have been burdened.”Footnote 142

Grieve had joined our platform and in characteristic manner had hurled contempt at everything English … His love of bitter controversy, his extravagant and self-assertive criticism of the English, and his woolly thinking, which could encompass within one mind the doctrines of both Major Douglas and Karl Marx, were taken by many of the more sober-minded of the Scots as sufficient excuse to condemn the whole case for Home Rule out of hand.Footnote 143

MacDiarmid, in reaction, poured his venom into a series of Scots verses, mocking ‘King John’ MacCormick and his band of moderate Home Rule enthusiasts. That “troupe of gibbering lunatics” had convinced him that there was “nae ither country ’neath the sun / That’s betrayed the human spirit as Scotland’s done, / And still the betrayal proceeds to the complete / Dehumanisin’ o’ the Scottish breed.”Footnote 144 Ostracized, he felt that “Nae man, nae spiritual force, can live / In Scotland lang,” and so he encouraged his contemporaries to disavow the National Party:

For God’s sake leave it tae.
Mak’ a warld o’ your ain like me, and if
‘Idiot’ or ‘lunatic’ the Scots folk say
At least you’ll ken – owre weel to argue back –
You’d be better that than lackin’ a’ they lack.Footnote 145

In remaking his own world – his political and aesthetic vision as well as his domestic world – MacDiarmid sought isolation and self-imposed exile, moving with his Cornish companion Valda Trevlyn (1906–89) to Whalsay in summer 1933. The “Outer Isles,” exclaimed Ezra Pound, “How the hell you are ever to find out anything in Outer Isles with nothing but the shit of Fleet Street and the Pooping of McFarty and Co. governing 96% of British printing kzrrist alone xknoze.”Footnote 146 Despite Pound’s exasperation at this move – he risked becoming, like Basil Bunting (1900–85) off on the Canary Islands, “no more central” Pound warned – MacDiarmid remained on Whalsay for nearly nine years, his imagination kindled by the strange visual character of the Shetland and Faroes’ ‘stone’ worlds.Footnote 147 Its “impression of barrenness and monotony” was deceptive, for in radiating a “very moderate aspect,” its apparent “absence of variety of colour and form and the landscape, however different to that which one been accustomed, has its own completeness and complexity.”Footnote 148 Its “Deictic, fiducial stones” engendered something of a creative renewal, and thus MacDiarmid began experimenting with a “synthetic English – not Scots,” a new, more multilingual ‘world’ language that ‘got’ into

this stone world now.
Ratchel, striae, relationships of tesserae,
      Innumerable shades of grey,
      Innumerable shapes,
And beneath them all a stupendous unity,
Infinite movement visibly defending itself
Against all the assaults of weather and water,
Simultaneously mobilised at full strength
At every point of the universal front,
      Always at the pitch of its powers,
      The foundation and end of all life.
I try them with the old Norn words – hraun
Duss, rønis, queedaruns, kollyarun;
They hvarf from me in all directions
Over the hurdifell – klett, millya hellya, hellyina bretta,
Hellyina wheeda, hellyina grø, bakka, ayre, –
      And lay my world in kolgref.Footnote 149

Moving beyond the Doric of A Drunk Man and Cencrastus, he brought his “aesthesis in vain to bear” on Whalsay, retrieving many languages, living and extinct, to make a ‘learnèd’ poetry of “kindred form … Alpha and Omega, the Omnific Word. These stones have the silence of supreme creative power.”Footnote 150 He became “an angle-titch to all” the stones’ “corrugations and coigns,” and as his interest in linguistic hybridization grew further, MacDiarmid began to insist that a new poetics of world language might, in fact, give voice to forms of genius present in all literatures and nationalities.Footnote 151 In juxtaposing “alternative value(s) of prime consequence,” poetry – perhaps the mind itself, MacDiarmid suggested – could be unshackled from “our helpless submission to a fraction of our expressive possibilities.Footnote 152 “[D]espite minor differences,” all restrictive forms of dialect and standardized language, he explained,

employ only a very small fraction – and for the most part all the same fraction – of the expressive resources of the language in question … The reason why nineteen-twentieths of any language are never used is shrewdly related to the problem of the freedom of the consciousness. As Dostoevski said, all human organizations tend to stabilise and perpetuate themselves – to become a ‘church’ and to short-circuit human consciousness. This is most marked in our language-habit.Footnote 153

The “particular habits of intellection” encouraged by industrial capitalism and the concomitant dominance of English had choked the public with “incrustations” masked with the names of thought and reason, for “what we call ‘thought’,” he explained, “is generally only ‘rationalism’ of our preconceived or inherent prejudices, or limitations, conscious or unconscious, of our powers of thought to suit our interests.”Footnote 154 Drawing on the metaphysics of Bergson, MacDiarmid argued that the “misleading superficial ‘crusts’” of prejudice had to be “broken through to release the dynamic spirit which has no more to do with these incrustations than a running stream has to do with a layer of ice which forms on its surface.”Footnote 155 To unleash this kind of dynamism, one had to seek le mot libre, a “‘freedom of speech’ in the real meaning of the term – something completely opposed to our language habits and freely utilising not only all the vast vocabulary these automatically exclude, but illimitable powers of word formation in keeping with the free genius of any language.”Footnote 156 Thus, in contrast to the Basic English encouraged by Ogden and Richards, MacDiarmid felt that no adequate ‘world’ language could take the shape of rudimentary, seemingly straightforward intercultural communication. On the contrary, given the sheer diversity of language and literatures, only a difficult synthetic medium could resist the ‘imperial’ or broad ‘ascendancy’ model of international language, one which would see a single language feign translation of all human cultures, nationalities and knowledge through its idiom.

While MacDiarmid’s vision for this collective medium was more literary, its politics more expressly aesthetic, he drew on parallel, practical models of ‘Interlanguage’, especially those advanced by contemporaneous communist thinkers in Britain. One was the suffragette and anti-fascist agitator E. Sylvia Pankhurst (1882–1960), whose 1926 book Delphos: The Future of International Language bemoaned that “language-barriers” still obstructed the “desire for world-friendship long latent amongst the kindlier and wiser people of all nations, and now quickened to an ardent flame by the agonies of the World-war.”Footnote 157 Pankhurst believed, nonetheless, that the cause of “world-friendship” could be helped, in part, by developing an international “Interlanguage,” if such a tongue could indeed “provide the greatest possible intelligibility: therefore it must reach the widest possible internationality.”Footnote 158 In no way could it be characterized as global if other distinctively national modes of expression were eradicated through the official imposition of a more ‘basic’ form.

The Interlanguage cannot be the creation of Governments. No Government attempts to dictate in regard to the grammar and syntax of the national tongue. Even in France such matters are left to the Académie. Government schools everywhere teach according to the generally accepted canons established by those who make a special study of the given subject. So with the Interlanguage: it will develop with the general consensus of world-opinion, led by the specialists. Its discovery and perfection must be mainly the work of philologists, working, not as propagandists and politicians, but as scientists and students. After the philologists will come the stylists; the poets, and thinkers.Footnote 159

According to Pankhurst, no national tongue could be especially equitable serving as a “world auxiliary” language: to encourage global prosperity, the Interlanguage had to emerge from “definite scientific principles,” the “general consensus of world philological opinion” and not forms of political and linguistic aggression.Footnote 160 To this end she promoted endowing “interlanguage research” and establishing “[c]hairs of synthetic philology … in all universities.”Footnote 161 Far from antagonizing existing national languages, the Interlanguage would operate “much like Latin,” the “master-key to the most universally employed of the great speech-families” and would engender “a readier and deeper understanding” of many national tongues.Footnote 162 Employed in separate fields of human endeavor, national and international language could therefore work in harmony, she argued, their knowledge together doing much to “accelerate the spread of learning and the breaking down of social barriers.”Footnote 163

Probably fifty (perhaps even thirty) years hence no one will be troubled by learning the Interlanguage. It will be acquired at the toddling age, side by side with the mother-tongue. The schools will be wholly bi-lingual. The Interlanguage and the native language will be used in teaching children, who will enter school with a familiar-speaking knowledge of both. For arithmetic, geometry, mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, the geography and history of foreign countries, the Interlanguage will be the vehicle of instruction, the national language being employed for the literature, history, and geography of the native land. Elocution will be practised in both tongues.Footnote 164

MacDiarmid felt likewise: a synthetic ‘world’ language would not threaten parochial idioms or diminish the importance of national literary expression. On the contrary, its essential quality would be its sheer complexity, its ability to house the exceptional character of all literatures while creating a “vivid sense” of their “very different historical, psychological and practical affiliations.”Footnote 165 These polyglossic aspirations moved MacDiarmid beyond heteroglossia, synthesizing not dialects of the same tongue but the very ‘classical’ essences drawn from “the whole range of welt-literatur” and its forms of “many-sided knowledge.”Footnote 166 For MacDiarmid, no conflict existed between this vision and the nationalist ambitions of his early verse, for “the Communist Party of Great Britain,” he noted, was “the only party which has the restoration to Scotland of a Parliament of its own as a plank in its platform.”Footnote 167 More than any other progressive party, Communist Britain understood that Scotland “with its splendid old Radical and Left Wing tendency” had an essential role to play in a “United Front against Fascism and War,” for if the country were to “pull its full weight on the side of Peace and the Commonwealth of Mankind at this great turning-point in human history,” then the “possibility of the development of the Scottish culture” might be more fully ensured.Footnote 168 While a certain “fascisising pseudo-satisfaction” – that of Oswald Mosley (1896–1980) and the British Union of Fascists – was on the rise, even among some Scottish nationalists, MacDiarmid considered his “adequate synthetic medium” an essential way by which human consciousness might be freed from the bonds that had long “cribbed, cabbined, confined” expression among the disenfranchised and impoverished.Footnote 169 Its idiom could help throw off “the bias given to human mentality by economic, political, religious, and other factors (including above all the vis inertia),” thus fulfilling Lenin’s dictum that communism “must not abandon the old.”Footnote 170 “Communism,” he had declared – in remarks MacDiarmid fondly repeated –

becomes an empty phrase, a mere façade, and the Communist a mere bluffer, if he has not worked over in his consciousness the whole inheritance of human knowledge … made his own, and worked over anew, all that was of value in the more than two thousand years of development of human thought.Footnote 171

However marginal a country’s wealth, military power or global prestige might be, each “nation, once fully realised on its own terms” could articulate its political genius and aesthetic potential free from imperial forms of interference, whether such forms were officially imposed or culturally inherited.Footnote 172

Given such influence, it is of little surprise that MacDiarmid hoped to wean ‘classicism’ and the ‘classical’ off abstract principles drawn from Greek and Roman civilization. Imitating or conforming to a kind of marmoreal, or neoclassical, reception of antiquity would inevitably limit vital expressions of contemporary national culture. “I have,” he explained,

no more use for ‘consistency’ of this kind than I have for any other shibboleth which tries to confine the infinite vitality and potentiality of humanity to any particular ‘rut’, and my objection to any such process is precisely the root of my nationalism. I do not believe in – or in the desirability of – any ‘likemindness’, any ‘common purpose’, any ‘ultimate objective’, but simply in ‘life and all that more abundantly’, in the lifting of all suppressions and thwarting and warping agencies. My communism in this sense is purely Platonic.Footnote 173

Despite these aspirations, however, Hugh MacDiarmid was no trained linguist. Christopher Grieve had come into the world with few social or educational advantages, having been raised by working-class parents in the mill town of Langholm. He had little exposure to the classics or even to contemporary European languages in his schooling at Langholm Academy. When he did move to Edinburgh in 1908 to train as a teacher at Broughton Junior Student Center – an institution whose curriculum was said to include the “Liberal Arts subjects – English, Languages, Maths, Science, History, Classics, Geography and Art” – the instruction he received was little more than basic.Footnote 174 Nonetheless, MacDiarmid continued to associate a certain creative magnetism (as well as his own frustration, sexual and otherwise) with the presence of classics, Greek in particular. He wrote later how

… greatly I love to hear a girl
Back from three years at school
Say to her father in fluent Greek
‘Morning, old lad: like your eggs fried or boiled?
Going to be cursed hot to-day
But thank Heaven I’ve nothing to do
But grill ἡλιάζω on the lawn
And smoke καπνίζω a handful
Of cigarettes σκιρτεῖν or χειροπηδᾶν’
– All in Plato’s or Xenophon’s style and vocabulary,
Only borrowing from the modern language
The few words necessary
For purely 20th century things,
And wish I might be found so speaking too
fhios dom fhéin some fine day
Tho’ I appreciate Euripides’ use
Of archaic diction too,
But alas I can speak no Greek,
And am now too old to learn.
And nil leiyeas ogam air.Footnote 175

MacDiarmid left Broughton without receiving a certificate to qualify him as a teacher. He was glad of it, though, it seems, for he did not want to become institutionalized by the “Scottish teaching profession,” by those “hopeless Safety-Firsters … conscienceless agents of the Powers-that-Be” who continually bend “the knee to Baal in this connexion or that, or grovelling together, obliged, in order to secure their jobs, to tout and belly-crawl.”Footnote 176 Grieve’s failures with formal schooling, however, only emboldened his belief that Scotland’s guardian institutions remained irrepressibly Anglicized and British; they were therefore not suited to the educational needs of the more ‘authentic’ Scottish student, a student he considered not unlike himself. From a young age he had “an unusual readiness of speech,” “a fluency in the use of a very extensive vocabulary,” which later helped him become an ardent autodidact.Footnote 177 MacDiarmid’s profound self-regard often saw him preen:

I have never met anyone who has read anything like as much as I have, though I have known most of our great bookmen; and it is a common experience of mine to have professors and other specialists in this or that language or literature, or in subjects ranging from geology to cerebral localization or the physiological conditions of originality of thought, admit that I am far better read even in their own particular subject than they are themselves. The range of reference in all my books bears this out.Footnote 178

MacDiarmid’s “pugnacious pride” about his learnedness masked, as Scott Lyall suggests, an “insecurity as to the absence of an institutional basis for such learning,” but, however much he fretted about his own lack of formal instruction, MacDiarmid took a decidedly dim view of the “Scottish Educational System as a whole,” believing it had “been utterly de-Scoticized and adapted in the most shocking fashion to suit the exigencies of English Imperialism and the Capitalist system.”Footnote 179 For that reason, in part, he felt that his “interest in welt-literatur,” his own half-read exposure to many languages and literatures, was more than enough to carry synthetic verse “much further than it has yet been carried by anyone else known to me.”Footnote 180

As MacDiarmid pushed ahead with his synthetic experiments, he began composing in 1937 a sprawling poem, Cornish Heroic Song for Valda Trevlyn, dedicated to his second wife.Footnote 181 Drawing on “corrective” ‘classical’ values from literatures past and present, MacDiarmid no longer sought, as he had done for Scots, simply “a form of Doric which is no dialect in particular” but a “new literary language” drawn from many expressions of human speech.Footnote 182 In so doing, however, he felt himself at odds with, if not a rival of, the prior examples of Celtic revival and nationalist renaissance, especially the example of Yeats and the Irish Literary Revival.Footnote 183 As Hart has noted, MacDiarmid’s earliest attempts to remake Scots came at something of cross purposes, marked with an ambivalence as to whether he wanted revival and preservation – a “project of linguistic recovery” – or something aimed more purely at experimentation and invention, what Hart calls the “avant-garde hypostatization of linguistic scholarship.”Footnote 184 As the writing of Cornish Song progressed, MacDiarmid pushed the impulse towards revival and preservation aside emphatically, and instead embraced a transnational cosmopolitanism modeled on Arne Garborg (1851–1924) and Joyce whose “European range in technique and ideas” had “striking affinities” with his own practice.Footnote 185 “Theoretically – and to some extent practically,” he told The Free Man,

I go further and agree with Joyce in regard to the utilisation of a multi-linguistic medium – a synthetic use, not of any particular language, but of all languages. Personally, I write in English, or in dialect Scots, or in synthetic Scots – or in synthetic English – with bits of other languages. I recognise the values of any language or any dialect for certain purposes, but where I am concerned with the free consciousness I cannot employ these – I must then find an adequate synthetic medium.Footnote 186

Likening himself to Joyce, MacDiarmid insisted (often in pseudonymous reviews praising his own work) that “in cerebral and psychological interpretation” he was doing for Scotland something “like what Mr Joyce has done for Ireland,” for “Mr M‘Diarmid thus resembles Mr Joyce in his attitude to the religion of his countrymen, to sexual problems, to political and cultural nationalism, to humbug, hypocrisy, and sentimentalism, [and] in his preoccupation with ‘interior revelation.’”Footnote 187 Whether or not MacDiarmid’s work reflected an authentically Joycean character, he did go far, by sheer number, with his synthetic idiom, producing between the years of 1937 and 1939 more than 20,000 lines of verse, an amount that showed, he claimed, how he had left “Joyce at the starting-post so far as the use of multi-linguistics is concerned.”Footnote 188

Yet, as critics of Cornish Heroic Song have suggested, MacDiarmid’s attempts at ‘world’ poetry still remained clearly marked with “the ineradicability of English.”Footnote 189 His idiom was not so much a global language inflected with a wide range of syntactic patterns and complex code-switching but instead an “English coloured with exotic quotations.”Footnote 190 When faced with the poem’s synthesis, English readers can with relative ease, as Hart observes,

recognize textual representations of nonstandard language precisely because of the homogeneity of modern spellings and the parallel homogeneity of phonemic representations of the nonstandard. Likewise, the deviations from English that are such a marked feature of MacDiarmid’s poetry are largely sketched against more familiar syntactic and phonological canvasses, so that his “World Language” requires that we own a good dictionary (or have access to Google) but not, in Kamau Brathwaite’s words, that we reprogram the very “software of the language.”Footnote 191

MacDiarmid’s idiom – suffused in foreign intrusions – did ensure that his verse would appear “lexically deterritorialized” for English readers, especially when compared with other conventional or seemingly ‘accessible’ forms of poetry, yet it is important to note that this ‘deterritorialization’ was not absolute.Footnote 192 His idiom does not require to any substantive degree the parallel activation of multiple languages, semantically or phonologically, nor does it effectively generate meaning across multiple tongues – not as Joyce had tried perhaps to do more effectively through the “strange slithery slipping, dreamy nightmarish prose” of Anna Livia Plurabelle.Footnote 193 Its idioglossic fusion radiated what Æ called “wild meanings arising out of arcane affinities with other words, the whole gurgling and slipping like water.”Footnote 194 Nevertheless, though many have thought the poem’s apparent “erudition … sometimes bogus,” MacDiarmid still believed his “huge” Cornish Heroic Song had “worked out all the interconnexions,” the “mutual inter-activity” needed, to exorcise the “linguistic imperialism” of English ascendancy.Footnote 195 That tendency with its “magnificent insularity / Which is the pride of the Anglo-Saxon mind,” he wrote, had been seen squarely in calls that Basic English be adopted “as the supra-national language,” a reality which

Would imply the acknowledgment of Anglo-Saxon supremacy.
The proof of this is that all arguments adduced
By Professor Richards and his colleagues
Are all based on our manifold superiorities:
We are richer, more numerous,
More civilised, more virtuous than the rest!
– All dreams of ‘imperialism’ must be exorcised,
Including linguistic imperialism, which sums up all the rest.Footnote 196

Criticism of Basic English notwithstanding, the synthetic poetry MacDiarmid was producing with a “vast international vocabulary” reflected parallel schemes for summing “up all the rest.”Footnote 197 The self-taught insularity and crippling isolation MacDiarmid experienced on the Shetlands made him more vulnerable, it seems, to delusions of apocalyptic clairvoyance: the “multitudinous waves of speech” his verse possessed had “language elements,” he fantasized, which “effectively combined” could “utterly change the nature of man.Footnote 198

Even as the recently-discovered plant growth hormone,
Idole-acetic acid, makes holly-cuttings in two months
Develop roots that would normally take two years to grow,
So perchance can we outgrow time
And suddenly fulfil all history
Established and to come.Footnote 199

Addressing not just the Scottish but Anglophobic nationalists drawn from across “Cornwall, Scotland, Ireland, Wales,” he exhorted “young Celts arise with quick tongues intact” to do what their “elders” lying “tongueless under the ocean of history” had reputedly not done: claim alternative ‘classical’ values and rive away “the heavy oily blood-rich tongue” of the “white whale,” England’s “hideous khaki Empire.”Footnote 200 By effectively depleting any clear connection to Greek and Roman literature from the ‘classical’ and ‘classicism’, MacDiarmid dislodged classics from the once seminal role it played in enfranchising the English ruling class; the culturally enforced guardianship of the Celtic and other minority literatures was to be deposed. As the “identity-forming power” of classics shifted elsewhere, its authority was employed to serve ‘new’ postcolonial constituencies, where “Anglocentric” hegemony was not reinforced or seen as a given condition of British imperial inheritance.Footnote 201 “Red blasts of the fire come quivering – yes, we dare,” MacDiarmid declared,

To shoot out our tongues under the very noses of the English.
The fate of our forefathers has not made us afraid
To open our mouths and show our red glory of health;
Nay, we sail again, laughing, on the crown of the sea,
“Not so much bound to any haven ahead
As rushing from all havens astern,”
The deepest blood-being of the white race crying to England
“Consummatum Est! Your Imperial Pequod is sunk.”Footnote 202

That his global synthesis possessed an eschatological vision, heralding new international unity, that this vision moreover did not subject particular forms of national expression to a forced assimilation imposed by “supra-national language,” was never in doubt for MacDiarmid.Footnote 203 Yet the difficulty of his synthetic English – to say little of the fact that his work was forged in radical isolation – made finding a venue for publication troublesome, even among those considered more sympathetic to the avant-garde. Writing to Eliot in February 1938, MacDiarmid proposed a large, 4,000 to 5,000 line section of Cornish Heroic Song for publication in The Criterion, a portion he had re-entitled Mature Art. The work was

a “hapax legomenon of a poem – an exercise in schlabone, bordatini, and prolonged scordatura” and it is, I am very safe in saying, a very advanced example of ‘learned poetry’, much of it written in a multi-linguistic diction embracing not only many European but also Asiatic languages, and prolific in allusions and ‘synthetic poetry’, demanding for their complete comprehension an extremely detailed knowledge of numerous fields of world-literature. At the same time the logic of the whole is quite clear, and most of the poem should be understood by almost anyone who reads while he runs – if he runs fast enough.Footnote 204

Eliot responded politely, noting that, while his poem appeared to be an “extremely interesting, individual, and indeed very remarkable piece of work,” The Criterion could not afford to print it in its entirety: “There can be no doubt that it is something that ought to be published, but the question is how, and by whom … I cannot get my colleagues to consider undertaking a work in verse of this size. I cannot afford to lose much money for them on poetry.”Footnote 205 Instead, for The Criterion’s final issue of January 1939, Eliot chose to publish only a small, nine-page excerpt – the “First Appendix (Cornwall)” – of MacDiarmid’s “extremely long unpublished poem.”Footnote 206 Later, larger portions of Mature Art would appear in 1955 when MacDiarmid pledged himself to the “forward-straining vision” of Joyce, refashioning parts of his long poetic sequence as In Memoriam James Joyce, From A Vision of World Language.Footnote 207 The initial difficulty, however, of finding a publisher – or indeed of appealing to a wide audience – did not faze MacDiarmid. Years earlier he had scoffed at the suggestion that A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle ought to be divided into sections for the common reader. Such divisions would simply be “‘hand-rails’” to “raise false hopes in the ingenuous minds of readers whose rational intelligences are all too insusceptible of realising the enormities of which ‘highbrows’ of my type are capable – even in Scotland.”Footnote 208 In similar fashion he once demanded that the nationalist periodical The Voice of Scotland (of which he was then editor) maintain its “highly specialised appeal to the ablest minds,” impacting opinion solely among the social, political and artistic elite, not among commoners.Footnote 209 A “continuity of culture” could be maintained not by popular acclamation but “by a very small number of people indeed – and these not necessarily the best equipped with worldly advantages.”Footnote 210 Far from shirking the ambition of Cornish Heroic Song, MacDiarmid plunged himself further into work. Beginning a memoir, Lucky Poet (1943), to recount his “desperate” struggles, he cast himself as a ‘learned’ poet then embarking “on a course … in the teeth of all the opposition of those who hate versatility,” and versatility, MacDiarmid boasted, was at the heart of Cornish Heroic Song: its virtuosic synthesis of languages deployed nothing less than what Coleridge called the mind’s “prime & loftiest Faculty,” the “esemplastic power” of human imagination.Footnote 211 “Is this not what we require?” he declared,

Coleridge’s esemplasy and coadunation
Multeity in unity – not the Unity resulting
But the mode of the conspiration
(Schelling’s In-Eins-Bildung Kraft)
Of the manifold to the one,
For, as Rilke says, the poet must know everything,
Be μυριόνους (a phrase I have borrowed
From a Greek monk, who applies it
To a Patriarch of Constantinople),
Or, as the Bhagavad-Gita puts it, visvato-mukha.Footnote 212

While Coleridge had coined “esemplastic” from the Greek, εἰς ἕν πλάττειν – an anglicization of Friedrich Schelling’s notion, Ineinsbildung (the so-called interweaving of opposites) – MacDiarmid saw in the neologism further evidence that his synthetic techniques – those he had worked out with the “sudden jostling of contraries” of the “Caledonian antisyzygy” – had broader reach across history.Footnote 213 According to Coleridge it was Shakespeare, above all, who possessed not merely “poetic genius” but the “power of reducing multitude into unity of effect … modifying a series of thoughts by some one predominant thought or feeling.”Footnote 214 That fact made Shakespeare “our myriad-minded” poet – an ἀνὴρ μυριόνους – whose mastery of “combination” and “intertexture” authenticated the aphorism (sometimes attributed to the Roman grammarian Pseudo-Acro): “Poeta nascitur non fit.”Footnote 215

Yet the ‘myriad-mindedness’ that Christopher Grieve was eager to arrogate to his own pseudonymous mask, Hugh MacDiarmid, was not as inborn as the grammarian imagined but one which MacDiarmid had acquired on the Shetlands, where by January 1942 he had spent nearly nine years “rowing about on lonely waters; lying brooding in uninhabited islands; seeing no newspapers and in other ways cutting myself completely away from civilised life.”Footnote 216 As a student at Langholm Academy, Grieve had been considered “utterly unamenable to discipline of any kind,” so much so that his headmaster spoke of a “terrible vein of recklessness” that ran through him.Footnote 217 It was the development of Grieve’s irreverence, though, that drove him to invent Hugh MacDiarmid and his ‘myriad-minded’ global classicism. That classicism prized, he thought, not neoclassical forgeries of the Greek and Roman but a broad openness to the possibility that all nations could realize their genius “to classic effect as the Greeks themselves did.”Footnote 218 However, even as MacDiarmid desired “something far more radical than a return to any ‘classical’ formalism,” he himself possessed little fluency with those modern and ancient languages on which he purported to draw to classic effect.Footnote 219 Yet still he bullishly called on these, convinced that his being “an omnivorous reader” would help him bring together “vital contemporary poetry no matter in what European country or language it was being produced.”Footnote 220 Thus while a sense of being cut off from an operative “continuity of culture” always haunted MacDiarmid, that “remoteness” proved to be a “stimulating rather than obstructive” force for his work.Footnote 221 Opposing “intellectual apathy” he claimed to work with

... material founded, like Gray’s, on difficult knowledge
And its metres those of a poet
Who has studied Pindar and Welsh poetry,
But, more than that, its words coming from a mind
Which has experienced the sifted layers on layers
Of human lives – aware of the innumerable dead
And the innumerable to-be-born,
The voice of the centuries, of Shakespeare’s history plays
Concentrated and deepened,
‘The breath and finer spirit of all knowledge,
The impassioned expression
Which is in the countenance of all science.’Footnote 222

Although MacDiarmid’s forms of linguistic appropriation were compromised by his aggression, they still nonetheless fertilized powerful synthetic experiments in Scots and in English, experiments predicated not on nostalgia for the purity of classics but on a vision of greater global integration. This future MacDiarmid marked with spectacular fantasies of multilingual fusion on which the “whole life” of all traditions and cultures would depend.Footnote 223 To enact again what “Greece itself had done,” to understand the “Ur-motives” that had shaped the fundamental form of all literatures, one had to turn the ‘classical’ impulse away from a fatal drift towards imitation.Footnote 224 The ‘classical’ was, for him, a predominantly local phenomenon, something that could be weaponized in forms of invention and resistance against English ascendancy. By deploying something akin to what the historian C. L. R. James (1901–89) defined as the “postcolonial prerogative,” MacDiarmid believed the “native potentialities” of so-called minor languages and peripheral literatures could reconfigure themselves and upset the dominant linguistic, economic and social conditions of the present.Footnote 225 Mere revival, mere renaissance, could aspire to something beyond, a reality bent closer to the synthetic manifestation of a “world-soul,” a “cosmical unity still more perfect.”Footnote 226


1 Christopher Grieve, Letter to Helen Cruickshank (February 1939) in Reference MacDiarmid and BoldMacDiarmid LHM (1984) 128.

2 Grieve, Letter to Helen Cruickshank (February 1939) in Reference MacDiarmid and BoldMacDiarmid LHM (1984) 128.

3 Hugh MacDiarmid (credited as “Pteleon”), “Blasphemy and Divine Philosophy Mixed: Hugh M‘Diarmid’s Extraordinary Poem,” The Scots Observer (October 2, 1930) in Reference MacDiarmid, Calder, Murray and RiachMacDiarmid RT2 (1997) 200; Reference MacDiarmid, Grieve and AitkenMacDiarmid CP1 (1993) 241; Grieve, Letter to Helen Cruickshank (February 1939) in Reference MacDiarmid and BoldMacDiarmid LHM (1984) 128.

4 Christopher Grieve, Letter to George Ogilvie (December 16, 1930) in Reference MacDiarmid and BoldMacDiarmid LHM (1984) 103.

6 See also C. M. Grieve (“Hugh McDiarmid”), “English Ascendancy in British Literature,” The Criterion 10.41 (July 1931) 593–613, as in Reference MacDiarmid and RiachMacDiarmid SP (1992) 80. Hugh MacDiarmid, “The Caledonian Antisyzygy and the Gaelic Idea” (1931–32) in Reference MacDiarmid and GlenMacDiarmid SEHM (1970) 68, 67.

7 Reference PillansPillans (1848) 28, as cited in Reference DavieDavie (1961) 231. On Blackie’s life and influence, see Reference DavieDavie (1961) 232–44, as well as Reference WallaceWallace (2006).

12 On MacDiarmid’s political and ‘spiritual’ adoption of Marxism, see Reference Lyall, Lyall and McCullochLyall (2011) 68–81, and this chapter, pp. 221–24.

13 MacDiarmid’s In Memoriam James Joyce, From a Vision of World Language was first published in 1955 with William Maclellan of Glasgow.

16 Hugh MacDiarmid under the pseudonym, J. G. Outterstone Buglass, “Arne Garborg, Mr Joyce, and Mr M‘Diarmid” (September 1924) in MacDiarmid RT1 (1996) 237.

17 Grieve, Letter to George Ogilvie (December 16, 1930) in Reference MacDiarmid and BoldMacDiarmid LHM (1984) 103.

18 Christopher Grieve, Letter to T. S. Eliot (December 9, 1930) in Reference MacDiarmid and BoldMacDiarmid LHM (1984) 434.

20 Reference GrilloGrillo (1989) 101. Reference MacDiarmid and RiachMacDiarmid SP (1992) 61, 67. On language and educational policy in this period, see Reference GrilloGrillo (1989) 84–106, and Reference HefferHeffer (2013) 412–68.

31 Reference MacDiarmid and RiachMacDiarmid SP (1992) 62. On twentieth-century efforts to form an international language, see Reference EcoEco (1995) 317–36, as well as Reference PeiPei (1958) and Reference CrystalCrystal (1997).

32 On the beginning of Basic English in Britain, see Reference KoenekeKoeneke (2004) 22–52, Reference SternStern (2014) 86–97, as well as Reference Howatt and WiddowsonHowatt and Widdowson (2004) 283–88.

33 “During a discussion with I. A. Richards on 11 November 1918 Ogden outlined a work to correlate his earlier linguistic studies with his wartime experience of ‘the power of Word-Magic’ and the part played by language in contemporary thought. Ogden converted the Cambridge Magazine into a quarterly in which he and Richards published a series of articles as a first draft of the book which appeared in 1923 as The Meaning of Meaning. This empirical approach to theoretical confusion about language, setting forth principles for the understanding of the function of language, rapidly became one of the important books of the decade.” Reference ScottScott (2004).

35 Reference OgdenOgden (1931) 13. “Five hundred years ago Latin was the literary language of Western Europe. Its downfall was due to the awakening of the masses, to their revolt against the routines and dictates of a caste. Today the English schoolboy can acquire no more than a smattering of its complexities after ten years’ intensive misery; the scholar still writes slowly and faultily after twenty years of practice. Outside of Italy, even in the universities, Latin is losing all along the line. As the language of Radio, the language of Africa, the language even of American business, its mere advocacy demands the faith of a fanatic.” Reference OgdenOgden (1934) 11.

39 Reference OgdenOgden (1932) 13–14. On the charge that Basic English itself constituted a form of “linguistic imperialism,” see Reference RussoRusso (1989) 397–404.

40 On theatre in this period, see Reference Barker and GaleBarker and Gale (2000).

42 Reference ErvineErvine (1928) 17. On the life and dramatic work of Ervine, see Reference Cronin and CroninCronin (1988) 7–16.

44 Reference ErvineErvine (1928) 22. Ervine himself had, in fact, first embraced and exploited his own dialect of Ulster English on stage. In the 1915 tragedy John Ferguson, he deliberately employed an Anglo-Irish idiom, hoping to build on the work begun by Yeats, Synge and Lady Gregory. However, he could not get his plays produced in the West End or recognized in London, and in light of the political drama unfolding in Ireland, he turned against the impulses that motivated the dialect-driven drama of the Abbey, telling George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950) that Ireland had become a land dominated by “bleating Celtic Twilighters, sex-starved Daughters of the Gael, gangsters and gombeen-men.” See Ervine, Letter to George Bernard Shaw (February 16, 1932) British Library Add. MS 50533 folio 145, as in Reference VanceVance (1990) 189. On Ervine’s disdain for the Irish Literary Revival, see Reference VanceVance (1990) 176–89. On the unionist impulses of his work, see Reference McIntoshMcIntosh (1999) 144–79.

48 Reference ErvineErvine (1931a). Paget’s contribution to the study of speech lay in his development of a “theory of pantomimic action of the tongue and lips,” the principles of which became the foundation for the Paget Gorman Sign System. Designed for the deaf and deaf mute, this form of signing was not a language but rather a system of signs, providing a “one-to-one, sign-to-word match” between gestures and English words. On the structure of the Paget Gorman Sign System, see Reference Sutton-Spence and WollSutton-Spence and Woll (1999) 14.

54 Reference PagetPaget (1930) 93. See also Genesis 11:6.

64 Reference MacDiarmid and RiachMacDiarmid SP (1992) 63. MacDiarmid cites the popular Georgian poet William Watson. Watson received a knighthood in 1917 in part for composing the patriotic panegyric “The Man Who Saw” (a poem he dedicated to the prime minister, David Lloyd George). In a 1916 book entitled Pencraft, he argued that literature could be divided “into three kinds or orders, and to call them the cantative, the scriptive, and the loquitive.” These designations formed a range upon which one could plot kinds of language and speech, the ‘cantative’ applying to those instances “capable of uttering themselves through but one medium, the medium of quite obviously and literally chanted words,” the ‘scriptive’ being “the essentially written, as distinguished from that not necessarily greater but perhaps more elemental thing, the essentially chanted word,” and the ‘loquitive’ which “in form and substance is little if at all distinguishable from conversational speech.” According to Watson, “the immense middle region” that comprised the ‘scriptive’ was “absolutely literature; neither a sublimely abnormal, half preternatural phenomenon nor a transfiguration of everyday chit-chat, but absolutely literature.” With its “deliberate and ordered language,” the ‘scriptive’ represented language as the “preeminently efficient manner of speech.” Reference WatsonWatson (1916) 9, 10, 13, 16, 18, 21, 22. On Watson’s life and work, see Reference WilsonWilson (1981).

78 Reference CorkeryCorkery (1925) xv; Reference MacDiarmid and RiachMacDiarmid SP (1992) 77, 80. On MacDiarmid’s view of the Reformation and Renaissance, see Reference LyallLyall (2006) 41–43.

79 Reference MacDiarmid and RiachMacDiarmid SP (1992) 80; Hugh MacDiarmid, “Towards a Celtic Front” (1953) in Reference MacDiarmid and GlenMacDiarmid SEHM (1970) 173.

83 Reference MacDiarmid and RiachMacDiarmid SP (1992) 77–78. Translations by Osborn Bergin (1873–1950), Robin Flower (1881–1946) and James Stephens (1882–1950) were said to have captured the essence of Irish better.

87 Reference MacDiarmid and RiachMacDiarmid SP (1992) 73. The term “Scottish Renaissance” was first coined in French by the Toulousian critic Denis Saurat (1890–1958). See Reference SauratSaurat (1924) 295–307. On the Renaissance and the rise of modernism in Scotland, see Reference McCullochMcCulloch (2009).

89 Reference MacDiarmid and RiachMacDiarmid SP (1992) 72–73. Drawn by the notion of a “surface mind,” MacDiarmid interpreted Henri Bergson’s An Introduction to Metaphysics (1912), applying his description of the “crust of imitation” to a distinctively Scottish linguistic context. “When I,” Bergson wrote, “direct my attention inward to contemplate my own self (supposed for the moment to be inactive), I perceive at first, as a crust solidified on the surface, all the perceptions which come to it from the material world. These perceptions are clear, distinct, juxtaposed or juxtaposable one with another; they tend to group themselves into objects. Next, I notice the memories which more or less adhere to these perceptions and which serve to interpret them. These memories have been detached, as it were, from the depth of my personality, drawn to the surface by the perceptions which resemble them; they rest on the surface of my mind without being absolutely myself.” Reference BergsonBergson (1912) 9–10.

92 Reference BrandBrand (1978) 195. The National Party largely grew out of the Scottish Home Rule Association (founded in 1886) led by Roland Eugene Muirhead, the Scots National League (founded in 1904), the Scottish National Movement (founded in 1926) and the Glasgow University Student Nationalist Association (founded in 1927). On the origins of these organizations and their particular contributions to the Party, see Reference BrandBrand (1978) 169–227; Reference TannerTanner (2004) 63–65; Reference HanhamHanham (1969) 119–30; Reference FinlayFinlay (1994) 71–125; as well as Reference HarvieHarvie (2004) 28–31.

96 On Scottish Gaelic in the twentieth century, see Reference MacKinnon and WilliamsMacKinnon (1991) 121–49 and Reference MacKinnon and PriceMacKinnon (2000) 44–55.

104 Hugh MacDiarmid, “The New Movement in Vernacular Poetry: Lewis Spence, Marion Angus” (November 27, 1925) in Reference MacDiarmid and RiachMacDiarmid CSS (1995) 198. Hugh MacDiarmid, “Towards a Synthetic Scots” (August 13, Reference M‘Diarmid1926) in MacDiarmid CSS (Reference MacDiarmid and Riach1995) 368–69. Following the publication of Allan Ramsay’s play, The Gentle Shepherd (1725), the epithet ‘Doric’ was often used to describe the rough speech of Northumbria and the Scottish Lowlands. The term was appropriated by the critic Alexander Fraser Tytler, Lord Woodhouselee (1747–1813), who, in praising Ramsay’s work, stressed the rusticity and simplicity of his Scots vernacular when compared with the urbane English of London. “To us,” he wrote, “their dialect is an antiquated tongue, and as such it carries with it a Doric simplicity.” Reference WoodhouseleeWoodhouselee (1852) xxxv, lviii. Gradually, Doric became identified with the dialects of northeast Scotland, and this insistence on a “Grecian Doric” character was common in subsequent criticism. Later, in an unsigned review of N. F. Moore’s Lectures on the Greek Language and Literature (Reference Moore1835), an anonymous critic echoed this conceit, arguing that, in “English, the dialect of Allan Ramsay’s Gentle Shepherd, and of many of the sweetest songs of Burns, corresponds in no slight degree with the Grecian Doric.” Review of “Moore’s Lectures on the Greek Language and Literature,” The North American Review 42 (January 1836) 107. On the development of the ‘Doric’ in the modern era, see Reference McClureMcClure (2000) 1–13; as well as Reference McClureMcClure (2002).

105 C. M. Grieve, Letter to the Aberdeen Free Press (January 30, 1922) in Reference MacDiarmid and BoldMacDiarmid LHM (1984) 756, 754.

106 Grieve, Letter to the Aberdeen Free Press (January 30, 1922) in Reference MacDiarmid and BoldMacDiarmid LHM (1984) 754, 755, 756.

107 On MacDiarmid’s decision to write in synthetic Scots, see Reference BoldBold (1990) 121–30.

108 C. M. Grieve, “Introducing ‘Hugh M‘Diarmid’,” The Scottish Chapbook 1.41 (August 1922), as in Reference MacDiarmid and RiachMacDiarmid SP (1992) 10. On writing “The Watergaw,” see Reference BoldBold (1990) 137–40. On the development of A Drunk Man from manuscript to publication, see Reference HerbertHerbert (1992) 42–67, as well as Reference BoldBold (1990) 180–224. For a broader comparative, transnational account of ‘synthetic’ writing and twentieth-century modernism, see Reference HartHart (2010).

109 M‘Diarmid, “Author’s Note,” in Reference M‘DiarmidM‘Diarmid (1926) vii.

110 Hugh MacDiarmid, A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle, as in Reference MacDiarmid, Grieve and AitkenMacDiarmid CP1 (1993) 145. Reference SmithSmith (1919) 4, 20.

113 Reference MacDiarmid, Grieve and AitkenMacDiarmid CP1 (1993) 86. Of its initial print run of 500 copies, only 99 copies sold before the end of 1926. On the poem’s lack of commercial success, see Reference BoldBold (1990) 222–24.

114 Unsigned review, Times Literary Supplement 1338 (September 22, 1927) 650–51, as in Reference McCullochMcCulloch (2009) 46. Unsigned review, Aberdeen Press and Journal (November 27, 1926) 5, as in Reference BoldBold (1990) 223. On the poem’s early reception, see Reference McCullochMcCulloch (2009) 29–52.

115 Oliver St John Gogarty, under the pseudonym “Gog.” “Literature and Life: A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle,” Irish Statesman (January 8, 1927) 432, as in Reference BoldBold (1990) 223. Edwin Muir, “Verse,” Nation and Athenaeum (January 22, 1927) 568, as in Reference McCullochMcCulloch (2004) 74.

116 Edwin Muir, “Verse,” Nation and Athenaeum (January 22, 1927) 568, as in Reference McCullochMcCulloch (2004) 73.

117 Edwin Muir, “Verse,” Nation and Athenaeum (January 22, 1927) 568, as in Reference McCullochMcCulloch (2004) 74.

119 Muir, “Scotland Once Had a Scots Literature,” The Bulletin (January 27, 1938) 18, as in Reference MacDiarmid and MuirMacDiarmid and Muir (2005) 70. Reference MuirMuir (1936) 178.

130 C. M. Grieve, “Scots As a Literary Medium: Point of View for Burns Day,” The Bulletin (January 24, 1938) 13, as in Reference MacDiarmid and MuirMacDiarmid and Muir (2005) 61. See also C. M. Grieve, Letter to P. H. Butter (December 22, 1966) in Reference MacDiarmid and BoldMacDiarmid LHM (1984) 868. On Muir’s interest in nationalist causes, see Reference HanhamHanham (1969) 160–62, and Reference BoldBold (1990) 340–43.

131 Reference MacDiarmid and MuirMacDiarmid and Muir (2005) 61–62; MacDiarmid never forgave “slithy Edwin” Muir for the opinions he espoused in Scott and Scotland, and he often attacked Muir’s poetry and his character. “I cannot agree,” he told Peter Herbert Butter (1921–99), Regius Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Glasgow, “that he is a good, let alone an important, poet. I do not believe at all from my knowledge of him in his professed Christianity or his near saint-hood of character. On the contrary I do not believe he had any intellectual integrity at all.” C. M. Grieve, Letter to P. H. Butter (December 22, 1966) in Reference MacDiarmid and BoldMacDiarmid LHM (1984) 868. See also C. M. Grieve, Letter to F. G. Scott (July 13, 1940) in Reference MacDiarmid, Grieve, Edwards and RiachMacDiarmid NSLHM (2001) 184. Muir, for his part, later insisted that MacDiarmid’s work with Lallans had helped to revive something of Scottish language. “Because of [MacDiarmid’s] example,” he wrote in 1951, “there has been a revival of the Scottish language, a language which has proved that it is full of vigour, colour, and potentiality. A new poetry without the mark of parochialism which used to cling to Scottish verse, has been written in it, along with poetry by Scotsmen in English, and the remarkable work of Somerled MacLean in Gaelic. There is no parallel to all this in Scottish literature since the days of Fergusson and Burns.” Reference MuirMuir (1951) iii–iv. On Muir’s unwillingness to engage with MacDiarmid’s persistent attacks, see Reference ButterButter (1966) 152–56.

135 MacDiarmid enjoyed noting that he had once sent “Mr Yeats and ‘A.E.’ (the late Mr G. W. Russell) representative collections of contemporary poems in English by Scottish poets like Mr Edwin Muir, the late Messrs William Jeffrey, William Soutar, Frederick Branford and others. They found the entire collection quite devoid of merit and said that this confirmed them in their support of the Lallans movement.” Hugh MacDiarmid, Letter to The Scotsman (December 5, 1950) in Reference MacDiarmid and BoldMacDiarmid LHM (1984) 795.

136 Hugh MacDiarmid, Letter to Kenneth Buthlay (March 4, Reference Jackson1953) in Reference MacDiarmid and BoldMacDiarmid LHM (1984) 863.

137 Yeats, “To George Russell (Æ)” (April 1904) in Yeats CL3 (1994) 577, cited by Hugh MacDiarmid in “A Roland for an Oliver” (April 1955) in Reference MacDiarmid, Calder, Murray and RiachMacDiarmid RT3 (1998) 343.

138 Hugh MacDiarmid, “The Norman Conquest” (July 1955) in Reference MacDiarmid, Calder, Murray and RiachMacDiarmid RT3 (1998) 347. Hugh MacDiarmid, “An Irish Poet: Oliver St John Gogarty” (September 1928) in Reference MacDiarmid, Calder, Murray and RiachMacDiarmid RT2 (1997) 221. On the parallel positions that MacDiarmid and Yeats occupied within revival movements whose aims included “the wider cultural repudiation of English hegemony,” see Reference Crotty, Mackay, Longley and BreartonCrotty (2011) 20–38.

139 Amid allegations of infidelity, the couple divorced on January 16, 1932. On their marriage, see Reference BoldBold (1990) 242–46, 259–64, 267–68.

140 MacDiarmid had allowed his membership in the National Party to lapse “some time after 10 May 1930.” He was not, therefore, as has often been repeated, expelled from the party so much as prohibited from reinstatement. See Reference MansonManson (2011) 76.

141 “37. From J. M. MacCormick, National Party of Scotland” (May 10, 1933) in Reference MansonManson (2011) 73–74. The vote was not without controversy: some considered MacCormick decidedly “narrow-minded” in his view of MacDiarmid’s contributions to the Party. See “39. From N. C. Jack, National Party of Scotland” (May 31, 1933) in Reference MansonManson (2011) 74, 76.

144 Hugh MacDiarmid, Letter to Neil Gunn (May 19, 1933) in Reference MacDiarmid and BoldMacDiarmid LHM (1984) 250; Hugh MacDiarmid, “Letter to R. M. B,” in MacDiarmid CP2 (1994) 1273.

145 MacDiarmid CP2 (1994) 1273.

146 “84. From Ezra Pound” (December 28, 1934) in Reference MansonManson (2011) 122–23.

147 “84. From Ezra Pound” (December 28, 1934) in Reference MansonManson (2011) 123.

148 Hugh MacDiarmid, “Faeröerne” (January 12, 1934) in Reference MacDiarmid, Calder, Murray and RiachMacDiarmid RT2 (1997) 357.

149 Hugh MacDiarmid, “On A Raised Beach,” in Reference MacDiarmid, Grieve and AitkenMacDiarmid CP1 (1993) 423, 426–27. C. M. Grieve, Letter to William Soutar (July 5, 1933) in Reference MacDiarmid and BoldMacDiarmid LHM (1984) 148. MacDiarmid likely knew these Norn words from Reference JakobsenJakob Jakobsen’s 1897 book, The Dialect and Place Names of Shetland: Two Popular Lectures. The words in this passage can be roughly glossed as follows: hraun, meaning “rough, rocky place, wilderness”; duss, meaning “thrown-up heap”; rønis, meaning “cairn” or “stone-heap”; queedaruns, meaning “white rocky place”; kollyarun, meaning “high rocky place”; hvarf, meaning “turning, disappearance”; hurdifell, meaning “steep, rocky hill, full of downfallen boulders”; klett, meaning “shore rocks”; millya hellya, meaning “between the smooth rocks”; hellyina bretta, meaning “the steep or sloped rock”; hellyina wheeda, meaning “the white rock”; hellyina grø, meaning “the gray rock”; bakka, meaning “cliff, or steep rocky shore”; ayre, meaning “beach or piece of sandy shore”; kolgref, meaning “a pit for burning coals.” See Reference JakobsenJakobsen (1897), especially 79–80, 84–85, 88–89, 92.

152 Reference MacDiarmid and RiachMacDiarmid SP (1992) 63; C. M. Grieve, Letter to The Free Man (December 9 1933) in Reference MacDiarmid and BoldMacDiarmid LHM (1984) 771.

153 Grieve, Letter to The Free Man (December 9, 1933) in Reference MacDiarmid and BoldMacDiarmid LHM (1984) 771.

154 Hugh MacDiarmid, “Constricting the Dynamic Spirit: We Want Life Abundant” (May 2, 1936), as in Reference MacDiarmid, Calder, Murray and RiachMacDiarmid RT2 (1997) 548.

156 Grieve, Letter to The Free Man (December 9, 1933) in Reference MacDiarmid and BoldMacDiarmid LHM (1984) 771.

157 Reference PankhurstPankhurst (1926) 6, 7. On Pankhurst’s communism and its influence over her view of world language, see Reference RomeroRomero (1987) 181–82.

158 Reference PankhurstPankhurst (1926) 7, 48 (emphasis in the original).

162 Reference PankhurstPankhurst (1926) 50, 47. Pankhurst favored the adoption of Interlingua, a form of scientifically simplified, uninflected Latin (Latino sine flexione or IL) designed by the Italian mathematician and linguist Giuseppe Peano (1858–1932). According to Pankhurst, IL deserved the “palm for linguistic excellence, amongst the existing interlanguages … because it is the first systematic attempt to build up an inter-European vocabulary on a consistent scientific basis; because it goes furthest in the elimination of grammar, under the guidance of observed tendencies in natural language; above all, because it is a logical etymological attempt to create the poor man’s simplified Latin, which will open to him the nomenclature of the sciences, and will enable him to understand the prescription of his doctor and the legal phrases contained in the lawyer’s presentment of his case.” Reference PankhurstPankhurst (1926) 84–85.

166 MacDiarmid LP (1994) 354.

167 Hugh MacDiarmid, “Burns Today and Tomorrow” (1959) in Reference MacDiarmid and RiachMacDiarmid (1996a) 276. On MacDiarmid’s “Nationalist Internationalism,” see Reference HartHart (2010) 51–78.

168 Hugh MacDiarmid, “Scottish Culture and Imperialist War” (1937) in Reference MacDiarmid, Calder, Murray and RiachMacDiarmid RT3 (1998) 8. MacDiarmid believed a “Celtic USSR” – a socialist union of Ireland, Scotland and Wales – could diminish English ascendancy. See Hugh MacDiarmid, “Celtic Front” (1939) in Reference MacDiarmid, Calder, Murray and RiachMacDiarmid RT3 (1998) 21–26. His interest in a “Celtic USSR” originated, in part, from his formative experiences during the First World War: “I was associated with soldiers,” he later explained, “who were English, Welsh, Irish and so on. And I found that wherever these elements were brigaded together, we got on very well – Irish, the Welsh, the Scots but not the English. That caused me to think. And when I came back to Scotland, after serving several years for a war that was ostensibly fought for the determination of small nations – poor little Belgium and all that – I was suddenly confronted by the fact that I didn’t know anything about my own country of Scotland, and I didn’t see why on earth so many friends of mine had been slain fighting a war that we didn’t know anything about.” Hugh MacDiarmid, as interviewed in Hugh MacDiarmid: No Fellow Travelers, a film for the 1972 Edinburgh Festival, directed by Oscar Marzaroli (Ogam Films, 1972).

171 Often incorrectly cited (as by MacDiarmid himself in Lucky Poet) as originating in Lenin’s final speech from 1922, “Speech at a Plenary Session of the Moscow Soviet,” these remarks are from a speech to the Russian Young Communist League given in October 1920. MacDiarmid knew this English translation from the 1933 book Lenin, written by the journalist Rajani Palme Dutt (1896–1974). Dutt argued of Lenin that he saw communism not as a “special body of doctrines or dogmas … ‘ready-made conclusions’ to be learnt from textbooks,” but rather as “the outcome of the whole of human science and culture, on the basis of an exact study of all that previous ages, including especially capitalist society, had achieved.” Reference DuttDutt (1933) 64–65. See the text of Lenin’s speech in a later translation in Reference LeninLenin (1974) 286. See also Hugh MacDiarmid, under the pseudonym “Arthur Leslie,” “The Poetry and Politics of Hugh MacDiarmid” (1952) in Reference MacDiarmid and GlenMacDiarmid SEHM (1970) 29–30, as well as MacDiarmid LP (1994) xxxi–xxxii, 153, 355.

174 Reference Kerrigan and KerriganKerrigan (1988) xv. On his early education, see MacDiarmid LP (1994) 218–32, Reference LyallLyall (2006) 56–65 and Reference GishGish (1984) 8–19.

175 MacDiarmid CP2 (1994) 797. ἡλιάζω, meaning “to bask in the sun”; καπνίζω, meaning “to smoke”; σκιρτεῖν, meaning to “leap, dance, frisk, buck” (commonly of calves); and χειροπηδᾶν, meaning “to be bound, handcuffed.” Some of the Greek used by MacDiarmid in this passage alludes obliquely to the capture of Dionysus in Euripides’ Bacchae (434–60). On the source of the Irish Gaelic in the passage, see Introduction, p. 11Footnote n57.

176 MacDiarmid LP (1994) 229.

177 MacDiarmid LP (1994) 229.

178 MacDiarmid LP (1994) 13.

179 Reference LyallLyall (2006) 57. MacDiarmid LP (1994) 229. MacDiarmid’s pugnaciousness often found impressive expression in insults against the political and literary establishment. For example: “My aim all along has been (in Ezra Pound’s terms) the most drastic desuetization of Scottish life and letters, and, in particular, the de-Tibetanization of the Highlands and Islands, and getting rid of the whole gang of high mucky-mucks, famous fatheads, old wives of both sexes, stuffed shirts, hollow men with headpieces stuffed with straw, bird-wits, lookers-under-beds, trained seals, creeping Jesuses, Scots Wha Ha’evers, village idiots, policemen, leaders of white-mouse factions and noted connoisseurs of bread and butter, glorified gangsters, and what ‘Billy’ Phelps calls Medlar Novelists (the medlar being a fruit that becomes rotten before it is ripe), Commercial Calvinists, makers of ‘noises like a turnip’, and all the touts and toadies and lickspittles of the English Ascendancy, and their infernal women-folk, and all their skunkoil skulduggery.” MacDiarmid LP (1994) 149.

180 MacDiarmid LP (1994) 13; C. M. Grieve, Letter to William Soutar (January 14, 1938) in Reference MacDiarmid and BoldMacDiarmid LHM (1984) 168.

181 On the composition and publication history of Cornish Heroic Song for Valda Trevlyn, see Reference HerbertHerbert (1992) 157–225. See also Reference BoldBold (1990) 346–80.

182 Reference MacDiarmid and RiachMacDiarmid SP (1992) 68; MacDiarmid RT1 (1996) 237.

183 On MacDiarmid’s competitive relationship with Yeats, see Reference Crotty, Mackay, Longley and BreartonCrotty (2011) 32–36. For his view of the Irish Revival, see also Reference BoldBold (1985) 4–5.

185 MacDiarmid RT1 (1996) 237, 233. Alan Bold suggests that MacDiarmid’s “opinion of Yeats was qualified by his disapproval of Yeats’s ‘pro-Fascist’ politics. Yeats’s Celtic Twilight period did not appeal to MacDiarmid though he felt that Yeats would be acknowledged as ‘the greatest poet of his period in the English language … mainly by virtue of his later work.’” Reference BoldBold (1985) 8.

186 Grieve, Letter to The Free Man (December 9, 1933) in Reference MacDiarmid and BoldMacDiarmid LHM (1984) 771.

187 MacDiarmid RT1 (1996) 238, 237.

188 Grieve, Letter to William Soutar (January 14, Reference Rees1938) in Reference MacDiarmid and BoldMacDiarmid LHM (1984) 168.

193 Æ, “Anna Livia Plurabelle,” Irish Statesman xi (December 29, 1928) 339, in Reference DemingDeming (1970) vol. 2: 396.

194 Æ, “Anna Livia Plurabelle,” Irish Statesman xi (December 29, 1928) 339, in Reference DemingDeming (1970) vol. 2: 396. For a comparative account of Finnegans Wake and In Memoriam James Joyce, see Reference Freedman and GishFreedman (1992) 253–73.

195 Reference Freedman and GishFreedman (1992) 269; MacDiarmid LP (1994) 26; MacDiarmid CP2 (1994) 790.

196 MacDiarmid CP2 (1994) 789–90.

197 MacDiarmid CP2 (1994) 790.

198 MacDiarmid CP2 (1994) 787, 781.

199 MacDiarmid CP2 (1994) 781.

203 MacDiarmid CP2 (1994) 789.

204 C. M. Grieve, Letter to T. S. Eliot (February 4, 1938) in Reference MacDiarmid and BoldMacDiarmid LHM (1984) 446.

205 T. S. Eliot, Letter to C. M. Grieve (June 8, 1938) in Reference MacDiarmid and BoldMacDiarmid LHM (1984) 447.

206 The poem was published under the title “Cornish Heroic Song for Valda Trevlyn.” See Reference MacDiarmidMacDiarmid (1939a) 195–203. On Eliot’s exchanges with MacDiarmid in this period, see Reference HardingHarding (2002) 101–2.

207 Eugène Jolas, “Style and the Limitations of Speech,” Irish Statesman (January 26, 1929) in Reference DemingDeming (1970) vol. 2: 399. On the composition of In Memoriam James Joyce, see Reference BensteadBenstead (2019).

209 Reference MacDiarmidMacDiarmid (1939b) 19. On MacDiarmid’s approach, see Reference Baker and WalshBaker (2016) 315–17.

211 MacDiarmid LP (1994) xxxi, xvi, as first introduced by Coleridge in chapter 10 of Biographia Literaria (1817). Reference Coleridge, Engell and BateColeridge (1983) vol. 1: 168–71. On “esemplastic power,” see also Samuel Taylor Coleridge, chapter 13 of Biographia Literaria in Reference Coleridge, Engell and BateColeridge (1983) vol. 1: 295–306 as well as Coleridge, Notebook 24.72 (February–June 1813), where esemplasy is contrasted with the “Imagunculation”: “His Imagination, if it must be so called, is at all events of the pettiest kind–it is an Imagunculation–How excellently the German Einbildungskraft expresses this prime & loftiest Faculty, the power of co-adunation, the faculty that forms the many into one, in eins Bildung.” Reference Coleridge and CoburnColeridge (1973) note 4176. See also Kathleen Coburn’s explanatory notes on this passage in Reference Coleridge and CoburnColeridge (1973) note 4176.

212 In Lucky Poet (1943) MacDiarmid did not write μυριόνους but instead “mindedness” in Greek lettering, with no accentuation: “μινδεδνεσς.” See MacDiarmid LP (1994) 122, as well as MacDiarmid CP2 (1994) 1016.

213 On “esemplastic,” see Reference Coleridge, Engell and BateColeridge (1983) vol. 1: 168–171. Reference SmithSmith (1919) 20, 4.

215 From the Latin: “a poet is born, not made.” From the Greek μυριόνους, Coleridge translated “myriad-minded.” This can be roughly rendered as “complex and multiform in the variously versatile wisdom,” as by Reference HouseHouse (1953) 33. Coleridge encountered the term μυριόνους in 1801 in Naucratius’ eulogy of Theodorus Studites (759–826), published in William Cave’s Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Historia Literaria (1688–99) vol. 1: 509–13; and in the 1743 edition, vol. 2: 8–11. Parts of the passages from Cave are reproduced in Coleridge’s notebook 21.195 (December 1801). See Reference Coleridge and CoburnColeridge (1957) note 1070. On “Poeta nascitur non fit,” see Reference RinglerRingler (1941) 497–504.

216 C. M. Grieve, Letter to Neil M. Gunn (May 19, 1933) in Reference MacDiarmid and BoldMacDiarmid LHM (1984) 250.

217 MacDiarmid LP (1994) 227.

218 Hugh MacDiarmid, “Wider Aspects of Scottish Nationalism” (November 1927) in Reference MacDiarmid, Calder, Murray and RiachMacDiarmid RT2 (1997) 61.

220 Hugh MacDiarmid, “The Future of Scottish Poetry” (June 24, 1933) in Reference MacDiarmid, Calder, Murray and RiachMacDiarmid RT2 (1997) 209.

222 MacDiarmid CP2 (1994) 1013, 1014.

224 MacDiarmid LP (1994) 375. See also MacDiarmid, “The Caledonian Antisyzygy and the Gaelic Idea” (1931–32) in Reference MacDiarmid and GlenMacDiarmid SEHM (1970) 74.

226 MacDiarmid, “A Russo-Scottish Parallelism,” in Reference MacDiarmid and GlenMacDiarmid SEHM (1970) 41.

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