I just heard the sad news of the death of Edwin Morgan, Scotland’s first Poet Laureate and last survivor of that iconic group of seven who revived our reputation as a centre for literature and the arts in the middle years of the twentieth century –
The first time I met Edwin Morgan was when I was in my second year at Glasgow University and he became my English tutor. In my youthful ignorance I had no idea of course of his own significance as a poet, nor of his growing international reputation, but his tolerance of my ignorance of literature, and life in general, was a measure of the extent of his humanity. In years to come, like many other English teachers, I was to draw extensively on his hugely imaginative and wide-ranging poetic canon for classroom material – it never failed to engage the young people to whom it was introduced or to provoke a response, even from the least likely members of the class.
The next and only other time I met him was many years later. I had been invited by a couple of friends to Mauchline Burns Club‘s annual celebration of the life of Robert Burns, and Morgan was the guest speaker. After delivering a particularly erudite, and some might argue controversial, Immortal Memory, he was thanked by the chair and invited to deliver one of his own poems. Again, eschewing the easy option, given that the audience consisted largely of men brought up on a diet of whisky, haggis and rhyming couplets, he chose to recite The Loch Ness Monster’s Song, prompting one inebriated listener to exclaim, ‘Ca’ that f*****g poetry?’
I’m sure the man of letters didn’t hear it, but if he had, I’m equally sure it would have produced a wry smile, for the true mark of the man was not in the poetry but in himself.
The Loch Ness Monster’s Song
Sssnnnwhuf ff fll ?
Hnwhuffl hhnnwfl hnfl hfl ?
Gdroblboblhobngbl gbl gl g g g g glbgl.
Drublhaflablhaflubhafgabhaflhafl fl fl-
gm grawwwww grf grawf awfgm graw gm.
Splgraw fok fok splgrafhatchgabrlgabrl fok splfok !
Zgra kra gka fok !
Grof grawff gahf ?
Gombl mbl bl-