Hugh MacDiarmid Poetry: British Analysis
When Hugh MacDiarmid began writing poetry seriously after serving in World War I, the Scots literary tradition had reached one of its lowest points. In the century following the deaths of Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Lord Byron, Scottish poetry consisted largely of enervated and sentimental effusions that imitated the surface mannerisms of Burns’s lyrics. Under the circumstances, it is hardly surprising that MacDiarmid wrote his earliest poems in standard English. Although his style was reminiscent of English Romanticism, it had from the start more vigor and individuality than the work of most of his contemporaries.
A Moment in Eternity
The best of these early poems, A Moment in Eternity, establishes MacDiarmid’s essentially Romantic disposition, “searching the unsearchable” in quest of God and immortality. Although his style and technique were to change radically, these ambitions remained with him, and “eternity” remained to the end of his career one of the most frequent words in his poetic vocabulary. His rhythms in this early poem are supple, varied, but basically iambic; his diction, pleasant but rather conventional.
Sangschaw and Penny Wheep
It was not long, however, before he began to write under his pseudonym in a vocabulary forged from various local Scottish dialects and words from literary Scots dating as far back as the late medieval period of Scottish literary glory,...
(The entire section is 3978 words.)
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