Soldier, academic, folklorist, political activist, songwriter, translator but above all a poet, Hamish Henderson’s collected work is an astonishing and powerful record of an extraordinary twentieth-century life. When we published a new Collected Poems to mark his centenary in 2019, the sheer variety, exuberance and liveliness of his work threatened to burst the bonds of the handsome 400-page volume. This sonnet, however, exhibits his attentiveness to and love for form. It’s a primordial mix of ice and fire.
(A Dream in the Great Freeze)
So through the hard grey rind of the world I dig
Away from cold into the flaming centre.
The ice and iron spark. O false supplanter,
I find my own, which cunningly you hid.
Hephaestus was my father. In my flesh
Smoking and whimpering, fire with livid symbols
Had burnt a path-way. Fire makes clean and humbles,
Fire is the healing finger and the lash.
Kneeling by frozen waters, my fingers numb
And nipped in the whirling winds, I scent the furnace
And tear at the snow. I sniff the reek of fire.
Fire snaps the hobbling chain, the haggling pander,
And cuts down winter, stiff in rusty harness.
From fire to fire I leap, quick Salamander.HAMISH HENDERSON