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A Sonnet of Ice and Fire: ‘The Salamander’ by Hamish Henderson

  07 Dec '20   |  Posted by: Birlinn

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.

Image by Pawel Czerwinski via Unsplash

The Salamander

(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
Click for more information about Hamish Henderson: Collected Poems
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