Poem of the Week: Moment Musical in Assynt by Norman MacCaig

  31 May '21   |  Posted by: Birlinn

Henry Morton described Skye’s Cuillin ridge as ‘Wagner’s ride of the Valkyries frozen in stone and hung up like a colossal screen against the sky’. Norman MacCaig does something similar in his ‘Moment Musical in Assynt’ a poem that trips across the northern mountains with real sprezzatura, and a little bit of punk at the end.

Photo by Chris Lines on Unsplash
Moment musical in Assynt

 A mountain is a sort of music: theme
And counter theme displaced in air amongst
Their own variations.
Wagnerian Devil signed the Coigach score;
And God was Mozart when he wrote Cul Mor.

You climb a trio when you climb Cul Beag.
Stac Polly – there’s a rondo in seven sharps,
Neat as a trivet.
And Quinag, rallentando in the haze,
Is one long tune extending phrase by phrase.

I listen with my eyes and see through that
Mellifluous din of shapes my masterpiece
Of masterpieces:
One sandstone chord that holds up time in space –
Sforzando Suilven reared on his ground bass.

                                                              Norman MacCaig, February 1967

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