Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Poem by Alexander McCall Smith

Winter Poem

That there should be winter, that this hard light

Should fall over a December Scotland,

Should make the sea gray, like steel, and the land itself

A rock rising from metalled water;

That there should be empty skies,

Free of protecting cloud, too cold

Even for that; that there should be

A vapour trail of some great jet heading west

To the colder shores of Greenland, Labrador,

Northern neighbours to us, distant cousins

In our marginality and our pursuit of fish;

That all this should be in a land that in summer

Is so soft and wet with drifting veils of rain

And filled with deer and clouds of midges

And the rich fecundity of ploughed fields

That will yield gold barley and whisky

Beyond the barley –


Scotland is a country of the north,

Everything here cries north; north the natural

Orientation of all our signs, our habits;

I sometimes wish, I confess, for a life spent

In the scent of wild thyme and olive trees,

For evenings when one might stroll

Slowly about a square and watch pigeons

Launch themselves into Italian air

From some tower dreamed up

By some High Renaissance imagination;

That, though, is not where we are from

Or where we are destined to be;

Our place is north, our natural gravity

That of a land that is an afterthought

To Europe, a land that comes late

To so many of the parties it's been invited to,

But which we love with all our heart,

With all our heart.


Winter doesn't make us better, then, or worse,

But enables us to find ourselves again,

Because it forces us to be quiet, obliges us

To listen to the coursing of our own blood;

Winter reminds us that warmth

Is not something we find naturally,

Some gift of munificent nature, but must be made;

That we should make in Scotland

A small place of warmth, a small country

Of kindness to others, of brotherhood,

Is what our poets have been striving to say

Since they first gave voice to song.

That we might find this, in winter,

In the ice and the cold is a local miracle,

Is a particular joy.

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