Thistles and Roses

a post about the Scottish referendum and a lot else besides

thistles and roses

I learned one or two things today while putting this post together.

1) Carol Ann Duffy is Scottish (maybe I knew this and had forgotten)
2) There is a market for wedding bouquets made of thistles and roses (try Google images and see).

Well, Carol Ann, I am never surprised to read another great poem by you. I love your anthology “The World’s Wife”; and your “Prayer” is probably in my top ten poems of all time. It must be really hard to write to order as Poet Laureate, but you don’t just manage it, you embrace it. And this latest contribution is just — well, words fail me, though they clearly don’t fail you. This was in Saturday’s Guardian, and I am reproducing it here (in case my readers can’t be bothered with a link) because it is unmissable.

September 2014

Tha gaol agam ort.

A thistle can draw blood,
so can a rose,
growing together
where the river flows, shared currency,
across a border it can never know;
where, somewhen, Rabbie Burns might swim,
or pilgrim Keats come walking
out of love for him.
Aye, here’s to you,
cousins, sisters, brothers,
in your brave, bold, brilliant land:
the thistle jags our hearts,
take these roses
from our bloodied hands.

Carol Ann Duffy

[The Gaelic salutation translates as: I love you.]

Wow. Good for those of us with short attention spans – not a word wasted. Subtle rhyme scheme. Straightforward language – nothing pretentious here. And how she captures the complexity and ambivalence of a close relationship – be it between nations, siblings, spouses. Love, beauty, admiration, rivalry, interdependence, difference, similarity, and the capacity for each to wound the other, and to forgive.

The very stuff of wedding bouquets. Spikey bits and soft bits.


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