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Elphinstone Kist   Doric Verse

Aiberdeen Elegie-Scherzando     by: Hubbard, Tom

In affectiounate memorie o my PhD supervisor, Robin Gilmour 1943-1999, eident scholar o the
Victorian period.


There wis this Fifer loun came here ti byde,
And there wis a new Scots athin his lug:
His kintra yit, but o a different sooch
As his halflin nerves wad this and that wey rug
Wi the pynt and coonterpynt o growein up.
A city seemin harsk, but wi the grup
O kindlie hames that host, than lat ye gae
Whaur they’ve prepared ye: Embro, then Grenoble,
Connecticut, Budapest, Asheville NC,
Embro again: whit, man, can ye nou pree

- Govin frae a Royal Mile caff – the visible echoes
O Upperkirkgate, there at the North Brig?
Ye’ll mynd thon first rare hairst o saxtie-nine,
The granite glisterin as the sun wad set,
Fit prologue ti yer unkent northren lichts,
The keenness in yer lungs (forby yer loins) –
Aiberdeen, Embro, grey stane ti the broun,
But their architectural pirlicues maist sib:
- Thon’s your Victorian studies, new applied
Frae whan you’d Robin Gilmour as your guide.

Say I’d been kidnapped in a fremmit airt,
Then drugged and bundled somehou back ti Scotland
And dumped blinfauldit in the Aist-Coast train
Atween taw touns a hunner mile apairt,
I’d ‘ken mysel’ bi ilkane’s ‘queer-like smell’
The whilk wis Lang Toun lino, or Footdee fush.
I mynd my airliest cless in Aiberdeen,
No i the lecture-haa, but the canteen,
Whan fair bumbazed bi the nouvelle cuisine:
Picter this speirin student frae Kirkcaddie,
And the kitchie-deem repones, ‘’At’s skirlie, laddie!’

Honour ti aa wha steired a chiel’s formatioun
In maitters great (and smaa) held in remembraunce,
Wi bygane period and present natioun
Alertin this young lad ti his resemblaunce
Ti fowk ayont himsel an’s nairra gate.
Honour ti aa wha freed him frae the blate
And bummlin mainner guairdit wi a scowl,
As though he’d spun a haar attour his sowel;
Honour ti mentors wha cam unexpeckit –
Nae least the lassies wha his corp unsneckit.

The reuch refined music o Scots and Scotland
That’s aye despised as faur as it’s unkent:
I had a leid lost, efter my bairnheid,
My Fife speik o the playgrun silenced, sent
Ti a forgotten blur o embarrassment.
I tell the names, Robin, o your fellaeship
O ghaists whase sooch hushies doun College Boonds:
Dauvit Murison, wi his great leet o words
Matchin their historie’s grandeur ti their soonds;
Matthew McDiarmid, and his serene wit
That merks the humane – in New King’s he revealed
Cupar’s, Dunfermline’s makars; he unsealed
Oor tragic fables, wi voice and gesture fit.

And he, lately taen frae’s, met years efter
In Embro’s Tweeddale Coort: thon rare George Bruce,
Wha telt me, wi thon rocklike tender lauchter
O hou my letter lay sometime in’s hoose
As he wunnered hou he’d fill a page or three
O Tam Hubbard’s Mercat Press anthologie.
Then he speaks o crabs and clams – and the years atween
Twa students fade, ti the beach at Aiberdeen.
‘I lowped frae my bed, ae nicht, like some gytit cratur,’
Says George, ‘ti scrieve the lines o my conchologie,
Then sent you “Weys o Self-Preservin Natur”.’

Echo cries ti echo alang the Don Street waas
Veerin in and oot aa wrang ti rationalitie,
As frae a neuk or a pend some view fair strikes ye
Gin ye’re a student at the stert or the end o yer fower-year:
Aiblins i the hairst, as Sanct Machar’s touers rise sterk
At the yalla-cramasie lift, and ye’ve scarce taen in the glorie o’t,
Fir ye’re ower young, yit – or aiblins i the simmer,
Ye’ve bevvied and sung and daunced neth the Northren Lichts –
Thon Aurora that augurs nocht but an unkent future.
Seaton Park trysts, the chimes: tak leave o’t aa,
‘The Dee, the Don, Balgounie Brig’s bleck waa.’

Ya nye Baïron. – He’s nae Byron, the chiel
Whase cup, and thus his kyte, fair runneth over;
Wha, at the hingin doun o’s jowels, wad dover
Ower his abandoned hopes fir the Commonweill.
Up, man! Dinna cleik wi the times;
There wis keech, there wis sang, i the heid yince daurk and curly
Speirin at mair nor whit the hell wis skirlie:
- Dinna scowk i the blandwagon rowlin ower social crimes.
A clessroom drained o umwhile eloquence
Can, i the myndin o’t, mak recompense,
Tho deid and leevin mell i the great unseen.
Match twal-through-nineteenth centurie sensibilities
Ti twenty-first centurie debilities,
Adoptit prodigal son o Aiberdeen!


NOTES

‘Cupar’s, Dunfermline’s makars’ – respectively Sir David Lyndsay and Robert
Henrysoun.

‘Ya nye Baïron’ – see the poems of Lermontov.



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