…can still be fun.
Think of the Rev Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch
(National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh).
The Rev. Robert Walker- skating,
decoupaged through the roseate gloaming;
proud, like a cameo against the dun,
broad brushstrokes of Lion’s Haunch; Arthur’s Seat.
Contre-jour, he’s caught in a deft profile.
Has he sublimated his past losses:
that youthful mother and his first-born son?
The joys of discipline light up his eye
and grace and effort are counterbalanced.
His being exudes sound theology.
Just like his Master, he glides on water;
sure-footed, poised; in his own element;
making his own mark where others have scored.
In The Traveller’s Pose, he whizzes past,
like a sparrow through a banqueting hall.
The pink inklings binding his buckled shoon,
question his Presbyterianism.
His gaze is fixed on another city-
not The New Town, enlightened though it be.
The artist in him suspends all beliefs.
No stone in Canongate will pin him down.
Duddingston Loch, Edinburgh Festival, Enlightenment, General Assembly, Kirst Wark, Lallans, New Town, phizzogs, Princes Street Gardens, Raeburn, Rev Robert Walker, Sir John Sinclair of Ulbster, The Mound, Whigs
You didn’t go to The Edinburgh Festival this year?
No, too busy moving house. But I will never forget the year I
went to the big Raeburn exhibition.
Why is that in particular? I mean, I know he was a brilliant portrait
Because, when I came out, I could recognise all those faces, or phizzogs,
in Princes Street Gardens…I wrote a poem about the experience, as I
I started to declaim it, but Brassie protested that she didn’t
understand Lallans. For all you linguists ‘oot there’, as it
were, ‘read oan‘. See if you can get the gist:
(Kirsty Wark- crop image by Frank Wales.
KW at Innovate ’08 Conference, London)
Raeburn At The National Gallery of Scotland
A’ they pitten-oan, pauchtie Whigs appear
oan the Mound, or even wi’ Kirsty Wark,
debating devolution. Tartan-trewed
museum staff hae a look o’ Sir John
Sinclair of Ulbster and the Kirk still skates
oan wabblie ice – no oan Duddingston Loch,
but at its ain General Assembly.
Next thing they’ll be a’ wearin’ pink trappins
as they tapsalteerie roon key issues.
Slidderie, crabbit, towtie judges
aye hae glancy nebs, and advocates
gaither airt traisures. Quate, lang-drauchit wives
keep oan winnin’ their marital chess games;
take mair to theirselves than thir marrow’s queen:
wummen catch oan fast tae Enlightenment.
Braw, harp-playin’ sirens still turn hoose-ends,
musickers are forespoken by thir world;
bairnies crack thir thoums, so ye gie yir tent;
chiels forget thir first wives efter echt days.
The high heid yins adopt designer cloots
tae hide the fact they are debt-bedevilled.
They sappie, pairted lips warsle tae rede
themsels. We can hear them bairge in New Town,
spoat thir reflections in Jenny a’ things.
Thir portraits can be traced aff Princes Street:
there’s that carnaptious phizzog, they chollers:
a’ they bachles oan erstwhile buckled feet.