In Glasgow sets five poems by Edwin Morgan from his collection Sonnets from Scotland and is for a 24-voice chamber choir. It was commissioned by Celtic Connections for performance January 2021. I had already set eight of these sonnets for men’s choir: three for the Estonian Men’s Choir (and recorded on BCGBCD 11 “Silva Caledonia”); three for a consortium of American men’s choirs, and two to form part of my Piano Concerto “The Solway Canal” as well as being separate works. I admire Edwin Morgan’s poetry immensely and had the opportunity to meet him in Glasgow before the Tallinn performances of Silva Caledonia in 2006. In Glasgow is dedicated to my friend, the Scottish writer Brian Morton
Gavin Bryars: In Glasgow
Edwin Morgan, from Sonnets from Scotland
- The Poet in the City
Rain stockade Glasgow, we paused, changed gears,
found him solitary but cheerful in
Anniesland, with the cheerfulness you’d win,
we imagined, through schiltrons of banked fears.
The spears had a most sombre glint, as if
the forced ranks had re-closed, but there he wrote
steadily, with a peg for the wet coat
he’d dry and put on soon. Gulls cut the cliff
of those houses, we watched him follow them
intently, see them beat and hear them scream
about the invisible sea they smelt
and fish-white boats they raked from stern to stem
although their freedom was in fact his dream
of freedom with all guilts all fears unfelt.
- Poe in Glasgow
The sun beat on the Moby-Dick-browed boy.
It was a day to haunt the Broomielaw.
The smell of tar, the slap of water, draw
his heart out from the wharf in awe and joy.
Oh, not Virginia, not Liverpool –
and not the Isle of Dogs or Greenwich Reach –
but something through the masts – a blue – a beach –
an inland gorge of rivers green and cool.
‘Wake up!’ a sailor coiled with bright rope cried
and almost knocked him off his feet, making
towards his ship. ‘You want to serve your time
as cabin-boy’s assistant, eh?’ The ride
and creak of wood comes home, testing, shaking.
‘Where to?’ He laughed. ‘To Arnheim, boy, Arnheim.’
- De Quincey in Glasgow
Twelve thousand drops of laudanum a day
kept him from shrieking. Wrapped in a duffle
buttoned to the neck, he made his shuffle,
door, table, window, table, door, bed, lay
on bed, sighed groaned, jumped from bed, sat and wrote
till the table was white with pages, rang
for his landlady, ordered mutton, sang
to himself with pharmacies in his throat.
When afternoons grew late, he feared and longer
for dusk. In that high room in Rottenrow
he looks out east to the Necropolis.
Its crowded tombs rise jostling, living, thronged
with shadows, and the granite-bloodying glow
flares on the dripping bronze of a used kris.
- G. M. Hopkins in Glasgow
Earnestly nervous yet forthright, melted
by bulk and warmth and unimposed rough grace,
he lit a ready fuse from face to face
of Irish Glasgow. Dark tough tight-belted
drunken Fenian poor ex-Ulstermen
crouched round a brazier like a burning bush
and lurched into his soul with such a push
that British angels blanched in mid-amen
to see their soldier stumble like a Red.
industry’s pauperism singed his creed.
He blessed them, frowned, beat on his hands. The load
of coal-black darkness clattering on his head
half-crushed, half-fed the bluely burning need
that trudged him back along North Woodside Road
- After a Death
A writer needs nothing but a table.
His pencil races, pauses, crosses out.
Five years ago he lost his friend, without
him he struggles through a different fable.
The one who died, he is the better one.
The other one is selfish, ruthless, he
uses people, floats in an obscure sea
of passions, half-drowns as the livid sun
goes down, calls out for help he will not give.
Examine yourself! He is afraid to.
But that is not quite true, I saw him look
Into that terrible place, let him ,live
at least with what is eternally due
to love that lies in earth in cold Carluke.