Edwin Morgan

Edwin Morgan’s most recent book is Tales from Baron Munchausen (Mariscat). The Play of Gilgamesh is due from Carcanet this year.

Poem: ‘The War on the War on Terror’

Edwin Morgan, 9 February 2006

This woman, I heard her say she could not bear To bring a child into a world so dreadful It scoops up smoking body parts like that. Did she mean she would rather leave them lying? Of course not, that’s just twisting what she says. Well, let’s be blunt, let us be damnably blunt. Would you rather not have a baby in a body-bag, Are you listening! – bits of a baby In a body-bag,...

Poem: ‘The Old Man and E.A.P’

Edwin Morgan, 7 July 2005

He is not sleeping, though you might think so. His eyes are half shut against the light. ‘An old man’s nap.’ They smile, walk softly on. He is smiling too, but mentally. Without a twitch, he is on dragonback above Edgarallanwood – what’s in a name – getting ready to rein in on the low moon. It was a certain very dark exhilaration played invisibly along his...

Poem: ‘An Old Woman’s Birthday’

Edwin Morgan, 3 February 2005

That’s me ninety-four. If we are celebrating I’ll take a large Drambuie, many thanks, and then I’ll have a small one every evening for the next six years. After that – something quick and I’ll be off. A second century doesn’t entice. When I was a girl, you thought you would live for ever. Those endless summer twilights under the trees, sauntering, talking,...

Poem: ‘Louis Kossuth’

Edwin Morgan, 6 June 2002

This is not the Great Hungarian Plain But I can be almost content here in Turin Watching the sparrows at their dust-baths and the sun Splashing new factories with bright hard light – It goes, this place, it hums, it buzzes, capital Of Italy’s long-sought unity, ex-French As Hungary is oh, not yet, ex-Austrian! The Danube can only flow through my dreams. It feeds a forest of forty...

Poem: ‘Pelagius’

Edwin Morgan, 4 October 2001

I, Morgan, whom the Romans call Pelagius,Am back in my own place, my green Cathures*By the frisky firth of salmon, by the open seaNot far, place of my name, at the end of thingsAs it must seem. But it is not a dreamThose voyages, my hair grew white at the tiller,I have been where I say I have been,And my cheek still burns for the world.That sarcophagus by the Molendinar –Keep the lid on,...

Giant Goody Goody: fairytales

Edwin Morgan, 24 May 2001

A fairytale, whatever messages may be inserted into it or teased out from it, is a tale of marvels. A cat struts past in boots. A demon swells out from a lamp like steam from a kettle. A princess cannot sleep because a pea below her twenty mattresses is hurting her. A prince is metamorphosed from a frog (the poet Norman MacCaig used to say it would be even better if a frog metamorphosed from...

Four Poems

Edwin Morgan, 22 June 2000


The old suspension bridge was shaking. The junkie on the rail was making One last hazy calculation, Climbed over, dropped his desperation With his body. The grey river Closed on thin flesh and thin shiver. He had not thought there was a boat, A boatman, looking for the float Of life to save or drowned to gaff Or some poor soul who’s half and half Glazed between heaven and earth...

Two Poems

Edwin Morgan, 18 June 1998

The Demon at the Frozen Marsh

I have been prowling round it. Nothing moves. The winter fields are hard, half-white. There is something fogged and hoary about But it won’t settle. I would be stiff If I failed to circle. As it is, My crest tingles. I am not in gloom. The low sun paints me – I stare at it – A sort of leaden gold along my joints. I lift a hand spilling...

He’s killed his father, don’t know it yet but will. Red hands grip crusts till he has scoffed his fill. The tight cords hurt his body – not his will.

Bandit, savage, reiver, devil, scum – he’s saddled with his titles till kingdom come. To him, useless resentment’s long gone numb.

His eyes pierce through his own darkness; his skin is windburnt, dirtpocked;...

Poem: ‘Byron at Sixty-Five’

Edwin Morgan, 8 January 1987

The rumour of my death has long abated. The Greeks still love me, but I don’t love Greeks Except for one – or two; I must be fated To wander and to change; when the mast creaks I smell the salt and know my soul unsated Until it finds the language no man speaks. And what is that? some simpleton demands Who’s never heard the seething of the sands.

No seething here, though, or...

Hugo Stolkin says that the ideas about nationalism in my poem ‘Louis Kossuth’ have left him uneasy (Letters, 11 July). I think that is a valid reaction. I did not bring in the figure of James Macfarlan (1832-62), a published poet well known in his day, in order to mock him, but to show that Kossuth had been forcibly made aware, in Glasgow, that there were alternatives to his brand of nationalism....

Watermonster Blues: Edwin Morgan

William Wootten, 18 November 2004

Poems of science and science fiction, history and politics, love poems, comic poems, social realist or surrealist poems, dialogues and monologues, newspaper poems, Beat poems, concrete poems,...

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Mark Ford, 19 January 1989

This is Ciaran Carson’s second collection of poems. His first, The New Estate (1976), revealed an intricate, lyrical poet intensely aware of traditional Irish cultures, and concerned to...

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Ten Poets

Denis Donoghue, 7 November 1985

One of Donald Davie’s early poems, and one of his strongest, is ‘Pushkin: A Didactic Poem’, from Brides of Reason (1955). As in Davie’s ‘Dream Forest’, Pushkin...

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Blessed, Beastly Place

Douglas Dunn, 5 March 1981

Literary travellers, getting off the train at Waverley Station, Edinburgh, must have wondered if there are other cities which can boast a main point of entry, an introductory landmark, named...

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