Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Poetry statues

I had the great pleasure of meeting an old Finnish man shortly before Burns night (our Scottish celebration of the poet Robert Burns on the 25th January each year) and he told me of his worship of Burns.

"There are many statues of Burns" he explained, "throughout Finland and Russia." It didn't surprise me for who couldn't love Burns' work and his message. But then he added, "And of Walter Scott too."

That stopped me. The man had come to Abbotsford Scott's house having made his pilgrimage to Alloway Burn's birthplace. He spoke English with some difficulty but offered several corrections to the information on the display boards in the house. He knew Scott as if personally.

Why? To Finns and Russians and Czechs and many more Scott was a great nationalist pushing countries to recover and expand their language with its historic words and rediscover their sense of identity.

In Scotland, it is a little different.

Glasgow is dumping Scott's statue unless it fits in with the new design scheme of George Square. The poet who celebrated the city in his book Rob Roy is well, what? I don't know... The old guard don't like Scott and they are the managers now.

Perhaps they should read the poems and the novels before making up their mind to erase what is celebrated and seen so differently in the rest of the world.

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