Hugh MacDiarmid: To Circumjack Cencrastus

(1633 words)

Intended to resolve the contradictions and antitheses of A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle (1926), To Circumjack Cencrastus, or the Curly Snake (1930) was MacDiarmid’s last long poem to make major use of Scots. The languages of the poem include Scots, English, and Gaelic, in a variety of registers from the comic to the sublime. Writing to his former teacher George Ogilvie, MacDiarmid expressed hope that this new work would be “ideally complementary to the Drunk Man – positive where it is negative, optimistic where it is pessimistic, and constructive where it is destructive” (MacDiarmid 1984: 91). Its central symbol is Cencrastus, which MacDiarmid characterizes in the same letter as “the …

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Robichaud, Paul. "To Circumjack Cencrastus". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 17 September 2009
[, accessed 09 October 2015.]