Hugh MacDiarmid, To Circumjack Cencrastus

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Intended to resolve the contradictions and antitheses of

A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle


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 fundamental serpent, the underlying unifying principal of the cosmos”. The poem expresses a…

1632 words

Citation: Robichaud, Paul. "To Circumjack Cencrastus". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 17 September 2009 [, accessed 21 June 2024.]

25849 To Circumjack Cencrastus 3 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

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