‘Oot o’ the World and into the Langholm’ : A critical introduction to Hugh MacDiarmid’s ‘The Muckle Toon’ with text, commentary and glossary.
The present study grew out of a conviction that the poems written for the Muckle Toon volume of Clann Albann – Hugh MacDiarmidâ€™s abandoned opus of the early nineteen thirties – are too intricately interrelated to be understood in isolation from each other. My aims were to arrange the poems of The Muckle Toon in a manner suggestive of MacDiarmid’s unity of purpose in planning and composing that unfinished work, and to relate their themes and techniques both to his earlier and later development and to modern poetic practice generally. I have hoped thereby to clarify the shape of his career, the most widely accepted view of which rests upon an inadequate appreciation of the poetry of the early thirties.
Volume One comprises a critical introduction to The Muckle Toon. The biographical opening chapter centres on the poetâ€™s youth in â€™the Muckle Toon o’ the Langholmâ€™, and on the background to his imaginative concern with the place in maturity. Chapter Two, the most wide-ranging in my study, discusses questions relating to language and meaning in MacDiarmid’s work which must be explored if the position of The Muckle Toon in his career is to be understood. Chapter Three examines the poetry with regard to structure, symbol, prosody, and language, while Chapter Four is concerned with the subject-matter of The Muckle Toon. This last chapter also argues for the continuity of MacDiarmid’s development by demonstrating that the early Shetland poetry embodies a critical response to, and a partial fulfilment of, the Clann Albann scheme.
Volume Two includes the text of The Muckle Toon, supplemented by related items drawn from the range of MacDiarmid’s output in poetry ana prose, a critical and explanatory Commentary, and a Glossary. Reasons for including the ‘related itemsâ€™ are given in A Note on the Text.