as a wayward child…pleased again by… a book of fables… or the rare melody of an old ditty… ‘The Antiquary’ i My coat has a fur collar I have made landfall with a staff of yew I carry a leather satchel over this sandy shore my book folds its wings ii Through the gate under the black arch, the sea has something to tell me: For mirth, for menstrallie, you will hear the screaming of scarts, the mermaid among my waters, and the kraken with horns welking. iii Shells, little skiffs in pools, gooseberries, tiled whitings: the cures to be found in this natural infirmary. iv I step into the Forth. Do you want to be cured? the Lord God asks of me. v This is the wave will break the spell, this is the weed will coil my calf, this is the waters’ warp and weft, this is the song of the healing swell. vi My leg won’t take the weight so I’ll be a herring, lovely fish, and play in rowan ocean or the open bay. vii The tide rushes in and the tide draws back, the sounds rustle like chicks in my ear. The chill, the swirl and the biting brine half promise a cure for this leg of mine, but give me the song with its rise and fall, the line that keeps step and the words which call.
About this poem
The Walter Scott Digital Archive, Edinburgh University Library*
with lines from Allan Ramsay’s ‘Tea Table Miscellany’ and Scott’s ‘The Pirate’