*Alan Spence, one of Scotland’s leading poets, on the death of Edwin Morgan in August 2010.
From the website of the Scottish Poetry Library:
“…Edwin George Morgan was born on 27 April 1920 in Glasgow’s West End, and brought up in Pollokshields and Rutherglen. He attended – unhappily – Rutherglen Academy, moving on to complete his schooling at Glasgow High and entering Glasgow University in 1937. When he was called up in 1940, he horrified his family by registering as a conscientious objector. He reached a compromise position while waiting for his case to be called, and asked to serve in the RAMC, with which he spent the war in Egypt, the Lebanon and Palestine…
Kevin McCarra remarked of the devotion to the city Morgan lived in all his life:
It is part of his purpose to bear witness to Glasgow while insisting that hope and realism need not be at odds. This is tricky work and all his talent is required to hold off glibness. Misery, violence and pain are on the scene, but they will not be given the last word.
(In an interview with Sarah Crown for The Guardian of 26.1.08:
“…Morgan didn’t publicly come out as gay until his 70th birthday, despite a 15-year relationship with the man to whom he dedicated his 1982 collection, Poems of Thirty Years…
“It was something I wanted to write about from quite early on,” Morgan says of his homosexuality. “Even if it wasn’t being spoken about openly, I was able to draw sustenance from it … It took a long time for me to risk being unguarded; it depended on changes in society, changes in the law, changes in the people I knew. But I had a kind of confidence that I would be able to be open eventually – and meanwhile it was so much a part of my own life and character that it was bound to be a part of the poetry.”)
…Morgan’s life of Jesus was typically questioning and bold, and surprisingly his first complete play, though he was drawn to the theatre all his life. His poems were often dramatic monologues – as in the collection From the Video Box (1986) – and he translated several plays, including a bravura version of Cyrano de Bergerac. That play was almost all in Glaswegian Scots, a language Morgan moved in and out of with ease in his poetry, and relished for the range of expression it allowed him.
Morgan lived on his own and judged it best for his work that he should do so. Yet he was a public man, always ready to take part in readings, travel to schools, judge competitions. He enjoyed public recognition in the form of his OBE in 1982, the Queen’s Gold Medal in 2000, and being made the first Poet Laureate of Glasgow in 1999, and then of Scotland, as the Scots Makar, in 2004…”
Good Friday, by Edwin Morgan
Three o’clock. The bus lurches
round into the sun. ‘D’s this go –‘
he flops beside me – ‘right along Bath Street?
– Oh tha’s, tha’s all right, see I’ve
got to get some Easter eggs for the kiddies.
I’ve had a wee drink, ye understand –
ye’ll maybe think it’s a – funny day
to be celebrating – well, no, but ye see
I wasny working, and I like to celebrate
when I’m no working – I don’t say it’s right
I’m no saying it’s right, ye understand – ye understand?
But anyway tha’s the way I look at it –
I’m no boring you, eh? – ye see today,
take today, I don’t know what today’s in aid of,
whether Christ was – crucified or was he –
rose fae the dead like, see what I mean?
You’re an educatit man, you can tell me –
– Aye, well. There ye are. It’s been seen
time and again, the working man
has nae education, he jist canny – jist
hasny got it, know what I mean,
he’s jist bliddy ignorant – Christ aye,
bliddy ignorant. Well –’ The bus brakes violently,
he lunges for the stair, swings down – off,
into the sun for his Easter eggs,