And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
- And did those feet, William Blake

tirsdag 5. april 2011

Epistles from Edinburgh - Caledonian Blues

Edina! Scotia's darling seat!
All hail thy palaces and tow'rs,
Where once, beneath a Monarch's feet,
Sat Legislation's sov'reign pow'rs:
From marking wildly scatt'red flow'rs,
As on the banks of Ayr I stray'd,
And singing, lone, the lingering hours,
I shelter in thy honour'd shade. 

- Address to Edinburgh, Robert Burns 

And it's cold on the tollgate
With the Caledonian blues
Cold on the tollgate
God knows qhat I could do with you
- What it is, Mark Knopfler 

Although Mark Knopfler originally is a Glaswegian his song What it is haunted me pleasantly during my stay in Edinburgh, and when I returned from two terrific days in the Scottish capital I listened to this song over and over again. It remains one of my favourites.

Thus bold, independent, unconquer'd, and free,
Her bright course of glory for ever shall run:
For brave Caledonia immortal must be;
I'll prove it from Euclid as clear as the sun
- Caledonia - a Ballad, Robert Burns

I travelled north the second last weekend of my stay in the UK, partly because I had heard Edinburgh was a great place to visit but mainly to meet up with Hannah and Mike, two friends I hadn't seen in three years. The journey itself was delightfully uneventful, a passage through a landscape evolving from the flat fields of Yorkshire, past the denes of Durham and eventually into the craglands and coastline of Scotland. I was very glad to finally see salt water again for the first time since my journey to Whitby in early January.

Where shall the lover rest
Whom the fates sever
From his true maiden's breast
Parted for ever?
- Where shall the lover rest, Sir Walter Scott

This Neo-Gothic construction is the Scott Monument, erected in honour of Sir Walter Scott and from what I've heard this is the largest monument dedicated to any person not comissioned by the person himself, although the claimaints may be forgetting the Christ statute in Rio de Janeiro. I was strangely drawn to it, despite, or maybe because, I find it so strange and completely out of place.

At the train station I met Hannah and while waiting for Mike to finish at work we strolled about the city in that idle manner I find so very satisfying when exploring. First we visited the National Gallery of Scotland where they have a splendid collection of many interesting and beautiful works. Among the most impressive were Botticelli's The Virgin Adoring the Sleeping Christ Child, to which I will return in a later blogpost, Raphael's The Holy Family Meeting the Infant St. John the Baptist and El Greco's Fàbula.

The School of Divinity.

Afterwards we walked through Old Edinburgh's High Street and visited St Giles' Cathedral a beautiful church but sadly subject to internal restoration so the scaffolding made the church space far less impressive than it otherwise would have been. Additionally there was a bagpiper playing at the opposite end of West Parliament Square outside the church but his piercing tones managed to enter into the far reaches of the cathedral. Normally I have a certain fondness for bagpipe music, yet this time it was too loud and too intrusive to awaken any joy in me, nor was it, to my recollection, Amazing Grace (which is particularly wonderful when played on this instrument). 

Walking along High Street is an excellent way of getting to know Edinburgh in all its Victorian urbanism and dirty sandstone, and although the Castle was closing early that day it was still well worth the trip. Having descended from the Old City we walked up Calton Hill where there is an annual New Years procession with torches, according to Hannah quite an evocative experience.

The Hub. Once a church, now a cafè.

The other night upon the stair
I met a man who wasn't there
- Old rhyme

Here Wealth still swells the golden tide,
As busy Trade his labours plies;
There Architecture's noble pride
Bids elegance and splendour rise:
Here Justice, from her native skies,
High wields her balance and her rod;
There Learning, with his eagle eyes,
Seeks Science in her coy abode. 
- Address to Edinburgh, Robert Burns 

 There's nane that's blest of human kind,
But the cheerful and the gay, man
- A Bottle and Friend, Robert Burns

The Scots clearly have no problem stooping to scatology.

The building in the background is the Scottish Parliament, raised at a cost way beyond the initial budgeted sum and without doubt the ugliest construction I've seen in the UK. Due to the affliction it caused to my aesthetical tastes I refused to document its monstrosity to any length. 

Salisbury Ridge.

Salisbury Ridge with Arthur's Seat in the background.

On the top of Calton Hill stands what initially was meant to be a copy of Parthenon, but the project ran out of money at some stage and today stands as a monument to Failure. For some reason I was drawn to it in what I believe to be a quaint mixture of pity and desire to ridicule.

And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.
And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.
- The Book of Genesis, 28:11-12

There's a chink of light, there's a burning wick
There's a lantern in the tower
Wee Willie Winkie with a candlestick
Still writing songs in the wee wee hours
- What it is, Mark Knopfler

I've always been fascinated by failure.
- Charlie Brown

After enjoying the view of the Firth of Forth we descended Calton Hill and went to meet Mike whereupon we strolled about the city for a couple of hours before we headed home for a delicious dinner that opened my eyes to sweet potato. 

By her swift movement Hannah has caused the photograph to become blurry and thus underlining Hume's claim that we can never have certain knowledge of what we sense. 

Look! Is that only the setting sun again?
Or a piper coming from far away?
- Lament for the Great Music, Hugh MacDiarmid

Yes, that is a staute. Hopefully.

Mille grazie, amici.

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