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This report is taken from PN Review 57, Volume 14 Number 1, September - October 1987.

Metaphysical Scotland Brian Morton
In 1938, as a young graduate, George Davie became assistant to Norman Kemp Smith, the Professor of Philosophy at Edinburgh University. Only the previous year, their relationship had suffered a brief wobble of misunderstanding. Davie had heard from another quarter that Kemp Smith was threatening to withdraw patronage and support unless his young pupil broke off all contact with his friend Chris Grieve, the poet 'Hugh MacDiarmid', who was then deeply involved in Communist ideas.

Kemp Smith denied the whole thing without hesitation or embarrassment, but not before Davie had been in touch with Grieve. The two Edinburgh men quickly patched up any unpleasantness. Grieve, though, in semi-exile up in Whalsay, Shetland, took typically rhetorical umbrage and vented it noisily in one of his lesser poems, mercifully excluded from any subsequent collection. In manner it fell somewhere between McGonagall and bad Pope.


You have separated me and my friend
But since he and I are fully aware
And equally contemptuous of your means and
   your end
Only for a little can you prevail 'twixt us there
  Ere we reconcile.

Ere we reconcile in a final reckoning
And repudiation of all you are and stand for and
   serve
When he with his science and I with my song
Sweep you and your world off the single nerve
  Of our one purpose, joined in lightning's style.

You have separated me and my friend ...


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