"She lives the poetry she cannot write" – Wilde
If you don”t know Norman MacCaig’s poem Landscape and I – go and find it. He’s class. For him the Scottish mountain Schiehallion is not just a literal landmark but a symbol of belonging and challenge. He closes the poem with two of the best lines ever – concise, precise and truthful. “There’s a Schiehallion anywhere you go./ The thing is, climb it.”
I can’t do better than that and nor can anyone else – though Tobias Hill writes about his city with a similar eye for detail. For MacCaig it’s Scotland, for Hill London: for me, the Peak District.
At the top of Margery Hill
is a lean, eroding barrow made of peat:
under the lumpen barrow
is a man who knew this hill by an older name
and had another name than ours
for the valley two miles away, where
on a Bronze Age day the peat was dug;
and had a name which we will never know
for the need to carry peat
two miles uphill for a dead man.
His tracks and woods and ways
and even his technologies look simple
from a distance.
The names and armies pass like rain
on Minninglow and Shutlingslow,
on Bosley Cloud and Thorpe Cloud,
Shining Tor, Chrome Hill and Lantern Pike,
on Win Hill and Lose Hill.
These names and mine will pass like rain
but peat or no peat,
I am buried in them, they in me.