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The writings of Sydney Goodsir Smith

This thesis is a first attempt at a full-length study of the writings of Sydney Goodsir Smith. Certain themes and attitudes become apparent and provide a key for a better understanding of his work. Chapter One. Smith was born in New Zealand and educated in England where his first writings were influenced by the 1890's. MacDiarmid's example and the enthusiasm of literary friends in Edinburgh led him to write in Scots. Chapter Two. The revival of Scots aroused controversy but the literary reasons for its adoption must be stressed. In Scots Smith found freedom for linguistic experimentation. He drew freely on all levels of the language from the everyday to the aureate and adapted the language to suit his own needs. Chapter Three. Smith's poems in English are poor, and his first Scots poems are uncertain. Skail Wind is coloured by the war but in it and The Wanderer the 'gangrel' and the theme of existential revolt first emerge. Peter Morrison is the archetypal 'gangrel'. Chapter Four. In The Deevil's Waltz Smith uses myth as a point of reference. Prometheus becomes the model for Man struggling for dignity and self-definition in a world gone mad. Chapter Five. Figs and Thistles continues this theme with political and social comment. Politics are tempered by realism and Smith's main concern remains the individual. Chapters Six and Seven. The evolution of Under the Eildon Tree is described, as is its use of mythology and legend. The attributes of the 'goddess' are discussed, related to a common romantic archetype, and traced within the poem. Under the Eildon Tree is then seen in relation to Classical models and its use of elegiac conventions is studied. The narrator of the poem is seen as a romantic rebel. Chapter Eight. Smith's lyrics are primarily expressions of his emotional reactions. So Late Into the Night is regarded as a sequence which dramatically reveals a multiplicity of attitudes to love. Later lyrics make use of esoteric mythological details but Smith is also capable of restrained, philosophical statement. His lyrics celebrate the flux of experience. Chapter Nine. 'To Li Po' owes much to Robert Fergusson and the Eighteenth century verse epistle. It introduces us to Smith's longer city poems in which the individual is seen in a social and urban context. The 'respectable' values of bourgeois Edinburgh are rejected. The 'gangrels' are the true bearers of tradition. The themes of love and politics are revealed as one in The Vision of the Prodigal Son. Chapter Ten. Smith wrote plays which are not 'disinterested' drama: they are 'committed' political statements and may be criticised for the inadequacy of their analysis. He also indulged in mythological fantasy. The Laughter of the Gods is about the failure, and necessity, of individual rebellion. Carotid Cornucopius is a celebration of anarchy. Chapter Eleven. Smith's writing is varied and deserving of greater study but his best work is an expression of his own personality.
Date January 1982
CreatorsHall, John Clifford
PublisherUniversity of Aberdeen
Source SetsEthos UK
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation

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