Friday, December 30, 2016



George Sturt (1863-1927), aka George Bourne, The Wheelwright's Shop (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1958), p. 202:
But no higher wage, no income, will buy for men that satisfaction which of old — until machinery made drudges of them — streamed into their muscles all day long from close contact with iron, timber, clay, wind and wave, horse-strength. It tingled up in the niceties of touch, sight, scent. The very ears unawares received it, as when the plane went singing over the wood, or the exact chisel went tapping in (under the mallet) to the hard ash with gentle sound. But these intimacies are over. Although they have so much more leisure men can now taste little solace in life, of the sort that skilled hand-work used to yield to them. Just as the seaman to-day has to face the stoke-hole rather than the gale, and knows more of heat-waves than of sea-waves, so throughout. In what was once the wheelwright's shop, where Englishmen grew friendly with the grain of timber and with sharp tool, nowadays untrained youths wait upon machines, hardly knowing oak from ash or caring for the qualities of either.
Robert Garioch (1909-1981), "Perfect," Complete Poetical Works (Edinburgh: MacDonald Publishers, 1983), pp. 40-41:
I'm daft. They say I'm daft, and they're richt!
Listen afore I speak.
I like to turn out a bit of wark that is perfect,
or raither wad be perfect
if only the customer had perfect patience.

I like to mak, say, a table out of a tree.
That table maun be perfectly flat and smooth.
I maun see my face in it.
Ken whit I mean? — see my face perfect,
no blurred, nor twisty-weys, not wan iota.

When I say a tree, of course, I mean some boards —
I'm no Robinson Crusoe.

Wuid is sweirt. It's no willin.
Its naitur is to haud up a lot of leaves
and swee about in the wind.

Wuid doesnae want to be flat.
It wants to rax itsel and twist about.
I choose timmer, that auld and seasont,
that muckle droukit and dried and blaffert about,
it has lost aa ambition to dae as it likes.

Wuid doesnae want to be smooth.
I plane it and sand it and try it
on a deid-flat surface.
I sand it and try it and sand it finer.
And when I'm finished I dae it again.

Wuid wants to bide the colour it started.
I stain it wi dragon's bluid or turmeric,
burnt sienna, Pernambuco wuid, burnt umber,
indigo, even, if I'm in the mood.

Wuid wants to be reuch and grainy.
I rub in f1lling, and sand it finer and finer.

Thair again, raw linseed yle and shellac in spirits
are sweirt to mix. I mix them.
And thair's yer polish. Or anither wey,
byled linseed yle and pouthert tripoli
and twa days' wark, thon's better still.
Polish-daft I am, polish without end:
pottie pouther, pomas, crocus, jewellers' rouge,
and every job sent out afore it's duin,
naethin-like perfect yet.

I ken I'm daft. I wark wi naitur agen naitur.
But aa that is in fact a thing of the past.
I hae been Moved On wi the times.
I'm in chairge of a machine as big as our hous.
I set the haunnles on the dials, press a button.
Out comes, say, Honduras mahogany, shade nine.
I dinnae ken hou it got thair.
I dinnae ken whit it's made of.
But it's perfect,
perfect every time.
And I dinnae like it.

It's daft I am,
no donnart.
Robert Garioch, letter to a friend (December 11, 1970), in A Garioch Miscellany. Selected and Edited by Robert Fulton (Edinburgh: MacDonald Publishers, 1986), pp. 46-47:
That wood-polishing poem ["Perfect," Complete Poetical Works, p. 40] turned out better than I expected, at least it pleases people a good deal at poetry-readings, which is something to go by, though there is a lot more to it, of course. It is easy to follow and repetitive, so easy to take in at one reading. I went to a Nelson Hall concert and admired the gloss that some Corporation painter had got on the panelling, and that started the thing off. I don't really know about polishing and staining wood, but my father knew a lot about it, and there is plenty of information about it in one of his books that is still in the house. He made two violins and varnished them beautifully. One of them is considered to have a pretty good tone, very good, in fact, by people who know....
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.


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