Friday, 6 July 2012

What a Bore

When I started this project of 26 Sestutes for 2012, inspired by the 26 Treasures competition for the National Museum of Scotland, I had great plans and pretentions.  First, that I could write a mere 62-word snippet based on 26 of Scotland’s Treasures – displayed in a building I enjoy spending far too much time in – every two weeks for a year.  Believe you me: a ‘sestute’ is no easy discipline.

Second, that I would find time to look more deeply into issues of national identity, and explore what it means to be Scottish.  This is particularly hard for someone who pronounces words with a ‘posh’ (or at least, received) English accent.  And third, that I (while being chronologically-challenged) would find items to write about that might slot pleasingly into calendars of events, historical, personal, or ecclesiastical.

I managed to shoe-horn Corpus Christi into the mix; even Lent got a mention but, when it comes to the hagiographical calendar, I sadly forgot about Saint John-the-Baptist, whose date was handed to me on a plate, since I used to work for a church that bore his name if not his fore-running fame. So, with apologies to June 24 (and anything else that rhymes with ‘ore’) I will throw this one in, belated. 

Oh, and if you’ve never heard the wonderful and legendary John Kenny play this beast of an instrument, I urge you to look it up while you’re here on the internet.

The War-Trumpet

I’m not quite sure
who bore the boar
on a John-the-Baptist dish.

A weapon of war,
adored and abhorred, a caricature, 
with bulging eyes and laughing lower jaw;
its sforzando roar let rip
with puckered lip
and petrifying embouchure.

Then, in a peaty grave and frore
was chilled by hoar-frost
and nature’s icy blast;
a silenced sacrifice,
heard – and feared –
no more.

This brass and bronze head of a carnyx - an Iron Age battle trumpet - was found at Deskford in Banffshire. It is the only surviving carnyx head from Britain. The carnyx was used sometime between 80 and 200 AD, and buried as a sacrifice to the gods. The head resembles that of a wild boar, a symbol of strength and fearlessness.

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