Sydney Goodsir Smith Biography
(1915–75), Skail Wind, The Deevil's Waltz, Cokkils, Girl with a Violin
Scottish poet, born in Wellington, New Zealand, the son of an emigrant Scottish academic, educated at the University of Edinburgh, after which he pursued a career as a journalist, broadcaster, and teacher. Smith and Robert Garioch are generally considered MacDiarmid's most distinguished successors as modern poets writing in Scots. His reputation as a poet was established with Skail Wind (1941), which displayed his fluency and accomplishment in a range of lyrical modes; subsequent collections, in which his political concern with Scottish national identity become apparent, include The Deevil's Waltz (1946), Cokkils (1953), and Girl with a Violin (1968); Collected Poems, 1941–1975 appeared in 1975. He used the rhythms and vocabulary of spoken Scots throughout a wide range of poetic modes, frequently to witty or ironic effect. Under the Eildon Tree (1954) is generally regarded as his finest achievement. Its twenty-four elegies combine vigorously colloquial diction and complex verse forms in sustaining their treatment of unhappiness in love. Thomas the Rhymer, Cuchulain, and Orpheus are among the personae introduced in the course of the poem's widely allusive development. Among Smith's other works is the novel of fantasy entitled Carotid Cornucopius (1947), an often outrageous jeu d'esprit, and The Wallace (1960), a five-act play of a patriotic character. He also edited numerous volumes, including Gavin Douglas: A Selection from His Poetry (1959) and A Choice of Burns's Poems and Songs (1966).
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