Robert Crawford

Robert Crawford was Bishop Wardlaw Professor of Poetry at St Andrews until 2020. He is the author of Young Eliot, the first partof a Life of T.S. Eliot, The Bard: Robert Burns, a Biography and Bannockburns: Scottish Independence and Literary Imagination, 1314-2014, as well as several collections of poems, including A Scottish Assembly, Full Volume and Testament.

Poem: ‘Tank’

Robert Crawford, 21 July 2022

Age: 22. Time: after 2. RumblingOn western skyline, barrage, tangled tracks, trucks,Jeeps, flags, signposts, dust, oily rags, lorries tumblingOver dark crests, pulverised surface almost liquid, like sticky,Gritty faeces. Men knee-deep in it, goggled facesLost under thick, off-white masks, swigging from hip flasks.

animula blandula vagula

Inside a wide, bucking two-ton, we’re thrownAgainst...

In a Tuft of Thistle: Borges is Coming

Robert Crawford, 16 December 2021

JorgeLuis Borges’s visit to the Home of Golf in 1971 is still remembered. Edwin Williamson devotes a page of his 2004 biography to the event, calling attention to Borges’s wish to recite Scottish Border ballads while in St Andrews, and to stand alone beside the North Sea. Not long before, the 71-year-old Borges had published a story called ‘The Congress’ which, as...

Poem: ‘Old World’

Robert Crawford, 4 February 2021

Who can see the green earth any moreAs she was by the sources of Time?Who imagines her fields as they layIn the sunshine, unworn by the plough?

Matthew Arnold, ‘The Future’

Barley field, cut, dried,Brewed, poured, you’re so garrulousLong after you’ve gone.

Old English riddle from the Exeter Book

Very few people will read through all these thousands of pages, and their publication risks making Eliot seem more daunting than ever. While this vast hoard offers scholars all sorts of opportunities, the problem for most common readers is to work out what that word ‘Eliot’ now means. Is ‘Eliot’ still the slim volume of poetry that can be slipped inside a coat pocket? Or does the name now unavoidably bring with it this vast body of letters, plays, poems and prose that can be transported only by fork-lift truck and accessed in full only via a computer in addition to a printed library? Just what the name ‘Eliot’ conjures up has always been a problem.

He was the man: Ezra Pound

Robert Crawford, 30 June 2016

Can anyone​ read a biography of Ezra Pound without feeling unsettled? The persistent anti-Semitism; the eager support for Mussolini; the pain and waste of the incarceration, first in a US military detention centre resembling Guantánamo, then in a Washington facility for the insane; the lasting damage done to people in his family circle; the powerful egocentrism at the heart of all this:...

Smiles Better: Glasgow v. Edinburgh

Andrew O’Hagan, 23 May 2013

Can places, like people, have a personality, a set of things you can love or not love? Do countries speak? Do lakes and mountains offer a guide to living? Could you feel let down by a city? Can...

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How Does It Add Up? The Burns Cult

Neal Ascherson, 12 March 2009

The late Bernard Crick, who had a fine and memorable funeral in Edinburgh the other day, left a legacy of sharp opinions behind him. Among the least popular was his opinion of the British...

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Robert Fergusson died in Edinburgh’s Bedlam on 17 October 1774. He was 24 years old. He had been admitted to the asylum three months before, against his will, because his mother could no...

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Anthologies are powerful things: movements are launched, periods are parcelled up, writers are made and broken. They are, or want to be, the book world’s performative utterances: defining...

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Until recently, the notion that the academic subject called ‘English’ had any sort of history would have seemed rather odd. Hadn’t it always just, well, existed? Surely, at his...

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Scots wha hae gone to England

Donald Davie, 9 July 1992

In books that go on about how the English have imposed their language and their manners on other English-speaking nations (Australian, Canadian, Scottish and Welsh and Irish, others), what is...

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Two Americas and a Scotland

Nicholas Everett, 27 September 1990

Whether in person or in print, self-consciousness is unsettling. Self-conscious writers, like self-conscious speakers, can’t help betraying that they’re more concerned with their...

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Feast of St Thomas

Frank Kermode, 29 September 1988

‘The idea that Eliot’s poetry was rooted in private aspects of his life has now been accepted,’ says Lyndall Gordon in the Foreword to her second volume of biographical rooting...

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