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The Little General

Edwin Muir 1887 (Orkney) – 1959 (Cambridge)



Early in spring the little General came
Across the sound, bringing the island death,
And suddenly a place without a name,
And like the pious ritual of a faith,

Hunter and quarry in the boundless trap,
The white smoke curling from the silver gun
The feather curling in the hunter's cap,
And clouds of feathers floating in the sun,

While down the birds came in a deafening shower,
Wing-hurricane, and the cattle fled in fear.
Up on the hill a remnant of the tower
Had watched that single scene for many a year,

Weaving a wordless tale where all were gathered
(Hunter and quarry and watcher and fabulous field),
A sylvan war half human and half feathered,
Perennial emblem painted on a shield

Held up to cow a never-conquered land
Fast in the little General's fragile hand.
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Submitted on April 25, 2015

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Edwin Muir

Edwin Muir was an Orcadian poet, novelist and translator, born on a farm in Deerness on the Orkney Islands. He is remembered for his deeply felt and vivid poetry in plain language with few stylistic preoccupations. more…

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