6 May 2011

"Say not the struggle naught availeth..."

I'm stunned. Delighted. But mostly stunned. At this stage in the afternoon, what is to be said? An SNP majority government in Holyrood? Res ipsa loquitur. There is obviously much more which can and should be said in time - for now I'll simply note that this is an astonishing result for the SNP.  Critically, it is also one that comes as a vivid reminder to us all that we build up our safe seats - and that things stay the same because collectively, we keep them so. From time to time, we realise the latent possibility radically to re-imagine our politics - and all that once seemed stoutly solid melts into air. Shettleston, Anniesland, Kelvin, Clydebank, Paisley, Hamilton, East Kilbride? The SNP holding five of eight constituency seats in Glasgow?

As I sat goggling in front of the telly in the early watches of this morning, I was reminded of this poem by Arthur Hugh Clough. Although many suggested that Nationalists were marching with Hubris (in the shadow of Nemesis)  before polling day, I certainly didn't encounter any SNP activists sauntering hand in hand with that pair of pale goddesses out on the campaign trail on behalf of Nicola Sturgeon in Glasgow Southside. Indeed, everywhere I met trepidation and skepticism about reported voting intentions. Crucial to this, I suspect, are the long memories of many Nationalists,  haunted by historical recollections of defeat after defeat in the face of a Scottish Labour hegemony which seemed inevitable. Say not the struggle naught availeth...

Say not the struggle naught availeth,
The labour and the wounds are vain,
The enemy faints not, nor faileth,
And as things have been they remain.

If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars;
It may be, in yon smoke conceal'd,
Your comrades chase e'en now the fliers,
And, but for you, possess the field.

For while the tired waves, vainly breaking,
Seem here no painful inch to gain,
Far back, through creeks and inlets making,
Comes silent, flooding in, the main.

And not by eastern windows only,
When daylight comes, comes in the light;
In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly!
But westward, look, the land is bright!


  1. To think, Wee Eck, the only leader in the British Isles with a clear majority.

  2. "I'm stunned. Delighted. But mostly stunned." As am I, but with a big stupid grin I find hard to remove.

    "And not by eastern windows only,
    When daylight comes, comes in the light;
    In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly!
    But westward, look, the land is bright!"

    And for the first time in the 38 years I've lived here in Edinburgh, I've actually got a man I voted for..... help ma boab!

  3. Jim,

    That aspect hadn't occurred to me, but of course you are correct, what with Carwyn Jones falling just a head short.


    My father was expressing similar sentiments on count night. Until the devolution referendum in the 1990s, he'd never before voted for a candidate or cause had been victorious. Not any more.

  4. Bring it on! the praying mantras of Labour stated.

    So we did, and look what they got -the bonfire of the hegemonies.

    The Arab spring matched by the Scottish loup.

  5. Given the clearing away of potential legal issues around the Scotland Act, this referendum now seems a dead certainty. Brace thyselves! I for one am very much looking forward to it.

  6. The Brian Barder blog has an interesting discussion on this.