Embro to the Ploy

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In simmer, whan aa sorts foregether
in Embro to the ploy,
folk seek out friens to hae a blether,
or faes they’d fain annoy;
smorit wi British Railways’ reek
frae Glesca or Glen Roy
or Wick, they come to hae a week
of cultivated joy
or three
In Embro to the Ploy.

Americans wi routh of dollars,
wha drink our whisky neat,
wi Sasunachs and Oxford Scholars
are eydent for the treat
of music sedulously high-tie
at thirty-bob a seat;
Wop opera performed in Eyetie
to them’s richt up their street
they say
in Embro to the ploy.

Furthgangan Embro folk come hame
for three weeks in the year,
and find Auld Reekie no the same,
fu sturrit in a steir.
The stane-faced biggins whaur they froze
and suppit puirshous lear
of cultural cauld-kale and brose
see cantraips unco queer
thae days
in Embro to the ploy.

The tartan tred wad gar ye lauch;
nae problem is owre teuch.
Your surname needna end in –och;
they’ll cleik ye up the cleuch.
A puckle dollar bill will aye
preive Hiram Teufelsdröckh
a septary of Clan McKay
it’s maybe richt eneuch,
in Embro to the ploy.

The Auld High Schule, whaur mony a skelp
of triple-tonguit tawse
has gien a heist-up and a help
towards Doctorates of Laws,
nou hears, for Ramsay’s cantie rhyme,
loud pawmies of applause
frae folk that pey a pund a time
to sit on wudden raws
gey hard
in Embro to the ploy

The haly kirk’s Assembly-haa
nou fairly coups the creel
wi Lindsay’s Three Estatis, braw
devices of the Deil.
About our heids the satire stots
like hailstanes till we reel;
the bawrs are in auld-farrant Scots,
it’s maybe jist as weill,
in Embro to the ploy.

The Epworth Haa wi wonder did
behold a pipers’ bicker;
wi hadarid and hindarid
the air gat thick and thicker.
Cumha na Cloinne pleyed on strings
torments a piper quicker
to get his dander up, by jings,
than thirty u.p. liquor,
hooch aye!
in Embro to the ploy.

The Northern British Embro Whigs
that stayed in Charlotte Square,
they fairly wad hae tined their wigs
to see the Stuarts there,
the bleeding Earl of Moray and aa
weill-pentit and gey bare;
Our Queen and Princess, buskit braw,
enjoyed the hale affair
(see Press)
in Embro to the ploy.

Whan day’s anomalies are cled
in decent shades of nicht,
the Castle is transmogrified
by braw electric licht.
The toure that bields the Bruce’s croun
presents an unco sight
mair sib to Wardour Street nor Scone
wae’s me for Scotland’s micht,
says I
in Embro to the ploy.

A happening, incident, or splore
affrontit them that saw
a thing they’d never seen afore –
in the McEwan Haa:
a lassie in a wheelie-chair
wi naething on at aa;
jist like my luck! I wasna there,
it’s no the thing ava,
in Embro to the ploy.

The Café Royal and Abbotsford
are filled wi orra folk
whas stock-in-trade’s the screivit word,
or twicet-screivit joke.
Brains, weak or strang, in heavy beer,
or ordinary, soak.
Quo yin: this yill is aafie dear,
I hae nae clinks in poke
nor fauldan-money,
in Embro to the ploy.

The auld Assembly-rooms, whaur Scott
foregethert wi his fiers,
nou see a gey kenspeckle lot
ablow the chandeliers.
Til Embro drouths the Festival Club
a richt godsend appears;
it’s something new to find a pub
that gaes on serving beers
eftir hours
in Embro to the ploy.

Jist pitten-out, the drucken mobs
frae howffs in Potterraw,
fleean, to hob-nob wi the Nobs,
ran to this Music Haa.
Register Rachel, Cougait Kate,
Nae-neb Nellie and aa
stauchert about amang the Great,
what fun! I never saw
the like,
in Embro to the ploy.

They toddle hame doun lit-up streets
filled wi synthetic joy;
aweill, the year brings few sic treats
and muckle to annoy.
There’s monie hartsom braw high-jinks
mixed up in this alloy
in simmer, whan aa sorts foregether
in Embro to the ploy.

In this poem Garioch is self-consciously adopting the persona of an observer, critically surveying the goings-on in Edinburgh during the Festival. With this persona he approaches his great literary hero, Robert Fergusson, who observed Edinburgh life with a similar eye in poems like Hallow Fair

The Edinburgh Festival was in its infancy when Garioch wrote this, and would have been a pale shadow of the carnival of madness that now descends upon the city every August. The Festival was created in 1947 in the aftermath of the Second World War when it was recognised that the great annual festivals of Saltzburg and Munich would take some time to get going since these cities were destroyed during the war. Europe badly needed a festival, an opportunity to celebrate life, peace and unity. It has since grown to encompass other festivals (Book, Children’s, Film, Television, etc.) as well as the Festival Fringe and attracts millions of visitors to the city.

The poem reflects the distinct ambivalence that the people of Edinburgh feel towards the Festival. On the one hand the city is transformed out of all recognition, you can’t move for tourists and jugglers and actors, the price of a pie and a pint rockets: you feel like your home town has been hi-jacked. On the other hand, it brings enormous revenue to the city, the pubs are open later, and there’s a pervading party atmosphere throughout. And everybody likes the fireworks. It can be a real blast of fresh air.

The form of the poem also harks back to an earlier period of Scottish literature. The iambic pulse and alternating lines of tetrameter and trimeter with a repeated end line is fairly typical of early Scots poetry, like that of Henryson and Dunbar.