imomus (imomus) wrote,

Epic rockery

Today Hisae, Neill and I will make a pilgrimage to Little Sparta, the Pentlands home and garden of Ian Hamilton Finlay, poet and artist. Finlay is, I would submit, a minimalist-classicist genius. The serene shadow of the poet-sculptor, 80 this year, falls across the Edinburgh Art Festival in the form of three exhibitions, and will certainly fall across my next album in the form of influence.

To give you a flavour of the man's wise and revolutionary playfulness, here are some extracts from "Domestic Pensees (1964-1972)" a book of jottings, aphorisms and zuihitsu, published by Aggie Weston's Editions.

The rasp is the very apex of true Scottish luxury.

The spectacle of a man swept off his feet by his own caution.


It was uncertain whether she was in despair or out at the pictures.

A polite man is one who does not select his Liquorice Allsort.


The Fall of the Nibelungens: a Tale of Yorkshire Family Life.

To judge by appearances many posh flowers are simply ordinary flowers with something up with them.

It's a weary road that knows no bedtime.

Peat Brown.

A horse's life is one long, sad, true story.

When I hear the words 'Arts Council' I reach for my water-pistol.

A Rickety Night.

There is little discourtesy in saying Snort to a pig.

The Humbrol Waterlily.

She knew which side her bed was buttered.

Men may be divided into those who have Aunties and those who do not.

Less a Bundle than an Area.

Old-fashioned trains of classical aspect.

May the Gods put snow in his carpet slippers.

The Wilder Chores of Love.

People nowadays bow to nothing but will shrug at almost anything.

As unfathomable as a teapot.

Yesterday's battles are won the day after tomorrow.

Eschew Highland toffee.

The Pleasure is in the Joy.

Aircraft carriers: Aran Islands of the 20th Century.

We all get our airport in the end.

All things come to him who Weights and Measures.

Shrubbery Art.

Chin-high in Burdock.

The acreage of a W.

Long light evenings for the showing of old war films.

All toys tend to The Bath as all humankind to The Grave.

The Georgian Avant-Garde.

String Hopes Eternal in the Human Breast.

Imaginary gunboats with real guns.

Wild strawberries tasting of railway embankments in July.

A Neo-classical allotment.

It's extraordinary how life has reconciled me to biscuits.

Donkeys with their panniers filled with little honey cakes.

Ordered herds of individualists...

Fallen Fig Leaves — a contemporary novel.

The cosy tick of trouser buttons in the washing machine.

Marie Antoinette's Midway.

One of the most warlike mantelpieces in Britain.

A nation ruined by Turkish Delight.

Too many verbs spoil the sentence.

Poetically speaking the wheelbarrow is to the garden as the anchor is to the sea.

An unashamed delight in ship's funnels.

Plotinus put pebbles in their place.

A minimal mind totally focused.

I prefer the simple virtues — like reading Hegel's History of Philosophy.

A waterfall is no-one's fool (garden proverb).

The North Pole is a mantelpiece with icebergs.

Nature is very good at far-away trees.

The weather is often worse indoors than out.

Words are difficult to put into words.

Nature has the bad habit of leaving bits of itself about the place.

Snowflakes. Swiss Silicone Chips.

A general benevolence is most frequently a form of sloth.

Inside every English letter-carver is a barmaid he is trying to get at.

Open Plan glades of the Kroller-Muller.

The Alps: An Epic Rockery (see Colinton Zoo).

Aircraft carrier budgie-table.

In particular poets and artists aren't poets and arists.

Carthage Garden City.

Scotland's birthright: the Scone of Stone.

Broken on the potter's wheel.

Tolkein is a teashop Wagner.

They must lead a very sheltered life if they have never seen a parish magazine.

Porphyry is never one to use one god where two will do.

Little towers far-off behind boating ponds.

A ceramicist's life is one long, sad, true, story.

A concentration camp for recalcitrant craftsmen.

Bernard Lassus doesn't drive or doesn't drive in English.


Nothing in gardening beats a good glade.

Do they think there would be no blood if there were no wars?

Local by-elections are the pastorals of politics.

On adversity: There is no law that says one can't go to the North Pole in a dressing-gown.

That ideal world of English wood engraving where it is always early afternoon on an ordinary day.

There is no feeling of weather in Plotinus.

A rattling good heresy.

He found everything erotic, except (it seems) women.

An ever more desperate use of sellotape.

In the world's view a gimmick is something + something. Minimal art is not accused of gimmickry because it confines itself entirely to the + something and avoids the something.

Biscuits are like humanity — one feels they have fallen from a higher state.

Low-class Islamic yodelling.

Horses attract lightning.

A tedium of lettuce.

Roget's Thesaurus is a sort of wee brother of the Minotaur.

Hoist by his own petal.

What begins with peaches will come to prunes quickly enough.

The leopard does not change his library book.

In Arcady there are always towels in the bathroom.

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