WEEK SIXTEEN AND A HALF – Charles Rennie Mackintosh/Robert Adam

>> Charles Rennie Mackintosh

 Robert Adam<<

Charles-Rennie Mackintosh                                                        Robert_Adam

Those keeping a close eye on the cultural calendar will be aware that 2016 is Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design. In recognition of this we are posting another mid-week special. While he was almost ignored towards the end of his sadly short life (1868-1928), Charles Rennie Mackintosh, or at least his design work, has now become so well-known that the curious phenomenon of Mockintosh has become almost ubiquitous in the tourist business. Nonetheless, as the wave of sorrow on the destruction of part of his Glasgow School of Art building showed, he is still very much close to the heart in his home country. Robert Adam, despite his much larger body of work, cannot be said to inspire the same affection. A leader of the first phase of the classical revival in England and Scotland from around 1760 until his death in 1792, he influenced the development of Western architecture, both in Europe and in America. Mackintosh and Adam are, however, united in the close attention they gave to the design of interiors and fittings as well as of buildings – holistic architects, if you like.


The Last Chronycle
by Chrys Salt

 (Charles Rennie Mackintosh to Margaret Macdonald, Port Vendres 2016)

Dear Margaret, how I miss you.
We’ve been a long time dead,
but cherries in the garden blossom still.
Our tree is budding apples
and evening sunlight dapples
the toppling town’s reflection
on the harbour at the bottom of the hill.

But my dear you won’t believe it –
my picture of the port,
with little boats pulled up under the wall?
They’ve  gone and got it printed,
It’s everywhere ‘for sale’,
the tourists come and ogle
at the place I pitched my easel
at designated spots along a trail.

Do you remember dear Margaret
how we struggled with the galleries
who wouldn’t give my work a second look?
Now on birthday cards and postcards
are my tulips and fritillaries –
a tour guide has our story in a book!

You can hear her chatter on
to groups along the Boulevards
of ‘detailed observation’
‘the vistas  of the town’ –
‘How in my work they’ll see
the architect in me.’
I’m the subject of a thesis,
I’m discussed in Seminars.

Dearest, I’m ‘in fashion’
you really can’t imagine –
I’m on lampshades, scarves and cushions,
I’m on boxes, bags and jars,
and down the Rue de Soleil
where we sipped our morning our coffee
a  wine called Vin de Mackintosh
is tippled in the bars.
The shops are selling silk bow ties
like ones I used to wear.
Porcelain mugs with my designs on,
bracelets, earrings and medallions –
nothing is the same now we’re not there!

Dear Margaret, how I miss you.
We’ve been a long time dead.
Cherry blossom floats like tissue
from our arbour to  the harbour
where boats are stranded still,
but the simple life we cherished,
the beauty that it nourished,
our vision of a better way to be,
where art was part of living –
the heartbeat of our being
has fragmented like the sunlight
on the toppling town’s reflection
on the harbour at the bottom of the hill.

A prophet in my lifetime
is what I sought to be.

Well, they’ve certainly made a profit out of me!


Bob the Roman
by Ken Cockburn

We can’t see Rome every day
and the thought of mis-spending so much time
among a most ridiculous set
of gamesters to no purpose –

I seek an unconstrained and noble way
of thinking and talking
and have resolved to lay aside
the fike-faks of company.

The town rich with domes, spires
and lofty buildings I walk much about
and sketch after the antiques;
I feast on marble ladies,

dance attendance in
the chamber of Venus, trip
a minuet with old Otho
and all those other Roman worthies.

Thus metamorphosed
learning to draw ruins to perfection
living unmolested by kirk or state
I am here like the King of Artists.


Robert Adam (1728–1792) spent just over two years in Rome, from February 1755 to May 1757. The text of the poem is adapted from his letters written at that time.


chrys saltChrys Salt’s
 work is published and performed world-wide and has been translated into several languages. In 2013 The Burning was selected as one of the 20 Best Scottish Poems. Her 2014 collection Weaver of Grass wasshortlisted for the Callum Macdonald Memorial Award. She was awarded a Writers Bursary by Creative Scotland and an MBE for Services to The Arts  in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.


Ken CockburnKen Cockburn
is a freelance poet, translator, editor and writing tutor based in Edinburgh. He runs Edinburgh Poetry Tours, poetry walks in the city’s Old Town. Recent publications include Ink (2011), with artists ~in the fields; Snapdragon (2012), translations of poems by Arne Rautenberg; and The Road North: a journey around Scotland guided by Basho’s oku–no–hosomichi (2014), a long poem, written together with Alec Finlay. http://kencockburn.co.uk


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