Kenneth Buthlay's edition of "A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle" is widely considered to be the best edition of all and provides extensive commentary and notes, taking the reader through MacDiarmid's complex and often opaque use of language. The drunk man lies on a moonlit hillside looking at a thistle, jaggy and beautiful, which epitomises Scotland's divided self. The man reflects on the fate of the nation, the human condition in general and his own personal fears.
Hugh MacDiarmid was born Christopher Murray Grieve in 1892 in Langholm, in the Scottish Borders. He started out as a journalist, working in Scotland and in Wales before joining the Royal Army Medical Corps on the outbreak of the First World War. MacDiarmid was an ardent believer in socialism, later communism, and he was a founding member of the Scottish National Party in 1928. His increasing literary reputation abroad allowed him to travel abroad in later years, including USSR and China. A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle was MacDiarmid's second poetry collection, published in 1926. His last 27 years were spent with his wife Valda near Biggar. He died in 1978.
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