Edwin Muir


'his unblinded eyes saw far and near
the fields of Paradise'


Edwin Muir is buried at the church of St. Cyriac & St. Julitta, Swaffham Prior, Cambridgeshire, England.

Grave of Edwin Muir
Photograph by Dee Bushell

Muir was born on the island of Orkney - but moved with his family to Glasgow in 1901. Tragically, within 5 years of the move both his parents and two of his brothers were dead.

As a young man he worked in many low-paid jobs and soon became involved in left wing politics - influenced by the work of writers such as Nietzsche.

In 1919 he married  Willa Anderson. During the 1920s and 1930s the pair travelled extensively in Europe and developed an interest in modernist fiction. Later they went on to collaborate on translations - most notably that of Franz Kafka.

Much of Muir's poetry drew upon his Orkney childhood. It was traditional in form but beneath the surface there lurked a quiet menace  - as exemplified in poems such as The Horses.

His collections include: First Poems (1925), Chorus of the Newly Dead (1926) and The Labyrinth (1949).

He was an important figure in the Scottish literary renaissance. He was also influential in encouraging the work of fellow Orcadian poet George Mackay Brown. However, he clashed with Hugh MacDiarmid over the use of Scots - claiming that it restricted the accessibility of the work of Scottish poets.

In 1955 he was appointed the Norton  Professor of Poetry at Harvard University in the USA. He died on 3rd January 1959, aged 71.

Barely a twelvemonth after
The seven days war that put the world to sleep,
Late in the evening the strange horses came.
By then we had made our covenant with silence,
But in the first few days it was so still
We listened to our breathing and were afraid.
From The Horses





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