Louis MacNeice's 'Bagpipe Music'.

Louis MacNeice (1907-1963)

Whether you think this is a piece of entertaining nonsense or a ‘satirical elegy’ for traditional culture, it’s a great piece to read aloud.

First published in MacNeice’s ‘I Crossed the Minch’, a ‘travel book’, where this poem has a chapter to itself he later wrote ‘the bad feminine rhymes’ were meant to mimic the wheezing of the pipes. His biographer, Jon Stallworthy claimed that ‘their air of hasty improvisation suggests a new culture that has no time for the civil harmonies of the the old, the full rhymes of the traditional ballad.’ He also thought the ending ‘growls to a halt on a doom-laden note, the quintessential expression of Thirties despair.’

I’ve always imagined this being recited by a group of drunks at a ceilidh, with the stomping crowd joining in on ‘it’s no go’. Not having a drunken chorus I tried reading it a different way.