Introduction to F.R. Scott
F.R. Scott gave a poetry reading at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, at Queen's University, on February 23, 1967. Whalley's introduction is almost certainly unlike any other Scott was given.
Here is a transcription:
Ladies and Gentlemen, I have the great pleasure of introducing of introducing you tonight Frank Scott, Dr. Frank Scott. He is one of those who has an honorary degree from this university. I remember Robert Frost saying, after he received honorary degrees from Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, and Dublin, that it was better to receive a degree from a university than an education. Frank Scott bears that relation to Queen’s University. He is a man of law and a man of letters, and a sort of Canadian. And if the grass is growing it isn’t under his feet that it’s growing. He managed to get born, for example, just before the turn of the century, and since then has been writing, rather busily, amongst other things.
His first poems in volume form were in a group that he edited called New Provinces in 1936, which marks I suppose the beginning of modern Canadian poetry. Where, with his association with Arthur Smith and with some colleagues in Montreal, he discovered that something had happened in verse since Wordsworth. Then there was an interval before his next volume by himself, Overture, 1945. And there’ve been several volumes since then: Events and Signals, 1954; The Eye of the Needle, 1957; Signature, 1964. There’s some translations, rather brilliant ones, from St-Denys Garneau and Anne Hebert, which was 1962. And there’s a volume that I am sure is on the bedside table of all of you called The Blasted Pine because it’s filled with irreverent and sanctimonious verse, mostly to do with this country.
I don’t know why but I think the only appropriate introduction for the sort of reading that we are likely to hear because Frank has never allowed his verse to settle into any predictable mode – he’s finding poems at the moment – is to read the sort of poem, the only kind of poem that I can think of which doesn’t offer him any competition. And that is a sonnet to a monkey written by Marjory Fleming, who died in 1811 at the age of eight. And although like many sonnets it runs fourteen lines I’ll read the whole of it.
O lively, O most charming pug,
Thy graceful air and heavenly mug
The beauties of his mind do shine
And every bit is shaped and fine.
Your teeth are whiter than the snow
You’re a great buck, you’re a great beau.
Your eyes are of so nice a shape
More like a Christian’s than an ape.
Your cheek is like the rose’s blume,
Your hair is like the raven’s plume.
His nose’s cast is of the roman,
He is a very pretty woman.
I could not get a rhyme for roman
So was obliged to call him woman.
I’ll ask Frank Scott to read some of his poems to us, and there will be an interval after a little while for us to recover. Then there will be further readings. And if anyone wishes to ask questions or pose propositions or conundrums I’m sure that Dr. Scott will field them for us.