Sewn in the West

Ian Hamilton Finlay as remembered by Stephen Scobie

Marvelous piece – part obit part commentary

[H]e never ceased to show me things as rare, as beautiful, as whimsical, or as sublime as summer elephants.


[T]he rough track up to his garden at Stonypath bore the literal but profound admonition “The way up and the way down is one and the same”

An evening out…

Consider in this light, the story of the sundial with the inscription …



ian hamilton finlay - evening will come they will sew the blue sail - cover print

It was first published as a long, vertical print, the words in delicate white lettering against a rich blue background. It also exists, however, as a working sundial, carved in wood, set in the grounds of Little Sparta. From Dunsyre, it faces west, towards a sea that it cannot see; but in the metaphorical interplay of elements, the sea is always present in Finlay’s inland garden. Facing west, it works as a sundial only in the even-ing hours, only when they sew the blue sail. Facing west, it also bears the full force of the Scottish weather — and, as the years have gone by, this sundial has weathered too. Moss grows on the wood; the carving of letters is worn and evened down. Marking the passage of time on a yearly as well as an hourly basis, the sundial too is a living thing that approaches its ending. For it too, as for its creator, the evening will come; they will sew the blue sail.

I first encounter the print-poem in the house at Douglas Chambers’s rural marvel, Stonyground. It hung by a window. I’m not sure of the direction it faced but would not be surprised if it was west.

And so for day 2691

This entry was posted in Metaphor, Poetry and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.