Poetry Map of Scotland: poem no. 319

Skirmish at Knockan Crag

The bairns o' the Cambrian dynasty,
the quartzites and limestones,
in Assynt they had gathered
to meet their foe head on.

They waited and they waited
and time was hanging slow.
No matter how they baited,
the gneisses did not show.

They clustered for a council
around the Knockan Crag.
Outliers on the horizon
had spotted something bad.

To the west the oceans parted,
their wait would soon be o'er,
the Lewisian Gneisses were gathering
and in time would breach thon shore.

Young Cambrians stood undaunted,
they did not fear the flow
of the old rocks on manoeuvre,
as they pressed in, sure but slow.

But they'd failed to spot the danger
and before the chance to blink (a short geological timescale)
the Moine was thrusting o'er them
and the Cambo's were doomed to sink.

Then it was all over,
but it all seemed upside down
to the geo experts gathered,
of whom many could only frown.  

Ian Mcneish

Poet's note: The inspiration is the Moine Thrust: this is the location where geologists first discovered that tectonic plates do not necessarily lie youngest to the top. The poem is set as a battle for supremacy of the old and the new plates as they merged a long, long time ago.

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