As today is St. Andrew’s Day, the last of the patron saints’ of the British Isles days in the calendar year, it’s only proper that it’s marked with a featured poem from a homegrown Scottish poet. Scotland has produced some of Britain’s finest and most popular literary figures, from both centuries long past and more recent times – take for instance names such as Iain Banks, Carol Ann Duffy, Irvine Welsh and Ali Smith. There is an absolute wealth of poetry with a distinctive Scottish flavour, as well as picturesque poems that vividly bring to life the nature of Scotland with its many glens and lochs; a great place to check out is the online catalogue of The Scottish Poetry Library for information on a range of classic and contemporary Scottish poets.
However, I’ve plumped for a poem by Sir Walter Scott, who might be considered a particularly strong patriot of Scotland given his particular literary interests in Scottish history and culture. Of all his poems, My Native Land may just be the most overtly patriotic. There is nothing specific within it that relates only to Scotland – indeed, it could be used to refer to anywhere from Albania to Zimbabwe – but it speaks volumes about Scott’s overwhelming love for his own native country that he should so strongly criticise anyone who does not profess the same pride and passion, be it publicly or to themselves, for the land from which they hail.
So regardless of whether you have any Scottish heritage – if you do, then all the more reason to celebrate (the same goes for any residents of Greece, Romania and Russia, who also have St. Andrew as their patron saint) – I hope that reading this week’s featured poem stirs some national pride within and makes you raise a glass to your hometown, city or country.
My Native Land
Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!
Whose heart hath ne’er within him burn’d,
As home his footsteps he hath turn’d
From wandering on a foreign strand!
If such there breathe, go, mark him well;
For him no Minstrel raptures swell;
High though his titles, proud his name,
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim;
Despite those titles, power, and pelf,
The wretch, concentred all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust, from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonour’d, and unsung.
Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832)