Featured Poem: My Native Land by Sir Walter Scott

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)

5 thoughts on “Featured Poem: My Native Land by Sir Walter Scott”

  1. Hi Lisa, really enjoyed the poem. I especially like the last three lines;through the alliteration on the words ‘doubly’, ‘dying’, ‘down’ and ‘dust’ I can hear Scott’s contempt. Is this poem perhaps saying that someone who does not show any love for their ‘Native Land’ is worthless, a non -entity ? If we think of death ( in this context) how can we ‘doubly’ die ? Yes, this poem has given me a lot to think about.

    Here is a poem for the start of the festive season. It’s by the Archbishop of Canterbury – Rowan Williams :

    Advent Calendar

    He will come like last leaf’s fall.
    One night when the November wind
    has flayed the trees to bone, and earth
    wakes choking on the mould,
    the soft shroud’s folding.

    He will come like frost.
    One morning when the shrinking earth
    opens on mist, to find itself
    arrested in the net
    of alien, sword-set beauty.

    He will come like dark.
    One evening when the bursting red
    December sun draws up the sheet
    and penny-masks its eye to yield
    the star-snowed fields of sky.

    He will come, will come,
    will come like crying in the night,
    like blood, like breaking,
    as the earth writhes to toss him free.
    He will come like child.

    Rowan Williams b.1950

    The Poems of Rowan Williams (Oxford and Grand Rapids MI, 2002)

  2. Thank You for posting this~! Being of Scotch Irish heritage, and a staunch believer in Patriotism, I am thankful I found this. And I’m thankful to you for posting it~!

  3. While I love Scott and this passage, it is completely out of context. It’s not a poem called “My Native Land,” – it’s the beginning of Canto Sixth of “The Lay of the Last Minstrel”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *