Address to Edinburgh


Edina! Scotia's darling seat! All hail thy palaces and tow'rs, Where once beneath a Monarch's feet, Sat Legislation's sov'reign pow'rs! From marking wildly-scatt'red flow'rs, As on the banks of Ayr I stray'd, And singing, lone, the ling'ring hours, I shelter in thy honour'd shade. Here Wealth still swells the golden tide, As busy Trade his labours plies; There Architecture's noble pride Bids elegance and splendour rise: Here Justice, from her native skies, High wields her balance and her rod; There Learning, with his eagle eyes, Seeks Science in her coy abode. Thy sons, Edina, social, kind, With open arms the stranger hail; Their views enlarg'd, their lib'ral mind, Above the narrow, rural vale: Attentive still to Sorrow's wail, Or modest Merit's silent claim; And never may their sources fail! And never envy blot their name! Thy daughters bright thy walks adorn, Gay as the gilded summer sky, Sweet as the dewy, milk-white thorn, Dear as the raptur'd thrill of joy! Fair Burnet strikes th' adoring eye, Heav'n's beauties on my fancy shine; I see the Sire of Love on high, And own His work indeed divine! There, watching high the least alarms, Thy rough, rude fortress gleams afar; Like some bold vet'ran, grey in arms, And mark'd with many a seamy scar: The pond'rous wall and massy bar, Grim-rising o'er the rugged rock, Have oft withstood assailing war, And oft repell'd th' Invader's shock. With awe-struck thought, and pitying tears, I view that noble, stately Dome, Where Scotia's kings of other years, Fam'd heroes! had their royal home: Alas, how chang'd the times to come! Their royal name low in the dust! Their hapless race wild-wand'ring roam! Tho' rigid Law cries out 'twas just! Wild-beats my heart to trace your steps, Whose ancestors, in days of yore, Thro' hostile ranks and ruin'd gaps Old Scotia's bloody lion bore: Ev'n I who sing in rustic lore, Haply my Sires have left their shed, And fac'd grim Danger's loudest roar, Bold - following where your fathers led! Edina! Scotia's darling seat! All hail thy palaces and tow'rs, Where once, beneath a Monarch's feet, Sat Legislation's sov'reign pow'rs: From marking wildly-scatt'red flow'rs, As on the banks of Ayr I stray'd, And singing, lone, the ling'ring hours, I shelter in thy honor'd shade.

Listen

Juliet Cadzow
John Ramage

About this work

This is a poem by Robert Burns. It was written in 1786 and is read here by Juliet Cadzow.

More about this poem

Burns wrote this poem shortly after he arrived in the city. On 27 December 1786 he sent a copy of it to William Chalmers in Ayrshire.

It is written in English Augustan verse, which was a popular form of composition at the end of the eighteenth century.

A manuscript copy of it was sent to Lady Don, Henrietta Cunninghame, (1752-1801), who was the sister of the Earl of Glencairn. Clencairn and his family were key figures in Burns’s early experiences in the capital.

This version was sent to her before the publication of the poem in April 1787.

‘Fair Burnet’, is an allusion to Eliza Burnett (1766-1790), who was the Scottish philosopher Lord Monboddo’s youngest daughter. She was said to have been one of the most popular women in Edinburgh.

Although it is written in Augustan English, there is a conscious effort on the part of Burns to cast himself as a ‘Scotch Bard’, celebrating Scottish history and culture.

Ralph McLean

Themes for this poem

nationalism royalty future

Locations for this poem

Edinburgh

Selected for 19 February

Having left Edinburgh the day before, the Bard was, on February 19, 1788, at last about to settle down with Jean Armour. As he made the long journey back to Ayrshire however, the capital was still very much in his thoughts, largely because of Nancy McLehose. Edinburgh had brought him 'Clarinda', patronage, prominence and prestige, but few good poems and virtually nothing in Scots. Although he had collected and adapted some fine songs, 'Scotia's darling seat', prompted only overblown poetic productions in flowery and stilted English. In today's selection, Burns is playing the ever-so-humble 'Plough-boy Poet', awe-struck by, and not quite worthy of, all that history and grandeur. The dismay at the absence of King and Parliament from Scotland's capital city is sincere. Otherwise, this hollow and hackneyed exercise in public relations is, all too transparently, a thank-you note for, and attempt to attract yet more interest and support among Edinburgh readers influentially afloat on 'golden tide'.

Donny O'Rourke

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