Elegy On The Death of Sir James Hunter Blair


The lamp of day, with-ill presaging glare, Dim, cloudy, sank beneath the western wave; Th' inconstant blast howl'd thro' the dark'ning air , And hollow whistled in the rocky cave. Lone as I wander'd by each cliff and dell, Once the lov'd haunts of Scotia's royal train; Or mus'd where limpid streams, once hallow'd well, Or mould'ring ruins mark the sacred fane. Th' increasing blast roar'd round the beetling rocks , The clouds swift-wing'd flew o'er the starry sky, The groaning trees untimely shed their locks, And shooting meteors caught the startled eye. The paly moon rose in the livid east. And 'mong the cliffs disclos'd a stately form In weeds of woe, that frantic beat her breast, And mix'd her wailings with the raving storm Wild to my heart the filial pulses glow, 'Twas Caledonia's trophied shield I view'd: Her form majestic droop'd in pensive woe, The lightning of her eye in tears imbued. Revers'd that spear, redoubtable in war, Reclined that banner, erst in fields unfurl'd, That like a deathful meteor gleam'd afar, And brav'd the mighty monarchs of the world. "My patriot son fills an untimely grave!" With accents wild and lifted arms she cried; " Low lies the hand oft was stretch'd to save, Low lies the heart that swell'd with honest pride. "A weeping country joins a widow's tear; The helpless poor mix with the orphan's cry; The drooping arts surround their patron's bier; And grateful science heaves the heartfelt sigh! "I saw my sons resume their ancient fire; I saw fair Freedom's blossoms richly blow: But ah! how hope is born but to expire! Relentless fate has laid their guardian low . "My patriot falls: but shall he lie unsung, While empty greatness saves a worthless name? No ; every muse shall join her tuneful tongue, And future ages hear his growing fame. "And I will join a mother's tender cares, Thro' future times to make his virtues last; That distant years may boast of other Blairs!" -- She said, and vanish'd with the sweeping blast.

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Siobhan Redmond

About this work

This is a poem by Robert Burns. It was written in 1787 and is read here by Siobhan Redmond.

More about this poem

Sir James Hunter Blair (1741-1787) was the Lord Provost of Edinburgh in 1784, who passed reforms to rebuild the University. Like Burns, Blair was a freemason, and received him cordially when he visited the Capital.

It was written soon after Blair's death on July 1st, however, Burns described the elegy as, 'just mediocre'.

Ralph Richard McLean

Themes for this poem

death regret future

Selected for 05 April

The first recorded meteorite strike in Scotland, took place on April 5th, 1804, at High Possil in Glasgow. In today’s poem too, 'a deathful meteor gleam'd afar'. The poem likewise crashes to earth the poet’s sincere grief finding only strained and unconvincing expression. A veritable small onion of a poem. 'A weeping country joins a widow’s tear'? Hardly! But maybe no less likely a prospect than a flaming lump of the heavens above landing on Possil...

Donny O'Rourke

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