12 Best Scottish Poems You’ll Love to Read

The rich literary history of Scotland is a source of wonder for many individuals.

Iconic figures such as Rabbie Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson and Hugh MacDiarmid have crafted stunning Scottish poetry that dazzle readers around the globe today.

As well as producing amazing poems about Scotland by these giants in Scottish literature, there are also numerous other incredible poets whose verses evoke dynamic emotion and thought-provoking subject matter.

It’s no surprise that William Topaz McGonagall was quoted saying “Scotland can show that she has not yet lost the fire which once lighted up her Caledonian forests with art”!

In this blog post we’ve collated some of our favorite Scottish poems so you can experience how truly they still today.

1. A Prayer in the Prospect of Death

       by Robert Burns

O Thou unknown, Almighty Cause
Of all my hope and fear!
In whose dread presence, ere an hour,
Perhaps I must appear!

If I have wander’d in those paths
Of life I ought to shun,
As something, loudly, in my breast,
Remonstrates I have done;

Thou know’st that Thou hast formed me
With passions wild and strong;
And list’ning to their witching voice
Has often led me wrong.

Where human weakness has come short,
Or frailty stept aside,
Do Thou, All-Good -for such Thou art-
In shades of darkness hide.

Where with intention I have err’d,
No other plea I have,
But, Thou art good; and Goodness still
Delighteth to forgive.

2. Epitaph on a Henpecked Country Squire

       by Robert Burns

As father Adam first was fool’d,
(A case that’s still too common,)
Here lies man a woman ruled,
The devil ruled the woman.

3. On a Schoolmaster

       by Robert Burns

Here lie Willie Michie’s banes;
O, Satan! when ye tak’ him,
Gi’ him the schoolin’ o’ your weans,
For clever de’ils he’ll mak’ them.

4. Epitaph

       by John Randall Miser

“He was mean and rotten to his wife,
And soon will be forgotten.
He was mean and rotten to his wife,
But now he’s only rotten.”

5. Dignity

       by G. F. Dutton

These young birches
shriek green laughter up the hill
billow on billow. They
stop as he enters. He
carries his promised absence
carefully and yes
he does seem slow
but the end of life
is dignity what though
birches toss their impatience and
the spring sun’s at his back like a knife.

This wood’s enough
to practise silence in
and let him go.

6. Hairst

       by Margaret Gillies Brown

Atween the shoors they ettle to save the grain
this hairst o weet and wind.
Noo, in the evenin licht, they`re reapin the hindmaist acres.
The yella combine rattles up and doon lang distances.
In front the lang reel turns and knifes like sharks teeth
cut intae gowd.  Twa chutes at the hinerend
spew oot chopped strae and chaff
wi that muckle stoor you`d think the hairvestor on fire.
It sweeps on and never dachles
even when it dueks oot its hollow airm
to feed the waiting bogey
drawn by the dub-splashed tractor keeping accurate pace.
The last lang woosh of grain and aff the tractor speeds
stottin owre ruts, splashin through glaur,
throwin mud to the settin sun
to reach the hills o gowd heapin in the barn
It seems the whole warld’s busy.
The flurry re-enacted on ilka fairm aroon.
Men at wark tae feed their bairns;
keep hoose and steadin wind and waterticht.
Clouds are charcoal against pink
For a moment the sinkin sun flairs oot.
In the aftermath stubble turns a curious gowden- reed.
Aboon, late swallows jink aboot catching invisible thrips
and a hare, twa rabbits scamper from the last strip o standin grain.
Hairst ower for anither year
An ald bonnet is thrown hich ow`re the silent combine
by way o praise
The whisky bottle’s oot on the kitchen table

7. Requiem

       by Robert Louis Stevenson

Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

8. The Land O’ The Leal

       by Carolina Oliphant

Air — “Hey tutti taiti.”

I’m wearin’ awa’, John
Like snaw-wreaths in thaw, John,
I’m wearin’ awa’
 To the land o’ the leal.
There’s nae sorrow there, John,
There’s neither cauld nor care, John,
The day is aye fair
 In the land o’ the leal.

Our bonnie bairn’s there, John,
She was baith gude and fair, John;
And O! we grudged her sair
 To the land o’ the leal.
But sorrow’s sel’ wears past, John,
And joy ‘s a-coming fast, John,
The joy that’s aye to last
 In the land o’ the leal.

Sae dear ‘s the joy was bought, John,
Sae free the battle fought, John,
That sinfu’ man e’er brought
 To the land o’ the leal.
O, dry your glistening e’e, John!
My saul langs to be free, John,
And angels beckon me
 To the land o’ the leal.

O, haud ye leal and true, John!
Your day it’s wearin’ through, John,
And I’ll welcome you
 To the land o’ the leal.
Now fare-ye-weel, my ain John,
This warld’s cares are vain, John,
We’ll meet, and we’ll be fain,
 In the land o’ the leal.

9. Winter: A Dirge

       by Robert Burns

The wintry west extends his blast,
And hail and rain does blaw;
Or, the stormy north sends driving forth
The blinding sleet and snaw:
While tumbling brown, the burn comes down,
And roars frae bank to brae;
And bird and beast in covert rest,
And pass the heartless day.

The sweeping blast, the sky o’ercast,
The joyless winter-day,
Let others fear, to me more dear
Than all the pride of May:
The tempest’s howl, it soothes my soul,
My griefs it seems to join;
The leafless trees my fancy please,
Their fate resembles mine!

Thou Pow’r Supreme, whose mighty scheme
These woes of mine fulfil,
Here, firm, I rest, they must be best,
Because they are Thy will!
Then all I want (O, do Thou grant
This one request of mine!)
Since to enjoy Thou dost deny,
Assist me to resign.

10. The Hills

       by George MacDonald

Behind my father’s cottage lies
A gentle grassy height
Up which I often ran-to gaze
Back with a wondering sight,
For then the chimneys I thought high
Were down below me quite!
All round, where’er I turned mine eyes,
Huge hills closed up the view;
The town ‘mid their converging roots
Was clasped by rivers two;
From, one range to another sprang
The sky’s great vault of blue.
It was a joy to climb their sides,
And in the heather lie!
A joy to look at vantage down
On the castle grim and high!
Blue streams below, white clouds above,
In silent earth and sky!
And now, where’er my feet may roam,
At sight of stranger hill
A new sense of the old delight
Springs in my bosom still,
And longings for the high unknown
Their ancient channels fill.
For I am always climbing hills,
From the known to the unknown-
Surely, at last, on some high peak,
To find my Father’s throne,
Though hitherto I have only found
His footsteps in the stone!
And in my wanderings I did meet
Another searching too:
The dawning hope, the shared quest
Our thoughts together drew;
Fearless she laid her band in mine
Because her heart was true.
She was not born among the hills,
Yet on each mountain face
A something known her inward eye
By inborn light can trace;
For up the hills must homeward be,
Though no one knows the place.
Clasp my hand close, my child, in thine-
A long way we have come!
Clasp my hand closer yet, my child,
Farther we yet must roam-
Climbing and climbing till we reach
Our heavenly father’s home.

11. The Licht Nichts

       by Violet Jacob

Ye’ve left the sun an the canle-licht an the starlicht
The woods baith green an sere,
And yet I hear ye singin doon the braes
I’ the licht nichts o the year.

Ye were sae glad; ye were ae sae like the laverock
Wha’s hert is i the lift
Nae mair for ye the young green leaves will dance
Nor yet the auld anes drift.

What thocht had you o the ill-faured dairk o winter
But the ingle-nooks o hame?
Love lit yer way an played aboot yer feet
Year in, year oot, the same.

And noo my best, my bonniest and my dearest,
I’ll lay ma hert tae sleep
And let the warld, that has nae soonds for me,
Its watch o silence keep.

But, whiles an whiles, i the canle-licht an the starlicht
I’ll wauken it to hear
The liltin voice that’s singin doon the braes
I’ the licht nichts o the year.

12. Crowdieknowe

       by Hugh MacDiarmid

Oh to be at Crowdieknowe
When the last trumpet blaws,
An see the deid come loupin owre
The auld grey wa’s

Muckle men wi tousled beards,
I grat at as a bairn
 ‘ll scramble frae the croodit clay
Wi feck o swearin.

An glower at God an a’ his gang
O angels i the lift
 – Thae trashy bleezin French-like folk
Wha gar’d them shift.

Fain the weemun-folk’ll seek
To mak them haud their row
 – Fegs, God’s no blate gin he stirs up
The men o Crowdieknowe!

Final Thoughts

Scotland has a long and varied history of poetic prowess, much of which is still appreciated today.

From the early poets to contemporary poets, Scottish poetry is both celebrated and remembered throughout the world.

The Scottish poems featured in this post are just a sample of the many beautiful works that reflect Scotland’s heritage as well as its place in literature.

Whether you’ve enjoyed reading these poems about Scotland or simply learning about them, there is no doubt that they have touched you in some way.

So what did you think?

Please share your reflections on the tour of Scotland’s literary landscape in the comments section below – we would love to hear from you!

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