"A man's a man for a' that" – how does he know? Traipsing with his plough, the rural hero, Swaggering down the lea-rigs, talking to mice, Sweating his sickly verses to entice Lassies he'd never see again, strutting Through the salons in his best breeches, rutting In a cloud of claret, buttonholing Lord This, sweet-talking Doctor That, bowling His wit down levees, bosoms, siller quaichs – D'ye think he's ever heard the groans and skraighs Of city gutters, or marked the shapes that wrap Fog and smoke about them as if they could hap Homelessness or keep hunger at bay? What, Not heard or seen, but has he even thought How some, and many, and more than many, survive, Or don't survive, on factory floors, or thrive Or fail to thrive by foundry fires, or try To find the words – sparks scatter and bolts fly – That's feeble – to show the new age its dark face? The Carron Ironworks – how he laughed at the place, Made a joke of our misery, passed on To window-scratch his diamond-trivia, and swan Through country-house and customs-post, servile To the very gods from which he ought to resile! "Liberty's a glorious feast," you said. Is that right? Wouldn't the poor rather have bread? Burns man, I'm hard on you, I'm sorry for it. I think such poetry is dangerous, that's all. Poetry must pierce the filthy wall With cries that die on country ways. The glow Of bonhomie will not let the future grow.
Born Glasgow, Edwin Morgan lived there all his life, except for service with the RAMC, and his poetry is grounded in the city. Yet the title of his 1973 collection, From Glasgow to Saturn, suggests the enormous range of Morgan's subject matter. He was Glasgow's first Poet Laureate 1999-2002, and the first to hold the post of 'Scots Makar', created by the Scottish Executive in 2004 to recognise the achievement of Scottish poets throughout the centuries.Read more about this poet