Scotland

Scotland
Here in the Uplands
The soil is ungrateful;
The fields, red with sorrel,
Are stony and bare.
A few trees, wind-twisted – 
Or are they but bushes? –
Stand stubbornly guarding 
A home here and there.

Scooped out like a saucer,
The land lies before me;
The waters, once scattered,
Flow orderly now
Through fields where the ghosts
Of the marsh and the moorland
Still ride the old marches,
Despising the plough.

The marsh and the moorland 
Are not to be banished;
The bracken and heather,
The glory of broom,
Usurp all the balks
And the fields’ broken fringes,
And claim from the sower
Their portion of room.

This is my country,
The land that begat me.
These windy spaces 
Are surely my own.
And those who here toil
In the sweat of their faces
Are flesh of my flesh,
And bone of my bone.

Hard is the day’s task –
Scotland, stern Mother – 
Wherewith at all times 
Thy sons have been faced:
Labour by day,
And scant rest in the gloaming,
With Want an attendant,
Not lightly outpaced.

Yet do thy children
Honour and love thee.
Harsh is thy schooling,
Yet great is the gain:
True hearts and strong limbs,
The beauty of faces,
Kissed by the wind
And caressed by the rain. 
Sir Alexander Gray

from Gossip: a book of new poems (Porpoise Press, 1928), and included in Selected Poems (William Maclellan, [1948])

Reproduced by permission of the Estate of Sir Alexander Gray
Sir Alexander Gray

A civil servant and Professor of Political Economy, Sir Alexander Gray’s reputation abides not only in his own field, but as a Scots poet – the author of some of the most-quoted lines in modern Scottish poetry: ‘This is my country, / The land that begat me ...'

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