The Scottish Prince

The Scottish Prince
Every summer, I visit the Scottish Prince
at his castle high on a hill outside Crieff.
We dine on haggis and tatties and neeps – 
I drink water with mine and the Prince sips
at a peaty peppery dram. Then it's time for the dance.

O Scottish Prince, the heathery air sweetens the night.
Bats hang upside down in the pines like lamps waiting
for light. Ask me, ask me to dance to the skirl o' the pipes.

All the girls are in dresses. The boys are in kilts, 
but no boy's so fine as the Prince in his tartan pleats.
I wait for a glance from the Prince, for the chance
to prance or flounce by his side, to bounce hand in hand
down the Gay Gordon line. Och, the pleasure's a' mine!

O Scottish Prince, the heathery air sweetens the night.
Bats hang upside down in the pines like lamps waiting
for light. Ask me, ask me to dance to the skirl o' the pipes.

At the end of summer, I say goodbye to the Scottish Prince
and catch a train to the South, over the border, the other side
of the purple hills, far from the blue and white flag, waving farewell
from the castle roof. The Prince will expect me back again
next year – here's a sprig of heather pressed in my hand as proof.

O Scottish Prince, the heathery air sweetens the night.
Bats hang upside down in the pines like lamps waiting
for light. Ask me, ask me to dance to the skirl o' the pipes.
Ask me, ask me, ask me to dance to the skirl o' the pipes.
Carol Ann Duffy

from The Good Child's Guide to Rock 'n' Roll (London: Faber, 2003)

Reproduced by permission of the publisher.
Carol Ann Duffy

The first female, Scottish Poet Laureate in the role's 400 year history, Carol Ann Duffy's combination of tenderness and toughness, humour and lyricism, unconventional attitudes and conventional forms, has won her a very wide audience of readers and listeners. 

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About The Scottish Prince

This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2004. Best Scottish Poems is an online publication, consisting of 20 poems chosen by a different editor each year, with comments by the editor and poets. It provides a personal overview of a year of Scottish poetry. The editor in 2004 was Hamish Whyte.

Editor's comment: 
For a poet born in Glasgow but brought up in England, Duffy every now and then is keen to show us her Scottish roots, that she can 'do Scottish'. This is a fine – and fun – example from her new collection for children.

Author's note: 
'The Scottish Prince' was written for my 9-year old daughter Ella, a couple of years ago, on our annual holiday at Crieff Hydro Hotel; where she nightly dances the Gay Gordon, and many a reel, not only with her dad (who, although English, we allow to wear the Wallace tartan – Ella's paternal great-grandmother was a Wallace) but also with the hotel's handsome kilted host, whom Ella thinks is a Scottish Prince. My own emotions, of course, are skirling under the surface of the poem.