Poems of the Scottish Borders

Whenever we visit ruins and places of literary and historic note, I love to find poems connected to them. Around the Borders there is a rich seam of poetic outpouring, and I have made a selection to complement the places we visited this weekend.

Firstly, John Wilson composed a poem when visiting Melrose Abbey:

It was not when the sun through the glittering sky,
In summer's joyful majesty,
Looked from his cloudless height;—
It was not when the sun was sinking down,
And tinging the ruin's mossy brown
With gleams of ruddy light;—
Nor yet when the moon, like a pilgrim fair,
'Mid star and planet journeyed slow,
And, mellowing the stillness of the air,
Smiled on the world below;—
That, Melrose! 'mid thy mouldering pride,
All breathless and alone,
I grasped the dreams to day denied,
High dreams of ages gone!

Next Felicia Hemans wrote a poem to give to Sir Walter Scott when she visited Abbotsford. When visiting she wrote: "These lines were given to Sir Walter Scott, at the gate of Abbotsford, in the summer of 1829. He was then apparently in the vigour of an existence whose energies promised long continuance; and the glance of his quick, smiling eye, and the very sound of his kindly voice, seemed to kindle the gladness of his own sunny and benignant spirit in all who had the happiness of approaching him."

 HOME of the gifted! fare thee well,
  And a blessing on thee rest;
While the heather waves its purple bell
  O'er moor and mountain crest;
While stream to stream around thee calls,
  And braes with broom are drest,
Glad be the harping in thy halls–
  A blessing on thee rest.

While the high voice from thee sent forth
  Bids rock and cairn reply,
Wakening the spirits of the North,
  Like a chieftan's gathering cry;
While its deep master-tones hold sway
  As a king's o'er every breast,
Home of the Legend and the Lay!
  A blessing on thee rest!

Joy to thy hearth, and board, and bower!
  Long honours to thy line!
And hearts of proof, and hands of power,
  And bright names worthy thine!
By the merry step of childhood, still
  May thy free sward be prest!
–While one proud pulse in the land can thrill,
  A blessing on thee rest!  

Finally, I discovered Melrose Abbey from The Lay of the Last Minstrel by Sir Walter Scott:

If thou woulds't view fair Melrose aright,
Go visit it by the pale moon-light;
For the gay beams of lightsome day
Gild, but to flout, the ruins gray.
When the broken arches are black in night,
And each shafted oriel glimmers white;
When the cold light's uncertain shower
Streams on the ruined central tower;
When buttress and buttress, alternately,
Seem framed of ebon and ivory;
When silver edges the imagery,
And the scrolls that teach thee to live and die;
When distant Tweed is heard to rave,
And the owlet to hoot o'er the dead man's grave;
Then go--but go alone the while--
The view St David's ruined pile;
And, home returning, soothly swear,
Was never scene so sad and fair!