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Poem by Alexander Smith


EDINA, high in heaven wan,
Towered, templed, Metropolitan,
      Waited upon by hills,
River, and wide-spread ocean,tinged
By April light, or draped and fringed
      As April vapor wills,
Thou hangest, like a Cyclops dream,
High in the shifting weather-gleam.

Fair art thou when above thy head
The mistless firmament is spread;
      But when the twilights screen
Draws glimmering round thy towers and spires,
And thy lone bridge, uncrowned by fires,
      Hangs in the dim ravine,
Thou art a very Persian tale,
Or Mirzas vision, Bagdads vale!

The spring-time stains with emerald
Thy castles precipices bald;
      Within thy streets and squares
The sudden summer camps, and blows
The plenteous chariot-shaken rose;
      Or, lifting unawares
My eyes from out thy central strife,
Lo, far off, harvest-brazen Fife!

When, raindrops gemming tree and plant,
The rainbow is thy visitant,
      Lovely as on the moors;
When sunset flecks with loving ray
Thy wilderness of gables gray,
      And hoary embrasures;
When great Sir Walters moon-blanched shrine,
Rich carved, as Melrose, gleams divine,

I know thee; and I know thee, too,
On winter nights, when gainst the blue
      Thy high, gloom-wildered ridge
Breaks in a thousand splendors; lamps
Gleam broadly in the valley damps;
      Thy air-suspended bridge
Shines steadfast; and the modern street
Looks on, star-fretted, loud with feet.

*        *        *        *        *

Fair art thou, City, to the eye,
But fairer to the memory:
      There is no place that breeds
Not Venice neath her mellow moons,
When the sea-pulse of full lagoons
      Waves all her palace weeds
Such wistful thoughts of far away,
Of the eternal yesterday.

Within thy high-piled Canongate
The air is of another date;
      All speaks of ancient time:
Traces of gardens, dials, wells,
Thy dizzy gables, oyster-shells
      Imbedded in the lime,
Thy shields above the doors of peers
Are old as Mary Stuarts tears.

Street haunted by the step of Knox;
Darnleys long, heavy-scented locks;
      Ruthvens blood-freezing stare:
Dark Murray, dreaming of the crown,
His ride through fair Linlithgow town,
      And the man waiting there
With loaded fuse, undreamed of,wiles
Of Mary, and her mermaid smiles!

Thou sawst Montroses passing face
Shame-strike the gloating silk and lace,
      And jeering plumes that filled
The balcony oerhead; with pride
Thou sawst Prince Charles bareheaded ride,
      While bagpipes round him shrilled,
And far Cullodens smoky racks
Hid scaffold craped, and bloody axe.

What wine hast thou known brawl-bespilt!
What daggers ruddy to the hilt!
      What stately minuets
Walked slowly oer thy oaken floors!
What hasty kisses at thy doors!
      What banquetings and bets!
What talk, oer man that lives and errs,
Of doubled-chinned philosophers!

Great City, every morning I
See thy wild fringes in the sky,
      Soft-blurred with smoky grace;
Each evening note the blazing sun
Flush luridly thy vapors dun,
      A spire athwart his face;
Each night I watch thy wondrous feast,
Like some far city of the East.

But most I love thee faint and fair,
Dim-pencilled in the April air,
      When in the dewy bush
I hear from budded thicks remote
The rapture of the blackbirds throat,
      The sweet note of the thrush;
And all is shadowless and clear
In the uncolored atmosphere.

Alexander Smith

Poem Themes: Cities of Scotland, Edinburgh

Alexander Smith's other poems:
  1. Inversnaid
  2. Blaavin
  3. To ----
  4. Barbara
  5. Love

Poems of the other poets with the same name:

  • William McGonagall Edinburgh ("Beautiful city of Edinburgh!")
  • William Drummond Edinburgh ("INSTALLED on hills, her head near starry bowers")
  • David Moir Edinburgh ("TRACED like a map the landscape lies")

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