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 Cyclop’s dream,
High in the shifting weather-gleam.

Fair art thou when above thy head
The mistless firmament is spread;
      But when the twilight’s 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 Mirza’s vision, Bagdad’s vale!

The spring-time stains with emerald
Thy castle’s 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 Walter’s 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 Stuart’s tears.

Street haunted by the step of Knox;
Darnley’s long, heavy-scented locks;
      Ruthven’s 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 saw’st Montrose’s passing face
Shame-strike the gloating silk and lace,
      And jeering plumes that filled
The balcony o’erhead; with pride
Thou saw’st Prince Charles bareheaded ride,
      While bagpipes round him shrilled,
And far Culloden’s 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 o’er thy oaken floors!
What hasty kisses at thy doors!
      What banquetings and bets!
What talk, o’er 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 blackbird’s throat,
      The sweet note of the thrush;
And all is shadowless and clear
In the uncolored atmosphere.

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