Scottish Poems

Love of Country

by Sir Walter Scott

‘Love of Country’ presents a world in which patriotism is the most important virtue of all and the lack of it is unforgivable.

The poem remains, to this day, closely associated with Scottish identity and part of the fabric of Scottish culture.

Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,

Who never to himself hath said,

This is my own, my native land!

Whose heart hath ne'er within him burn'd,

Explore more poems from Scottish


by Sir Walter Scott

‘Lochinvar’ is a ballad about a young and courageous knight who saves his beloved, the fair lady Ellen, from marrying another man.

While Robert Burns will always be the best Scottish poet, Sir Walter Scott is a close second. This poem offers an interesting mix of Scottish and English culture, which fits well with the setting on the border between the two countries. However, it is not purely Scottish but, instead, offers a broader view of how the English saw the Scots.

O young Lochinvar is come out of the west,

Through all the wide Border his steed was the best;

And save his good broadsword he weapons had none,

He rode all unarm’d, and he rode all alone

To a Mouse

by Robert Burns

‘To a Mouse’ by Robert Burns describes the unfortunate situation of a mouse whose home was destroyed by the winter winds. 

Robert Burns is considered one of Scotland's greatest poets, and his poetry often reflects the landscape, people, and culture of Scotland. This poem is one of his best-known and should be regarded among the country's best.

Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim’rous beastie,

O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!

Thou need na start awa sae hasty,

          Wi’ bickerin brattle!

Cuddle Doon

by Alexander Anderson

‘Cuddle Doon’ by Alexander Anderson is a poem about a mother trying to persuade her children to go to sleep. It uses Scots dialect to convey the culture of the speaker and her family.

Alexander Anderson was a Scottish poet, and his background comes through clearly in his writing. The use of the Scots dialect in this poem makes it clear that the speaker and her family live in Scotland, even if that detail is not stated explicitly in the text. The dialect gives the poem a more rustic, everyday feeling and makes this a good example of Scottish poetry.

The bairnies cuddle doon at nicht

Wi muckle faught and din.

“Oh try an’ sleep, ye waukrife rogues,

Your faither’s comin’ in.”

My Grandmother’s Houses

by Jackie Kay

‘My Grandmother’s Houses’ by Jackie Kay is a thoughtful recollection of youth and a young speaker’s relationship with her eccentric grandmother, who is forced to move homes.

Kay would go on to become the Makar, which is the Poet Laureate of Scotland. The reference to high-rise apartments captures the image of Scottish social housing.

She is on the second floor of a tenement.

From her front room window you see the cemetery.


by Jackie Kay

‘Rubble’ by Jackie Kay is a dramatic monologue that was included in her collection, Darling: New & Selected Poems. It conveys an individual’s cluttered and chaotic mind. 

Though Kay would go on to be the Poet Laureate of Scotland, the Makar, this poem predates that and is not especially concerned with the nation.

What was the thought that I just had in my head?


the broken heart. The world outside is breaking


by Carol Ann Duffy

‘Beautiful’ by Carol Ann Duffy explores the physical and mental damage that can come from beauty by tracing the lives of four women.

The poet Carol Ann Duffy is a Scottish writer known for her poetry's wit, humor, and feminist themes. 'Beautiful' is a prime example of her work and shows her interest in exploring the darker side of love and relationships.

She was born from an egg,

a daughter of the gods,

divinely fair, a pearl, drop-dead

gorgeous, beautiful, a peach,

An Hour With Thee

by Sir Walter Scott

‘An Hour With Thee’ by Sir Walter Scott is a poem about the speaker’s appreciation for spending time with an unnamed character. Despite his difficult life, an hour with this person can make his situation tolerable.

Sir Walter Scott's 'An Hour With Thee' is not one of Scott's most Scottish works. While Walter Scott is known for depicting the folktales, landscape, and politics of the people living on the border between Scotland and England, this poem is an imitation of a French song. So, if you want a truly Scottish work, look at Scott's other poems.

An hour with thee! When earliest day

Dapples with gold the eastern gray,

Oh, what can frame my mind to bear

The toil and turmoil, cark and care,

Aiken Drum

by Anonymous

‘Aiken Drum’ is an interesting Scottish folksong. It dates back to 1820 and describes what one strange man’s clothes are made out of.

Anne Hathaway

by Carol Ann Duffy

‘Anne Hathaway’ by Carol Ann Duffy is told from the perceptive of Shakespeare’s wife who discusses their enduring love through the symbol of a bed. 

The bed we loved in was a spinning world

of forests, castles, torchlight, cliff-tops, seas

where he would dive for pearls. My lover’s words

were shooting stars which fell to earth as kisses

Auld Lang Syne

by Robert Burns

‘Auld Lang Syne’ is a poem that addresses old acquaintances and the memories associated with them at the end of a year. It is a famous poem that is sung all across the world.

Crossing the Loch

by Kathleen Jamie

In this poem, ‘Crossing the Loch’, Kathleen Jamie uses a young female speaker to tell a story through a conversation


by Jackie Kay

‘Darling’ by Jackie Kay describes a woman’s death on a beautiful summer day and her close friend’s reaction. It was inspired by a personal loss the poet experienced. 


by Jackie Kay

‘Divorce’ by Jackie Kay is about parent-child relationships and how children are impacted by adults’ issues. The speaker is a teenager who is struggling to contend with her parent’s relationship with one another. 

Dusting The Phone

by Jackie Kay

‘Dusting The Phone’ by Jackie Kay is a a monologue of a woman yearning for a single phone call from the man she loves.

Going to See King Lear

by Jackie Kay

‘Going to See King Lear’ by Jackie Kay describes what happens when a young girl is taken to see a traumatizing play by her mother.

Got You

by Jackie Kay

‘Got You’ by Jackie Kay is an interesting poem about sibling jealousy and the strength of sisterhood. The speaker is a discouraged child who believes her sister is superior to her in every way.


by Carol Ann Duffy

Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘Havisham’ is a response to Charles Dickens’s portrayal of the character Miss Havisham in his famous novel Great Expectations. This poem refers to the character as “Havisham” rather than “Miss Havisham.”

Beloved sweetheart bastard. Not a day since then

I haven’t wished him dead. Prayed for it

so hard I’ve dark green pebbles for eyes,

ropes on the back of my hands I could strangle with.

In Romney Marsh

by John Davidson

Romney Marsh is a wetland area stretching through Kent and East Sussex, with a long and extensive history. Although it

In the Seventh Year

by Jackie Kay

‘In the Seventh Year’ by Jackie Kay is a short, beautiful lyric poem. It describes the timeless and changing nature of a speaker’s relationship.

In Your Mind

by Carol Ann Duffy

‘In Your Mind’ by Carol Ann Duffy describes a detailed daydream in which the reader of the poem embarks on a strangely familiar trip.

The other country, is it anticipated or half-remembered?

Its language is muffled by the rain which falls all afternoon

one autumn in England, and in your mind

you put aside your work and head for the airport

with a credit card and a warm coat you will leave

on the plane. The past fades like newsprint in the sun.

Love Nest

by Jackie Kay

‘Love Nest’ by Jackie Kay depicts the difficulties that same-sex couples face and society’s cruel infiltrates their relationships and homes. The poet uses a skillful, multilayered extended metaphor in this piece.

Mrs. Midas

by Carol Ann Duffy

‘Mrs. Midas’ by Carol Ann Duffy uses a contemporary feminist perspective to depict the shocking transformation of the mythological character, King Midas.

It was late September. I’d just poured a glass of wine, begun

to unwind, while the vegetables cooked. The kitchen

filled with the smell of itself, relaxed, its steamy breath

gently blanching the windows. So I opened one,

then with my fingers wiped the other’s glass like a brow.

He was standing under the pear tree snapping a twig.


by Carol Ann Duffy

‘Nostalgia’ by Carol Ann Duffy explores the moment in which the term ‘Nostalgia’ was coined following the crusades of 17th-century Swiss mercenaries.

Those early mercenaries, it made them ill –

leaving the mountains, leaving the high, fine air

to go down, down. What they got

was money, dull, crude coins clenched

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