Scottish Poetry Selection
- A Whiff of Nature

The author of this poem, Alexander Anderson (1845-1909), was the sixth and youngest son of James Anderson a quarrier. Anderson seems to have taken inspiration from his walks in the hills of Kirkcudbrightshire in his later poetry. He began his working life as a surfaceman or platelayer on the Glasgow and South-western railway, and generally wrote under the name of Surfaceman. Self educated, in 1870 he began to send verses to the ‘People's Friend’ of Dundee, and subsequently his first book ‘A Song of Labour and other Poems’, was published in 1873. He later became assistant librarian in the University of Edinburgh, and after an interval as secretary to the Philosophical Institution there, he returned as Chief Librarian to the university. He made many friends, including the Duke of Argyll and Thomas Carlyle.

   A Whiff of Nature

I stand alone on the hillside,
   The scent of heather about;
I am so free of the city
   That I leap and dance and shout.

The curlew and the lapwing,
   They look for a moment at me,
Then they whoop and dive together,
   For they understand my glee.

I can fancy I hear them singing
   As I see them flying along —
“Here is a weary old fellow
   Who is still in love with our song.

"Let us sing him our shrillest and wildest,
   That it may sink in his heart,
And be with him again in the city
   When he turns his face to depart.”

And over moss and moorland,
   They swoop and wheel and sing,
Till the very ferns beside me
   Begin to quiver and swing.

And ever, as if from dreamland,
   The wind brings this echo along —
“Here is a weary old fellow,
   Who is still in love with our song.”

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