Sir Walter Scott: “Breathes there the man …”

Today I am reminded of a fragment of a poem that I had learned in high school. It is by the Scottish poet — Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832). It is from his narrative poem, “The Lay of the Last Minstrel” (1805). It is worth memorizing. Here it is:

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 burned,
As home his footsteps he hath turned,
From wandering on a foreign strand!
If such there breathe, go, mark him well;
For him no Minstrel raptures swell;
High though his titles, proud his name,
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim;
Despite those titles, power, and pelf,
The wretch, concentred all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust, from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonoured, and unsung.

Author: Atanu Dey


7 thoughts on “Sir Walter Scott: “Breathes there the man …””

  1. Few weeks back another gentleman who is now around 89 years old read to me a poem he had memorized when he was in 5th standard.
    Honestly I could not understand the English used in that poem, neither did I understand anything from the poem you have posted. My English probably is not so good but I never had any difficulty in understanding poems that were presented in my textbooks, honestly none of them was worth remembering. One poem in 12th standard was on Government of India’s adult literacy mission.

    Is it just my perception or is it that the quality of poems that appear in textbooks has changed?

    As far as Hindi textbooks are concerned I think the textbooks had very good choice of poems. I still remember many of them, they were worth it.


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