Poetry Map of Scotland, poem no. 171: Glasgow

Lang Mary and the Darnley Tree

To this day stands the Darnley tree
or so they say. It's spawned a lot
of stories born in yester-lore;
a Scottish maple – Platanus,
though some would call it sycamore.

Like many trees that harbour tales,
the telling's tall, but where's the harm
in fables sown as spreading girth
across the years deceives the fool
agape and barks the tree in mirth.

In narratives, there's myths of her
usurping truths, forsaking him,
the libertine who would carouse,
but underneath this plane, old tree,
Lang Mary sighed, beneath its boughs,

by Crookston, where her Darnley sat,
effete, unsound and near to death
from Cupid's itch, and pleas for wealth
from mounted counts beyond the gate
required she nursed him back to health,

the man who wore a crown, an earl,
a lord, debauched and dissolute.
He grew to be like deadwood, lopped,
wi' sark for shroud in Kirk o' Field,
while she, poor quean, was cropped and chopped.


Ian Colville

An earlier version of this poem appeared on Poetry Scotland’s Open Mouse

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