Alexander Craig Poems

Alexander Craig Poems

Alexander Craig of Rosecraig was better known by his contemporaries as Scoto-Britane, which was his pen name. He was born in 1567, in Perthshire, in the north of Scotland, the year same year Mary Queen of Scots was executed after her long imprisonment in England by her cousin Elizabeth I. Born into an aristocratic family in post reformation Scotland, Alexander Craig lived through an age of civil war and religious conflict, yet his works still manage to capture the beauty of his time through his poetry. He is best remembered for his now for love sonnets.

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Alexander Craig Bio

One of his pieces, Amorose Songes, he dedicated to Ann of Denmark, wife of James VI of Scotland and I of England. Amorose Songes, was a collection of 108 poems the same as Phillip Sidney’s Astrophil and Stella. This was almost certainly done on purpose, perhaps to pay homage to this poetical masterpiece, which explored similar themes as his own writings, such as love and desire. There is no doubting that Craig was influenced by Sidney’s work and may have sought to emulate it himself. His works were commonly heard in the Scottish court of James VI and other women who are mentioned by name in the titles of his poems such as Pandora (Pandora refuseth his letter) and Lithocardia (To Lithocardia.)

Craig’s’ poems speak of desire and yearning. He explores both the beauty of love along with the pain and suffering when it is unrequited. In To Pandora he describes his love for her in the hope that she repays it. Much of his work contains classical imagery relating to Greek mythology such as the siege of Troy. Again this is similar to Sidney’s work whose protagonists are named after the Greek words for star. Though this was not uncommon for the time, giving that Homers epic poems were widely read. In fact this classical imagery is still a common feature in modern poetry.

 Alexander Craig Poems
Alexander Craig Poems

Apart from his poems little information remains about the man himself. He is said to have read at St Andrews alongside Robert Anyton and their work shows a mutual admiration and encouragement between the two young poets. Looking carefully, you can clearly see their shared interest in genre and style.

Like Robert Burns after him, Alexander Craig chose to write his poems in Scots dialect rather than the more stylish French, which was spoken at court or the Latin used by academics. Perhaps this was his way of keeping in touch with the common man, though most were illiterate, they could still listen and recite his poems. Or perhaps it was due the increasing tensions between Scotland and France after the reformation. Either way his work represents an important step forward for English literature, which was just beginning to blossom with writers like Sir Francis Bacon and John Bale. Eventually it would lead to great writers and poets like William Shakespeare and Robert ‘Rabbie’ Burns.

He also wrote a poem in memory of the Irish Poet Y M Yeats entitled The First Voyagers, which describes three men leaving their homes in Ireland to go, they cared not where. A portion of this poem is replicated here:

79e4132280d8d4cd8fa3b19cae046858 Alexander Craig Poems
 Alexander Craig Poems
Alexander Craig Poems

To his Pandora, from England

Now, while amid those dainty downs and dales
With shepherd swains I sit, unknown to me,
We sweetly sing and tell pastoral tales,
But my discourse and song’s theme is of thee.
For otherways, alas, how can it be?
Let Venus leave her blest abode above
To tempt my love, yet thou, sweet soul, shalt see
That I thy man and thou shalt die my love.
No tract of time nor sad eclipse of place
Nor absence long, which sometime were due cures
To my disease, shall make thy slave to cease
From serving thee till life or breath endures;
And till we meet, my rustic mates and I
Through woods and plains Pandora’s praise shall cry.

 Alexander Craig Poems
Alexander Craig Poems

To Pandora

Go you, O winds that blow from north to south,
Convey my secret sighs unto my sweet;
Deliver them from mine unto her mouth,
And make my commendations till we meet.
But if perhaps her proud aspiring sprite
Will not accept nor yet receive the same,
The breast and bulwark of her bosom beat,
Knock at her heart, and tell from whence you came;
Importune her, nor cease nor shrink for shame.
Sport with her curls of amber-colored hair,
And when she sighs, immix yourselves with thame,
Give her her own, and thus beguile the fair.
Blow winds, fly sighs, whereas my heart doth haunt,
And secretly commend me to my saunt.
 Alexander Craig Poems
Alexander Craig Poems

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