James IV to his Treasurer

Oh for Christ’s sake gie the signor his siller.
Alchemist my erse, but he’s hermless, is he no?
He’ll never blaw us up in oor beds, I tak it.
If makkin wings is his new-fanglt ploy
It’ll no cost the earth– a wheen o skins,
Or silk if he can get it, wid for the struts,
Fedders, is he intae fedders?, gum, oh aye,
Ane prentice or twa, keep their mooths shut,
It micht be kinrik secret stuff, ye ken,
Fleg the enemy, sky black wi baukie-birds,
My Gode, whit could ye no drap on thaim -
This signor, whit’s he cried, Damiano,
Tell him he’ll get his purse, but tell him:
Nae mair elixirs, quintessences, faux gowd!
Ye say he wants tae loup frae the castle-waws
At Stirling. Weel weel, that’s a dandy step,
And lat the warld tak tent o sic a ferlie.
But jist suppose there’s a doonbeat scenario
For Signor Damiario: ane wing snapt aff,
He faws, he breks a leg, it’s a richt scunner.
Signor, help is at haun! Ane speedy litter
Wheechs him tae Edinburgh, whaur the new College
O Surgeons welcomes him with aipen erms.
I’ll be there, signor, a king can set a leg.
I need mair practice, but I can dae it, oh yes.
And noo for the warst-case scenario:
The bird-man whuds doon splat, doon tae his daith.
Oh what a bonus: we’ll hae ane public dissection.
My Charter will hae wings, it’ll tak aff,
Whit can we no dae gif we set oor minds tae it?
Tell Signor Damiano, be he limpin or be he a corp,
The College o Surgeons stauns honed and skeely and eident.

from The Hand that Sees: Poems for the quincentenary of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, edited by Stewart Conn (Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in association with the Scottish Poetry Library, 2005)


Other works by Edwin Morgan ...