This tableau, featuring the statues of two of Edinburgh’s most illustrious citizens, is by Jock Stein, “poet, piper, and preacher from East Lothian.” He manages to convey something of the intellectual impact of the two great eighteenth-century thinkers as well as the nature of their bronze images. The piece comes from the poet’s new collection, Commentary (Handsel Press, £5).


David Hume 

His home swallowed by the makeover

of St Andrew Square, Davy Hume

has taken refuge on a High St plinth,

his wavy hair in green tinged bronze:

great excoriator of religious rot,

bare-chested, as befits a philosopher

determined to pare the apples

of conventional thought down

to the core, and spit the pips

at prejudice.

                        Upon his knee

he balances a stony reputation,

labelled by some wag “a good book

has no ending,” flagging up

a dialogue still pending with more

than natural theology.

Adam Smith

He thought well. He meant well. He lived well.

He deserves this statue by the City Chambers

to the author of The Wealth of Nations.


Is he not the father of free enterprise?

He has earned his jacket with eleven buttons,

this cloak, this curled wig, this reputation.


Now his eyes and lips are bronze, to match

the hearts of those who cherry-pick his writings,

leaving out his checks and balances to power.