The second part of a poem written 10 years ago in celebration of the showing of 10 priceless Leonardo da Vinci drawings from the Royal Collection at the Stirling Smith – a real coup for Stirling’s art gallery and museum with its unique collections, reflecting Scotland’s history and culture.

The poem imagines Leonardo in 1508, talking to a Scottish courtier.


Crowning all, is that odd aeronautical link.

Theoretical flying machines haunt my

Imagination: man soaring through the sky

Is my Olympian dream, obsession, passion.

And now I learn that a fellow called Damiano

(The name itself suggests Italian connection)

Dared ape the Gods (and bats) last year

And flung himself from Stirling’s battlements,

Trussed with fake wings, into the plain below,

A lonely Icarus who did not die but lived to ridicule.

No Leonardo he, but still we share a vision,

This aviator-man before his time and I.


I see the scene in my mind’s eye –

The great escarpment with its royal castle,

King, and gawping courtiers, commonalty;

And the violet northern peaks beyond,

Like mystic backdrop to the canvases

My pious, faith-filled artist-brethren paint.


This Scotland – I rather like the sound of it.

The Scots will warm to my art too, I hope.

From A Towering Presence and Other Poems on Stirling Themes (Songbird Publishing, 2010)