Open the Doors!
A poem by Edwin Morgan for the
Opening of the Scottish Parliament building in October 2004
Open the doors! Light of the day, shine in; light of the mind, shine out!
We have a building which is more than a building.
There is a commerce between inner and outer,
between brightness and shadow, between the world and those who think about the world.
Is it not a mystery? The parts cohere, they come together
like petals of a flower, yet they also send their tongues
outward to feel and taste the teeming earth.
Did you want classic columns and predictable pediments? A
growl of old Gothic grandeur? A blissfully boring box?
Not here, no thanks! No icon, no IKEA, no iceberg, but
curves and caverns, nooks and niches, huddles and
heavens syncopations and surprises. Leave symmetry to
But bring together slate and stainless steel, black granite
and grey granite, seasoned oak and sycamore, concrete
blond and smooth as silk – the mix is almost alive – it
breathes and beckons – imperial marble it is not!
Come down the Mile, into the heart of the city, past the kirk
of St Giles and the closes and wynds of the noted ghosts of
history who drank their claret and fell down the steep
tenements stairs into the arms of link-boys but who wrote
and talked the starry Enlightenment of their days –
And before them the auld makars who tickled a Scottish king’s
ear with melody and ribaldry and frank advice –
And when you are there, down there, in the midst of things,
not set upon an hill with your nose in the air,
This is where you know your parliament should be
And this is where it is, just here.
What do the people want of the place? They want it to be
filled with thinking persons as open and adventurous as its
A nest of fearties is what they do not want.
A symposium of procrastinators is what they do not want.
A phalanx of forelock-tuggers is what they do not want.
And perhaps above all the droopy mantra of ‘it wizny me’ is
what they do not want.
Dear friends, dear lawgivers, dear parliamentarians, you are
picking up a thread of pride and self-esteem that has been
almost but not quite, oh no not quite, not ever broken or
When you convene you will be reconvening, with a sense of not
wholly the power, not yet wholly the power, but a good
sense of what was once in the honour of your grasp.
All right. Forget, or don’t forget, the past. Trumpets and
robes are fine, but in the present and the future you will
need something more.
What is it? We, the people, cannot tell you yet, but you will know about it when we do tell you.
We give you our consent to govern, don’t pocket it and ride away.
We give you our deepest dearest wish to govern well, don’t say we
have no mandate to be so bold.
We give you this great building, don’t let your work and hope be other than great when you enter and begin.
So now begin. Open the doors and begin.
6 fearties = cowards
8 symposium of procrastinators = meeting of people who put things off
10 phalanx of forelock-tuggers = crowd of people bowing like servants
13 mantra = a word or phrase which is repeated i.e. in football “here we go, here we go”
What sort of people does the poet think we do want as our MSPs?
Opening the Doors Again!
by Liz Lochhead
‘Open the doors’, said the Poet Morgan,
singing out about ‘our dearest deepest wish’ –
that the work of this, Our Scottish Parliament, begin
and the ‘light of the mind’ shine out
as the light of that new day shone in.
Poets have never been ower fond of politicians.
Are rightly gey wary of flags and slogans --
the Saltire is not a bit of blue sky with a vote on it.
When Burns vented his scorn for thon ‘Parcel of Rogues’
they were oor ain rogues, mind, in oor ain nation.
Morgan wisnae blate either aboot dishin oot a flytin -- in advance --
to you, our brand new parliamentarians.
He tellt ye
to no be
‘a nest of fearties’ nor
‘a phalanx of forelock-tuggers’ nor
‘a symposium of procrastinators’.
He charged you never, ever, to dare come oot wi
‘It wizny me’ –
nae excuse for thon ‘droopy mantra’!
He rhymed off quite a catalogue of what we most definitely
Did Not -- and Do Not -- Want.
‘What do the people want of the place?’ he asked.
Answered: that it be ‘filled with thinking persons
as open’ -- aye open -- ‘and adventurous as its architecture.’
Now ‘Justice’ is a fine and bonny word
To engrave upon a mace
As are ‘Integrity’ ‘Compassion’ and ‘Wisdom’ --
Grand Concepts, qualities to grace
Every last thinking person of our Parliament –
But above all: Open-ness.
How else to turn an abstract noun, a name,
Into a concrete verb – a doing word?
Open your ears, listen, let the people petition and be heard.
Justice, Wisdom, Compassion, Integrity?
Open your eyes -- and see.
Integrity, Compassion, Justice, Wisdom?
Open your hearts – and hope.
Open your minds – to change.
Open the future -- because it’s not yet written --
it’s as Open as that it’s comin yet is true!
But close the gap between what we say and what we do.
Open the doors.
Let the work of this, our fourth Parliament, begin.
Let the light of the open mind shine out.
Let the clear and open light of day shine in.
What does the poet think we do want from our parliamentarians in the fourth session of the Scottish Parliament?
Download the Build Your own Politician cut-out figure from www.dopolitics.org.uk
What qualities and skills do you want from our MSPs?
Scots Makar, Liz Lochead composed and performed “Opening the Doors Again!” especially for the State opening of the fourth session of the Scottish Parliament on 1st July 2011.
For information on Liz Lochhead and her poetry check out the Scottish Poetry Library website