Airdrie, Scotland
- Alexander, Christine

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Commentary

Christine Alexander’s short poem Airdrie contains two photographs, the first an albumen reproduction of a painted portrait of the author, and the second a picture, reputedly by Thomas Annan, of Airdrie Manor House. Published in Philadelphia, there appear to be links between Alexander’s book and Clement Biddle’s Airdrie and Fugitive Pieces (1872), also published in Philadelphia. Indeed, Biddle would seem to have written a brief note following Henry J. Williams’ preface. That Williams notes Alexander’s lines are ‘annexed’ suggests their excision from a longer work, and Williams also suggests these lines were written ‘before 1812’, which would place it in the tradition of retrospective photopoetry, in which the work of a deceased poet is retrospectively illustrated with photographs.

The placing of the Manor House photograph before the verse is important to the manner in which we read the ensuing poem, as its beauty is implicitly compared with images of a threatening, sublime natural world in the opening stanzas. For example,

No mountain rises here sublime,
Inviting still to try
Its wild and wooded steeps to climb,
The distant scene to spy.
No torrent in its furious course,
With dread the mind appals,
As rushing with resistless force,
Thro’ the deep chasm it falls.

The absence of such wilds suggests that the Manor House, so far absent from the poem yet present in the photograph, has tamed the natural world, and the remainder of the poem centres on the beauties of the House and is rooted firmly in the pastoral tradition.

Book Details

Author: Alexander, Christine
Title: Airdrie, Scotland
Publication Year: 1875
Poets Featured: Alexander, Christine ; Biddle, Clement
Photographers Featured: Annan, Thomas
Subjects: American poetry, Pastoral poetry, Airdrie, Scotland
Photographic process: Albumen prints

This book can be found in the University of St Andrews Library catalogue HERE

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