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Broadside entitled 'A Poem Upon the Union'


This poem begins: 'Before the THISTLE with the rose Twin'd, / Our Patriots about it thus Divin'd, / Two Potts, the one of Brass, the Other of Lame, / Were carried by the Violence of a Stream.' The famous Latin phrase, 'Timeo danaos & dona ferentes', is listed below the title. This expression translates as 'I fear the Greeks, even when they bring gifts', and is used to indicate distrust when a traditional foe is showing signs of kindness. This saying originates from the legend concerning the Wooden Horse at Troy. A handwritten note at the bottom of the sheet states that it was published in 1706.

Written as a prophetic warning against the imminent Act of Union of 1707, this broadside would have been one of the many sheets published in the propaganda war that took place just prior to the union of the Scottish and English parliaments. Many famous polemicists, including Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun (1653-1716) and Daniel Defoe (1660-1731), wrote political pamphlets on this subject. With its classical and biblical allusions, plus its Latin phrases, this poem is lofty and erudite in tone. Still further, its call for independence and resistance to the English king, preludes the literary territory that Robert Burns was later to write about to such great effect, in such famous poems as 'Such a Parcel of Rogues in a Nation!'

Broadsides are single sheets of paper, printed on one side, to be read unfolded. They carried public information such as proclamations as well as ballads and news of the day. Cheaply available, they were sold on the streets by pedlars and chapmen. Broadsides offer a valuable insight into many aspects of the society they were published in, and the National Library of Scotland holds over 250,000 of them.

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Likely date of publication: 1706-1707   shelfmark: S.302.b.2(097)
Broadside entitled 'A Poem Upon the Union'
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