Student Discovers Long-lost Tannahill Sonnet

Student Discovers Long-Lost Tannahill Sonnet

Working 200 years ago by candlelight with a quill pen and an inkpot, Scottish poet Robert Tannahill crafted some of his nation’s most celebrated verse.

Last summer, on a research trip to Tannahill’s hometown of Paisley, Scotland, and operating with more modern conveniences, Cole Crawford discovered there was more to the poet’s work than met the eye. Deep in the stacks of Paisley’s public library, the 2015 Creighton University honors graduate in English and computer science discovered a Tannahill sonnet long thought lost.

The find put a bright gilt on an already sterling project Crawford had been pursuing as his senior thesis for the Honors Program, compiling Tannahill’s known poems into a Web-based cache, replete with digital copies of original manuscripts and multimedia features allowing users to learn more about the poet, his poems, his times and even his landscapes.

With a special computer program, Crawford has been able to document places Tannahill mentions in his verse, and give users a map and a vantage point on what that place looks like today and what it might have looked like in Tannahill’s lifetime.

“Working in the digital humanities gives us a new way to see information,” explains Crawford, a Dubuque, Iowa, native and a recipient of the Presidential Endowed Scholarship at Creighton. “When you see digitally, when you’re able to utilize all the tools the online world has to offer, you really do begin to appreciate a poet’s or a painter’s work in a new way. We’re also giving people wider access to this work and opening more eyes on artists like Robert Tannahill.”