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Bannockburn

BRUCE TO HIS MEN AT BANNOCKBURN.

[FIRST VERSION.]

Tune--"_Hey, tuttie taitie._"

[Syme of Ryedale states that this fine ode was composed during a storm
of rain and fire, among the wilds of Glenken in Galloway: the poet
himself gives an account much less romantic. In speaking of the air to
Thomson, he says, "There is a tradition which I have met with in many
places in Scotland, that it was Robert Bruce's march at the battle of
Bannockburn. This thought, in my solitary wanderings, warmed me to a
pitch of enthusiasm on the theme of liberty and independence, which I
threw into a kind of Scottish ode, fitted to the air, that one might
suppose to be the royal Scot's address to his heroic followers on that
eventful morning." It was written in September, 1793.]

I.

Scots, wha hae wi' Wallace bled,
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led;
Welcome to your gory bed,
Or to victorie!

II.

Now's the day, and now's the hour;
See the front o' battle lour:
See approach proud Edward's pow'r--
Chains and slaverie!

III.

Wha will be a traitor-knave?
Wha can fill a coward's grave?
Wha sae base as be a slave!
Let him turn and flee!

IV.

Wha for Scotland's king and law
Freedom's sword will strongly draw,
Freeman stand, or freeman fa',
Let him follow me!

V.

By oppression's woes and pains!
By our sons in servile chains!
We will drain our dearest veins,
But they shall be free!

VI.

Lay the proud usurpers low!
Tyrants fall in every foe!
Liberty's in every blow!--
Let us do or die!

* * * * *

BANNOCKBURN.

ROBERT BRUCE'S ADDRESS TO HIS ARMY.

[SECOND VERSION.]

[Thomson acknowledged the charm which this martial and national ode
had for him, but he disliked the air, and proposed to substitute that
of Lewis Gordon in its place. But Lewis Gordon required a couple of
syllables more in every fourth line, which loaded the verse with
expletives, and weakened the simple energy of the original: Burns
consented to the proper alterations, after a slight resistance; but
when Thomson, having succeeded in this, proposed a change in the
expression, no warrior of Bruce's day ever resisted more sternly the
march of a Southron over the border. "The only line," says the
musician, "which I dislike in the whole song is,

'Welcome to your gory bed:'


gory presents a disagreeable image to the mind, and a prudent general
would avoid saying anything to his soldiers which might tend to make
death more frightful than it is." "My ode," replied Burns, "pleases me
so much that I cannot alter it: your proposed alterations would, in my
opinion, make it tame." Thomson cries out, like the timid wife of
Coriolanus, "Oh, God, no blood!" while Burns exclaims, like that
Roman's heroic mother, "Yes, blood! it becomes a soldier more than
gilt his trophy." The ode as originally written was restored
afterwards in Thomson's collection.]

I.

Scots, wha hae wi' Wallace bled,
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led;
Welcome to your gory bed,
Or to glorious victorie!

II.

Now's the day, and now's the hour--
See the front o' battle lour;
See approach proud Edward's power--
Edward! chains and slaverie!

III.

Wha will be a traitor-knave?
Wha can fill a coward's grave?
Wha sae base as be a slave?
Traitor! coward! turn and flee!

IV.

Wha for Scotland's king and law
Freedom's sword will strongly draw,
Freeman stand, or freeman fa',
Caledonian! on wi' me!

V.

By oppression's woes and pains!
By our sons in servile chains!
We will drain our dearest veins,
But they shall be--shall be free!

VI.

Lay the proud usurpers low!
Tyrants fall in every foe!
Liberty's in every blow!
Forward! let us do, or die!

Robert Burns


Poetry