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Caledonia


Tune--Caledonian Hunt's Delight."


[There is both knowledge of history and elegance of allegory in this singular lyric: it was first printed by Currie.]


I.

There was once a day--but old Time then was young--
That brave Caledonia, the chief of her line,
From some of your northern deities sprung,
(Who knows not that brave Caledonia's divine?)
From Tweed to the Orcades was her domain,
To hunt, or to pasture, or do what she would:
Her heav'nly relations there fixed her reign,
And pledg'd her their godheads to warrant it good.

II.

A lambkin in peace, but a lion in war,
The pride of her kindred the heroine grew;
Her grandsire, old Odin, triumphantly swore
"Whoe'er shall provoke thee, th' encounter shall rue!"
With tillage or pasture at times she would sport,
To feed her fair flocks by her green rustling corn;
But chiefly the woods were her fav'rite resort,
Her darling amusement, the hounds and the horn.

III.

Long quiet she reign'd; till thitherward steers
A flight of bold eagles from Adria's strand:
Repeated, successive, for many long years,
They darken'd the air, and they plunder'd the land:
Their pounces were murder, and terror their cry,
They'd conquer'd and ruin'd a world beside;
She took to her hills, and her arrows let fly--
The daring invaders they fled or they died.

IV.

The fell harpy-raven took wing from the north,
The scourge of the seas, and the dread of the shore;
The wild Scandinavian boar issu'd forth
To wanton in carnage, and wallow in gore;
O'er countries and kingdoms their fury prevail'd,
No arts could appease them, no arms could repel;
But brave Caledonia in vain they assail'd,
As Largs well can witness, and Loncartie tell.

V.

The Cameleon-savage disturbed her repose,
With tumult, disquiet, rebellion, and strife;
Provok'd beyond bearing, at last she arose,
And robb'd him at once of his hope and his life:
The Anglian lion, the terror of France,
Oft prowling, ensanguin'd the Tweed's silver flood:
But, taught by the bright Caledonian lance,
He learned to fear in his own native wood.

VI.

Thus bold, independent, unconquer'd, and free,
Her bright course of glory for ever shall run:
For brave Caledonia immortal must be;
I'll prove it from Euclid as clear as the sun:
Rectangle-triangle, the figure we'll choose,
The upright is Chance, and old Time is the base;
But brave Caledonia's the hypothenuse;
Then ergo, she'll match them, and match them always.



Another version:


Tune--Humours of Glen.


[Love of country often mingles in the lyric strains of Burns with his personal attachments, and in few more beautifully than in the following, written for Thomson the heroine was Mrs. Burns.]



I.

    Their groves o' sweet myrtle let foreign lands reckon,
      Where bright-beaming summers exalt the perfume;
    Far dearer to me yon lone glen o' green brockan,
      Wi' the burn stealing under the lang yellow broom:
    Far dearer to me are yon humble broom bowers,
      Where the blue-bell and gowan lurk lowly unseen;
    For there, lightly tripping amang the wild flowers,
      A listening the linnet, aft wanders my Jean.

II.

    Tho' rich is the breeze in their gay sunny valleys,
      And cauld CALEDONIA'S blast on the wave;
    Their sweet-scented woodlands that skirt the proud palace,
      What are they?--The haunt of the tyrant and slave!
    The slave's spicy forests, and gold-bubbling fountains,
      The brave Caledonian views wi' disdain;
    He wanders as free as the winds of his mountains,
      Save love's willing fetters, the chains o' his Jean.

Robert Burns


Poetry