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Bruce's Address At Bannockburn


This world famous Ode was composed in September 1793. In his letter transmitting it, the poet thus wrote:- "I am delighted with many little melodies which the learned musician despises as silly and insipid. I do not know whether the old air, Hey, tuttie taite, may rank among the number; but well I know that, with Fraser's hautboy, it has often filled my eyes with tears. 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 yesternight's evening-walk, warmed me to a pitch of enthusiasm on the theme of liberty and independance, which I threw into a kind of Scottish ode, fitted to the air, that one might suppose to be the gallant royal Scot's address to his heroic followers on that eventful morning.

I shewed the air to Urbani, who was highly pleased with it and begged me to make soft verses to it: but I had no idea of giving myself any trouble on the subject till the accidental recollection of that glorious struggle for freedom, associated with the glowing ideas of some other struggles of the same nature, not quite so ancient, roused my rhyming manua."

The poet, on visiting the locality of this famous battle, in the summer of 1787, entered the following note in his memorandum book:- "Came on to Bannockburn: the hole in the stone where glorious Bruce set his standard. Here no Scot can pass uninterested. I fancy to myself that I see my gallant heroic countrymen, coming o'er the hill and down upon the plunderers of their country, the murderers of their fathers; noble revenge and just hate glowing in every vein, striding more and more eagerly as they approach the oppresive, insulting, and bloodthirsty foe! I see them in gloriously-triumphant congratulation on the victorious field, exulting in their heroic royal ader, and rescued liberty and independence!"

Scots! wha hae wi' Wallace bled,
Scots! wham Bruce has aften led,
Welcome to your gory bed,
Or to victory!
Now's the day, and now's the hour;
See the front o' battle lour:
See approach proud Edward's power -
Chains and slavery!

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!

What for Scotland's king and law
Freedom's sword will strongly draw?
Freeman stand, or freeman fa'?
Let him on wi' me!

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

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

So may God ever defend the cause of truth and liberty, as He did that day! Amen.


Robert Burns Index