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
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.
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