It is said
that all good things must come to an end and that applies even to Burns
Suppers! This week concludes a collection of items which you can use at your
next Burns Supper but remember other Burns’ items are available in both
‘Sing a Sang at Least’ and ‘Complete Poems’. The lines Burns wrote in
farewell to his friend John Kennedy can well be recited by the chairman in
concluding the evening and no event should close without Scotland’s National
Anthem being sung.
Burns wrote ‘Farewell Lines to John Kennedy’ shortly after the publication
of the Kilmarnock Edition in 1786. At the time the poet was still planning
to go to the Indies and in a note promised to visit his friend before his
departure. He wrote the song which he intended as Scotland’s National Anthem
in September 1793 – popularly known as ‘Scots Wha Hae’ the Bard’s title was
‘Bruce’s Address at Bannockburn’. As a serving Customs Officer, a gauger,
Robert Burns had to show political tact in his writings and he used the
words of Scotland’s greatest warrior king, Robert I. to illustrate his
attitude to political and radical struggles in his own time. The song was
taken up by the Radical Cause and a band was even arrested by the
authorities for playing ‘Scots Wha Hae’. Perhaps in the 21st
century Scots will finally find the smeddum to sing this magnificent
National Anthem in a Free and Independent Scotland.
FAREWELL (LINES TO JOHN KENNEDY)
Farewell, dear friend! May guid luck hit you,
And ‘mang her favourites admit you!
If e’er Detraction shone to smit you,
May nane believe him,
And ony Deil that thinks to get you,
Good Lord deceive him.
BRUCE'S ADDRESS AT BANNOCKBURN (SCOTS WHA HAE)
"Scots Wha Hae"
Sung by Gaberlunzie
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
Freedom's sword will strongly draw?
Freeman stand, or freeman fa'?
Let him on wi' me!
By oppression's woes and
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.
Footnote : No song is more appropriate for the
week containing St Andrew's Day, 30 November, than the Scottish National
Anthem. At Primary School in Aberdeenshire I was taught two National
Anthems, the Scottish and French, which given the following comment by the
late Dr David Murison was very appropriate :-
'Scots wha hae', which was written about
the same time, has the same background in the ferment of the French
Revolution and one can hear echoes of 'La Marseillaise' in it. Here Burns
is striking the attitude of the patriot, and doubtless it was intended as
a kind of national anthem of a nation that may even yet find the moral
courage to sing it.
from 'The Language of
Burns'; contributed to 'Critical Essays on Robert Burns' - edited by
Donald A Low (1975)
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