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This week, as we near the end of a selection of Robert Burns’ items suitable for a Burns Supper, we feature another two lovely songs by our National Bard. ‘Sweet Afton’ was inspired by his love of Highland Mary and ‘Ca’ the Yowes to the Knowes’ by an older song. Burns gave the traditional version, with his own amendments, to James Johnson but this is his remodelled version which he produced in 1794 for George Thomson. ‘Clouden’s silent towers’ was a favourite haunt of the poet and the Clouden is a tributary of the Nith.


Flow gently, sweet Afton! amang thy green braes,
Flow gently, I'll sing thee a song in thy praise;
My Mary's asleep by thy murmuring stream,
Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream.

Thou stockdove whose echo resounds thro' the glen,
Ye wild whistling blackbirds in yon thorny den,
Thou green-crested lapwing thy screaming forbear,
I charge you, disturb not my slumbering Fair.

How lofty, sweet Afton, thy neighbouring hills,
Far mark'd with the courses of clear, winding rills;
There daily I wander as noon rises high,
My flocks and my Mary's sweet cot in my eye.

How pleasant thy banks and green valleys below,
Where, wild in the woodlands, the primroses blow;
There oft, as mild Ev'ning weeps over the lea,
The sweet-scented birk shades my Mary and me.

Thy crystal stream, Afton, how lovely it glides,
And winds by the cot where my Mary resides;
How wanton thy waters her snowy feet lave,
As, gathering sweet flowerets, she stems thy clear wave.

Flow gently, sweet Afton, amang thy green braes,
Flow gently, sweet river, the theme of my lays;
My Mary's asleep by thy murmuring stream,
Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream.

Footnote : A beautiful love song this week in memory of one of Scotland's most famous love affairs. In 1819 the song publisher George Thomson inquired of Robert Burns' brother Gilbert - ' Flow gently sweet Afton & c - Who was the Mary of the song?' Gilbert's answer was 'The poet's Highland Mary.'


Ca’ the yowes to the knows,
Ca’ them whare the heather grows,
Ca’ them whare the burnie rowes,
  My bonnie dearie.

Hark, the mavis’ evening sang
Sounding Clouden’s woods amang!
Then a faulding let us gang,
  My bonnie dearie.

We’ll gae down by Clouden side,
Thro’ the hazels spreading wide,
O’er the waves, that  sweetly glide
  To the moon sae clearly.

Yonder Clouden’s silent towers,
Where at moonshine midnight hours,
O’er the dewy bending flowers,
  Fairies dance sae chearie.

Ghaist nor bogle shalt thou fear;
Thou’rt to love and heaven sae dear,
Nocht of ill may come thee near,
  My bonnie dearie.

Fair and lovely as thou art,
Thou hast stown my very heart;
I can die – but canna part,
  My bonnie dearie.

                                                                                              Return to A Burns Collection 


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