Click to listen: https://soundcloud.com/words-of-burns/scots-wha-hae-1
Last Friday night I had the honour of proposing the Immortal Memory of Robert Burns at the Burns Supper of the Gatehouse of Fleet Burns Club. The venue, the Murray Arms Hotel, was particularly special as Burns himself had stayed there in 1793. It is said that during his stay there he first transcribed the words of one of his most inspirational pieces, SCOTS WHA HAE, a clarion call against tyranny.
Although the context is Scottish, at the time of his writing he was much affected by the early French Revolution and the notion of free men making a stand against oppression. Some years before, he had been moved by a visit to the site of the Battle of Bannockburn so he chose to put these words in the mouth of King Robert the Bruce addressing his army before the battle. Picture then the warrior king in front of the massed ranks of thousands, inspiring his men to fight and win against the odds.
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!
Wha for Scotland's king and law
Freedom's sword will strongly draw,
Freeman stand, or freeman fa',
Let him follow 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!