Robert Burns: words and song

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When I think about the things that made me who I am I would be remiss not to mention singing. From a young age I was taught to sing by my mother. Not in a professional or aggressive way but to sing because it makes one happy and is pleasing to God.

I was home schooled through the 8th grade. When I went to high school few things in my life transferred but singing and art never made me feel awkward or out if place, in fact they became the two places I felt safe and at home in school. I must thank the wonderful choir teachers that I had. Though you cannot change how your voice is physically a teacher has the gift to encourage and mold you into the best that voice can be.

I stayed in choir all though high school and college and most of my favorite memories happened on choir trips with my sister and best friend. After college I sang with church and local choirs but I missed the challenge of difficult music, tight harmony and a capella singing. I am by no means a “great” singer, but the confidence I have came from teachers and directors with the ability to inspire and choose songs that would move the harts of their choirs as well as the audience.

And this is how I stumbled on Robert burns. An amazing poet in his own right, I wanted to know who had written the words that moved me so much as I read them. In college I read his poetry for class as well as Yeats, Tennyson and Frost (I’m a romantic what can I say). Something in me understood the painful and amazing qualities of life and love long before I experienced them myself.

Now I find Burns in my head at the most profound and simple times, Kayaking with friends or walking along in the woods. I do believe that the course of “Farewell to the Highlands” is one of the great themes of my life. I feel it every day sitting in my office and longing to see the sun.

So…Here are a few of my favorite Burns poems. Click on the titles to (hopefully) go to a musical version of the poems. Many of them are the one’s that I sang all those years ago.

My Heart’s In The Highlands

Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the North,
The birth-place of Valour, the country of Worth;
Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,
The hills of the Highlands for ever I love.

My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here;
My heart’s in the Highlands a-chasing the deer;
A-chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,
My heart’s in the Highlands wherever I go.

Farewell to the mountains high covered with snow;
Farewell to the straths and green valleys below;
Farewell to the forests and wild-hanging woods;
Farewell to the torrents and loud-pouring floods.

My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here;
My heart’s in the Highlands a-chasing the deer;
A-chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,
My heart’s in the Highlands wherever I go.

Robert Burns

Ye banks and braes o’ bonie Doon,
How can ye bloom sae fresh and fair?
How can ye chant, ye little birds,
And I sae weary fu’ o’ care!
Thou’ll break my heart, thou warbling bird,
That wantons thro’ the flowering thorn:
Thou minds me o’ departed joys,
Departed never to return.

Aft I rov’d by Bonie Doon,
To see the rose and woodbine twine:
And ilka bird sang o’ its luve,
And fondly sae did I o’ mine.
Wi’ lightsome heart I pu’d a rose,
Fu’ sweet upon its thorny tree!
Any my fause luver staw my rose,
But ah! he left the thorn wi’ me.

Robert Burns

Ae Fond Kiss, And Then We Sever

Ae fond kiss, and then we sever;
Ae fareweel, and then for ever!
Deep in heart-wrung tears I’ll pledge thee,
Warring sighs and groans I’ll wage thee.

Who shall say that Fortune grieves him
While the star of hope she leaves him?
Me, nae cheerful twinkle lights me,
Dark despair around benights me.

I’ll ne’er blame my partial fancy;
Naething could resist my Nancy;
But to see her was to love her,
Love but her, and love for ever.

Had we never loved sae kindly,
Had we never loved sae blindly,
Never met -or never parted,
We had ne’er been broken-hearted.

Fare thee weel, thou first and fairest!
Fare thee weel, thou best and dearest!
Thine be ilka joy and treasure,
Peace, enjoyment, love, and pleasure!

Ae fond kiss, and then we sever;
Ae fareweel, alas, for ever!
Deep in heart-wrung tears I’ll pledge thee,
Warring sighs and groans I’ll wage thee.

Robert Burns

A Red, Red Rose

Oh my luve is like a red, red rose,

That’s newly sprung in June:

Oh my luve is like the melodie,

That’s sweetly play’d in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonie lass,

So deep in luve am I;

And I will luve thee still, my dear,

Till a’ the seas gang dry.

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,

And the rocks melt wi’ the sun;

And I will luve thee still, my dear,

While the sands o’ life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only luve!

And fare thee weel a while!

And I will come again, my luve,

Tho’ it were ten thousand mile!

Robert Burns

Afton Water

1 Flow gently, sweet Afton, among thy green braes,
2 Flow gently, I’ll sing thee a song in thy praise;
3 My Mary’s asleep by thy murmuring stream,
4 Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream.

5 Thou stock-dove, whose echo resounds thro’ the glen,
6 Ye wild whistling blackbirds in yon thorny den,
7 Thou green-crested lapwing, thy screaming forbear,
8 I charge you disturb not my slumbering fair.

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

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

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

21 Flow gently, sweet Afton, among thy green braes,
22 Flow gently, sweet river, the theme of my lays;
23 My Mary’s asleep by thy murmuring stream,
24 Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream

Robert Burns

Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!

Chorus – For auld land syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint stowp!
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

Chorus…

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit
Sin’ auld lang syne.

Chorus…

We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us briad hae roar’d
Sin’ auld lang syne.

Chorus…

And there’s a hand, my trusty fere!
And gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak’ a right gude-willie waught,
For auld lang syne.

Chorus…

Robert Burns
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4 responses »

  1. 2 things:
    1-Burns is awesome, and I’m so glad we share a love of great poetry
    2- I’ve heard you sing and it is GREAT! Don’t sell yourself short.

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