Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Robert Bruce Addresses The Scots

On this date in 1314 the forces of Scotland defeated the English near Bannock Burn, a stream near Stirling. Among the legends that grew out of the decisive event in the wars for Scottish Independence was a motivational speech Robert the Bruce, Robert I of Scotland, gave to his soldiers. Centuries later Robert Burns would put his imagining of Bruce's speech into verse:
Scots, wha hae wi’ Wallace bled,
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led;
Welcome to your gory bed,
Or to victorie!

Now’s the day, and now’s the hour;
See the front o’ battle lour:
See approach proud Edward’s pow’r—
Chains and slaverie!

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 our 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!

-Robert Burns, September 1793
This is generally sung to a traditional Scottish tune which was used by Max Bruch in the last section of his Scottish Fantasy. Hector Berlioz also used it in his Rob Roy Overture.

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