by: Robert Burns (1759-1796)

      T Bannockburn the English lay,--
      The Scots they were na far away,
      But waited for the break o' day
      That glinted in the east.
      But soon the sun broke through the heath
      And lighted up that field of death,
      When Bruce, wi' saul-inspiring breath,
      His heralds thus addressed:--
      "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 lower;
      See approach proud Edward's power--
      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 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!"

"Bannockburn" is reprinted from Historic Ballads and Poems. Ed. Rupert S. Holland. Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs & Co., 1912.


The Scotch poet, Robert Burns, pictured to himself the national hero of Scotland, Robert Bruce, addressing his soldiers before the battle of Bannockburn, and wrote what he imagined Bruce might have said. The battle was fought near Sterling in 1314, between the Scotch and the army of Edward II of England. Bruce reminds his men of their history, of how they had bled with Wallace, a Scotch leader of the thirteenth century who had risen against the English when that people invaded the Highlands, and of how they had followed Bruce himself in many a battle. It is a fine appeal to the always ardent patriotism of his countrymen.

The English army greatly outnumbered the Scotch, but were decisively beaten, and Edward II narrowly escaped being taken prisoner.

Related poems: Bruce and the Spider, by Bernard Barton



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