The Battle of Sheriffmuir (Poem by Robert Burns)

Old Poem

The Battle of Sheriffmuir (1)
By Robert Burns


“O cam ye here the fight to shun,
    Or herd the sheep wi’ me, man?
Or were ye at the Sherra-muir,
    And did the battle see, man?”
I saw the battle, sair and tough,
And reekin’ red ran mony a sheugh.
My heart, for fear, gaed sough for sough,
To hear the thuds, and see the cluds,
O’ clans frae woods, in tartan duds,
    Wha glaum’d at kingdoms three, man.


The Battle of Sheriffmuir (2)


The red-coat lads, wi’ black cockades,
    To meet them were na slaw, man;
They rush’d and push’d, and blude outgush’d,
    And mony a bouk did fa’, man:
The great Argyll led on his files,
I wat they glanc’d for twenty miles:
They hough’d the clans like nine-pin kyles,
They hack’d and hash’d, while broad-swords clash’d,
And thro’ they dash’d, and hew’d, and smash’d,
    ’Till fey men died awa, man.


The Battle of Sheriffmuir (3)


But had you seen the philibegs,
    And skyrin tartan trews, man;
When in the teeth they dar’d our Whigs
    And covenant true blues, man;
In lines extended lang and large,
When bayonets opposed the targe,
And thousands hasten’d to the charge,
Wi’ Highland wrath they frae the sheath,
Drew blades o’ death, ’till, out o’ breath,
    They fled like frighted doos, man.


The Battle of Sheriffmuir (4)


“O how deil, Tam, can that be true?
    The chase gaed frae the north, man;
I saw myself, they did pursue
    The horsemen back to Forth, man;
And at Dumblane, in my ain sight,
They took the brig wi’ a’ their might,
And straught to Stirling winged their flight;
But, cursed lot! the gates were shut;
And mony a huntit, poor red-coat,
    For fear amaist did swarf, man!”


The Battle of Sheriffmuir (5)


My sister Kate cam up the gate
    Wi’ crowdie unto me, man;
She swore she saw some rebels run
    Frae Perth unto Dundee, man:
Their left-hand general had nae skill,
The Angus lads had nae good-will
That day their neebors’ blood to spill;
For fear, by foes, that they should lose
Their cogs o’ brose — they scar’d at blows.
    And so it goes, you see, man.


The Battle of Sheriffmuir (6)


They’ve lost some gallant gentlemen,
    Amang the Highland clans, man!
I fear my Lord Panmure is slain,
    Or fallen in Whiggish hands, man:
Now wad ye sing this double fight,
Some fell for wrang, and some for right;
And mony bade the world guid-night;
Then ye may tell, how pell and mell,
By red claymores, and muskets’ knell,
Wi’ dying yell, the Tories fell,
    And Whigs to hell did flee, man.


Note:
One Barclay, a dissenting clergyman in Edinburgh, wrote a rhyming dialogue between two rustics, on the battle of Sheriff-muir: Burns was in nowise pleased with the way in which the reverend rhymer handled the Highland clans, and wrote this modified and improved version.

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