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The Burns Encyclopedia
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'Scots Wha Hae'

Syme said the poet had composed this song during the Galloway tour on the way to Kenmure, and on returning from St Mary's Isle, where he had dined with Lord Selkirk and his family; but Burns's letter to Thomson, dated by Ferguson about 30th August 1793, contradicts this story:

'You know that my pretensions to musical taste, are merely a few of Nature's instincts, untaught and untutored by Art. For this reason, many musical compositions, particularly where much of the merit lies in Counterpoint, however they may transport and ravish the ears of you Connoisseurs, affect my simple lug no otherwise than merely as melodious Din. On the other hand, by way of amends I am delighted with many little melodies which the learned Musician despises as silly and insipid. I do not know whether the old air, 'Hey tutti tatie', may rank among its number; but well I know that with Fraser's Hautboy, it has often filled my eyes with tears. There is a tradition, which I have met with in many places of Scotland, that it was Robert Bruce's March at the battle of Bannockburn. This thought, in my yesternight's evening walk warmed me to a pitch of enthusiasm on the theme of Liberty and Independence which I threw into a kind of Scots Ode, fitted to the Air, that one might suppose to be the gallant ROYAL SCOT'S address to his heroic followers on that eventful morning.,

Then followed the poem. In a postscript Burns told Thomson that he had shown the air to Urbani, who was also at Lord Selkirk's and that Urbani had begged him: 'to make soft verses for it: but I had no idea of giving myself any trouble on the subject, till the accidental recollection of that glorious struggle for Freedom of the same nature, not quite so ancient, roused my rhyming Mania'.

The air, with other words, had already appeared in the Museum. Words and air together first appeared in Thomson's Scottish Airs, 1799.

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Complete Burns Songs

linn recordings of burns Linn Records have completed their landmark recording of all 368 Burns songs, available as individual CDs or a 12 volume presentation box set. We have full details. Click here...


Burns Music & Recordings
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Burns Chess Sets

Burns Chess SetsUnique collectors' pieces based on Burns' life and works. (The ideal gift for your Burns Supper guests!) Click here...

Scotweb Store

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