Poetry Corner: The Flooers o’ the Forest

On this day 9th of  September, 1513, James IV King of Scots was killed in battle at Flodden Field, near Branxton, in Northumberland.


The opposing English and Scottish armies, led by the Earl of Surrey and James IV respectively, were roughly similar in size, numbering between 20 and 30,000 men. The initial position on Flodden Hill favoured by the Scots was promising.

However, the English guns found it easy to pick off the Scots. Both forces had sophisticated artillery, but the lighter and more manoeuvrable weaponry used by the English was more suited to the rain-soaked conditions of the hill.

The carnage among the Scottish forces was heavy, reputed to be close to 10,000 men, including the king, nine earls, fourteen lords and a handful of prominent clerics, including the Archbishop of St.Andrews. Scotclans

The Flooers o’ the Forest

I’ve heard the lilting, at the yowe-milking,
Lasses a-lilting before dawn o’ day;
But now they are moaning on ilka green loaning;
“The Flowers of the Forest are a’ wede away”.

As buchts, in the morning, nae blythe lads are scorning;
The lasses are lonely and dowie and wae.
Nae daffin’, nae gabbin’, but sighing and sobbing,
Ilk ane lifts her leglen, and hies her away.

In hairst, at the shearing, nae youths now are jeering,
The Bandsters are lyart, and runkled and grey.
At fair or at preaching, nae wooing, nae fleeching,
The Flowers of the Forest are a’ wede away.

At e’en, in the gloaming, nae swankies are roaming,
‘Bout stacks wi’ the lasses at bogle to play.
But ilk ane sits drearie, lamenting her dearie,
The Flowers of the Forest are a’ wede away.

Dule and wae for the order sent our lads to the Border;
The English, for ance, by guile wan the day:
The Flowers of the Forest, that foucht aye the foremost,
The prime o’ our land are cauld in the clay.

We’ll hae nae mair lilting, at the yowe-milking,
Women and bairns are dowie and wae.
Sighing and moaning, on ilka green loaning,
The Flowers of the forest are all wede away.

Written by Jean Eliot and based on an older song.


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