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The Flowers of the Forest


The Flowers of the Forest

A lament for the army of James IV, the flower of Scottish manhood, slain with their king on the field of Flodden, September 1513. The composition of this song began with a fragment of a very old ballad. Mrs Patrick Cockburn of Ormiston drew on this fragment to write a full song. Then in the mid 18th century Miss Jane Elliot, daughter of Sir Gilbert Elliot of Minto, Lord Chief Justice Clerk of Scotland, drew on Mrs Cockburn’s work to make this lyric a much finer piece of work.

This version of the song is performed by Up!, a Plockton group, with Holly Bessant (singing) and Clare Lynas (pipes), Kimberley Mackay (fiddle), Kirsten Macleod (accordion) and Ruairaidh Campbell (piano and synth). The group writes, 'The pipe tune is well known to anyone who has attended a Remembrance Day service in Scotland, but the song is all too seldom heard nowadays.'

I've heard the liltin at oor yowe-milkin,
Lassies a-liltin before break o day
Now there's a moanin on ilka green loanin -
The Flooers o the Forest are a' wede awa

At buchts, in the mornin, nae blythe lads are scornin,
Lassies are lanely and dowie and wae
Nae daffin, nae gabbin, but sighin and sabbin,
The Flooers o the Forest are a' wede awa

In hairst at the shearin, nae youths now are jeerin,
Bandsters are lyart and runkled and gray
At fair or at preachin, nae wooin, nae fleechin -
The Flooers of the Forest are a' wede awa

At e'en at the gloamin, nae swankies are roamin
'Bout stacks wi the lassies at bogle tae play
But ilk ane sits dreary, lamentin her deary -
The Flooers of the Forest are a' wede awa

Dule and wae for the order, sent oor lads to the Border
The English, for aince, by guile wan the day
The Flooers of the Forest, that focht aye the foremost
The prime o our land, lie cauld in the clay

We hear nae mair liltin at oor yowe-milkin
Women and bairnies are heartless and wae
Sighin and moanin on ilka green loanin -
The Flooers of the Forest are a' wede awa

The Scots had in 1513 invaded England to support their allies, the French.

On 9 September 1513 the Scots army, under King James IV, faced the English forces of King Henry VIII under the command of Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey. The battle was ferocious and bloody - men were felled by artillery, arrows, pikes, bills and swords. Around 14,000 men died, including James IV, the last British king to die in battle.

'The Flowers of the Forest' performed by Up!
From Now That's What I Ceol Music, SCGCD003, Sgoil Chiuil Na Gaidhealtachd