Despite generations of lickspittle Establishment types denying it, there seems little doubt that Burns did write the Tree of Liberty, a paean to democracy. Compare it with the other works here and make up your own mind. At a time when Scotland’s future is in our own hands we would do well to remember the struggles of earlier generations to try and achieve democratic representation.
For more similar works see The Radical Works of Robert Burns at
The Tree o Liberty
Heard ye o the tree o France,
I watna what’s the name o’t;
Around it aw the patriots dance,
Weel Europ kens the fame o’t.
It stands where ance the Bastille stood,
A prison built by kings, man,
When superstition’s hellish brood
Kept France in leading strings, man.
“Upo this tree there grows sic fruit,
Its virtues aw can tell, man,
It raises man aboon the brute,
It maks him ken himsel, man.
Gif aince the peasant taste a bit,
He’s greater than a Lord, man,
And wi the beggar shares a mite
O aw he can afford, man.
“This fruit is worth aw Afric’s wealth,
To comfort us ’twas sent, man:
To gie the sweetest blush o health,
And mak us aw content, man.
It clears the een, it cheers the heart,
Maks high and low gude friends, man;
And he wha acts the traitor’s part,
It to perdition sends, man.
“My blessings aye attend the chiel,
Wha pities Galliaws slaves, man,
And staw’d a branch, spite o the deil,
Frae yont the western waves, man.
Fair virtue water’s it wi care,
And now she sees wi pride, man,
How weel it buds and blossoms there,
Its branches spreading wide, man.
“But vicious folk aye hate to see
The works o virtue thrive, man;
The courtly vermin’s banned the tree,
And grat to see it thrive, man;
King Loui’ thought to cut it down,
When it was unco sma, Man,
For this the watchman cracked his crown,
Cut off his head and aw man.
“A wicked crew syne, on a time,
Did tak a solemn aith, man,
It ne’er should flourish to its prime,
I wat they pledged their faith, man,
Awa they gaed wi mock parade,
Like beagles hunting game, man,
But soon grew weary o the trade,
And wished they’d been at hame, man.
“Fair freedom, standing by the tree,
Her sons did loudly caw, man,
She sang a song o liberty
Which pleased them ane and aw, man.
By her inspired the new born race
Soon grew the avenging steel, man;
The hirelings ran — her foes gied chase
And banged the despot weel, man.
“Let Britain boast her hardy oak,
Her poplar and her pine, man,
Auld Britain aince could crack her joke,
And oer her neighbours shine, man,
But seek the forest round and round,
And soon ’twill be agreed, man,
That sic a tree can not be found,
Twixt London and the Tweed, man.
“Without this tree, alake this life
Is but a vale o woe, man;
A scene o sorrow mixed wi strife,
Nae real joys we know, man,
We labour soon, we labour late,
To feed the titled knave, man;
And aw the comfort we’re to get
Is that ayont the grave, man.
“Wiplenty o sic trees, I trow,
The warld would live in peace, man;
The sword would help to mak a plough,
The din o war wad cease man.
Like brethren wi a common cause,
We’d on each other smile, man;
And equal rights and equal laws
Wad gladden every isle, man.
“Wae worth the loon wha wadna eat
Sic halesome dainty cheer, man;
I’d gie my shoon frae aff my feet,
To taste sic fruit, I swear, man.
Syne let us pray, auld England may
Sure plant this far-famed tree, man;
And blythe we’ll sing, and hail the day
That gave us liberty, man.”
Sic a Parcel o Rogues
Fareweel tae aw our Scottish fame
Fareweel our ancient glory
Fareweel even tae our Scottish name
Sae famed in martial story
Now Sark rins tae the Solway sands
An Tweed rins tae the Ocean.
To mark whaur England’s province stands
Sic a parcel o rogues in a nation
What force or guile could not subdue
Through mony warlike ages
Is wrought now by a coward few
For hireling traitors wages
The English steel we could disdain
Secure in valour’s station.
But English gold has been our bane
Sic a parcel o rogues in a nation.
O would, ere I had seen the day
When treason thus could sell us
My auld grey heid had lain in clay
Wi Bruce an loyal Wallace
But pith and power ‘till my last hour
I’ll mak this declaration.
We were bought an sold for English gold
Sic a parcel o rogues in a nation.
Scots Wha Hae
(written with Thomas Muir and the Radicals in mind)
Scots wha hae wi Wallace bled
Scots wham Bruce has often led
Welcome to your gory bed
Or to victory
Now’s the day an now’s the hour
See the front o battle lour
See approach proud Edward’s pow’r
Chains an slavery
Wha will be a traitor knave?
Wha can fill a coward’s grave?
Wha sae base as be a slave?
Let him turn an flee!
Wha, for Scotland’s king an law,
Freedom’s sword will strongly draw,
Freeman stand or Freeman faw,
Let them follow me!
By oppression’s woes an pains,
By your sons in servile chains,
We will drain our dearest veins,
But they shall be free.
Lay the proud usurpers low!
Tyrants faw in ev’ry foe!
Liberty’s in ev’ry blow!
Let us do or die!
Sang fer Scotland
It’s been three hunner year an mair
Nou at last the time has come
The people o this land maun say
What it is that shuid be done
It’s up tae us, this is oor land
Democracy is people pouer
Nou ye ken ye’ll hae yer say
Come the day an come the hour
Monie stories hae been tellt
O wha we are an whence we came
But nou we’ll tell anither tale
How liberty cin rise again
The heroes o the past are gone
But we will neer forget their fecht
‘Twas siller no swords that dang us doun
The time has come tae put that richt
There’s them aye spreadin fear an lies
O hou we cannae staun oor lane
But Jock Tamson’s bairns are canny fowk
It’s time tae rule oorsels again
Darlin Dear ye tell us
Whit ye think shuid come
But whit maks ye think that we’ll listen
When we ken fine whit ye’ve done, Darlin Dear
Fer Darlin dear wis it no you
That wis the bankers’ pal
An let aw thae city slickers loose
Tae rob an cheat an steal, Darlin Dear
Oh licht touch regulation
That wis yer fix-aw stroke
An yer banker buddies prospert
An we aw endit broke, Darlin Dear
Sae why for shuid we listen
Tae sic a busted flush
Jist dae us aw a favour
An simply shut yer puss, Darlin Dear
Aye Darlin Dear jist sit ye doun
Awa an bile yer heid
Ye must shairly think that we’re a daft
Tae follae sic a leid, Darlin Dear
Aye Darlin Dear we ken ye
A straicht up bankers’ man
As much help as chocolate sodjer
Fer the future o Scotland, Darlin Dear.
One of my most treasured possessions is a page torn out of the autograph book I had as a child. It simply says ‘I hope to see you next year, Paul” Paul Robeson that is. My father got him to sign my book after I had missed going to his concert in Dundee’s Caird Hall in 1958 because I was in hospital after a wee accident on my brother’s bike. Luckily he came back next year and I got to see him and hear him sing. To this day I can still remember the power of that remarkable voice – it was as if I could feel it in my chest. It was a remarkable and inspirational night. My family and I were there because my parents were Communists and thus supporters of Paul Robeson. People forget but at that time the western media were virulently anti-communist and the 2,000 seater Caird Hall had only a few hundred people gathered that night to hear one of the world’s greatest singers, and I believe one of the world’s great human beings.
Now there is no doubt that Paul, funny how in our family we thought of him as Paul, was an absolute favourite of my father, was blind to the limitations of the Soviet Union. Like may father I have no doubt he was what I would call a real Communist – somebody who believed that human societies should be run on the principles of ‘from everyone, according to their ability, to everyone according to their need’. Probably on his visits to the Soviet Union Robeson only ever met people who assured him that it was in fact an egalitarian and democratic society. His own experience of the western media would have made him dubious of any claims they made to the contrary. My father certainly believed that the Soviet Union was democratic and egalitarian, and dismissed all reports to the contrary in the Western media as propaganda. As someone who has been lecturing in history for a long time now I am well aware that history itself is all too often little more than propaganda, but neither my father nor, Paul Robeson would ever have condoned the brutal dictatorship masquerading as a worker’s republic if they had realised the truth. Truth is a word that is of course amorphous but as an example of the times I recall around that time a new teacher coming to take over our class. She asked if there was anything she should know about as and quick as a flash one of the other kids had her hand up. ‘Yes what is it?,’ she smiled. Dramatically the girl turned and pointed at me and said in a very loud voice, ”Stuart McHardy is a Communist miss.’. She knew even less of what it meant than I did, but clearly had been influenced by her parents. Fortunately it didn’t affect how that teacher dealt with me afterwards but it does illustrate the paranoia of the times.
Now Paul Robeson may have been lulled into a false sense of reality by the apparatchiks of the Soviet Union but it didn’t affect who he was. This was a man who as a fighter for not just black people, but all people he saw as working class, was a shining example of integrity.
It has always struck me that when America is relaxed enough about itself to give respect to the likes of Paul Robeson, that it will begin to fulfil the egalitarian and democratic foundations it was raised on, and with the re-election of the first black president that day should be getting closer. However as long as Fox News and other mainstream media act as cheerleaders for the super-rich, I fear that day is still far off.
Deprive the people of their national consciousness, treat them as a tribe and not a nation, dilute their national pride, do not teach their history, propagate their language as inferior, imply they have a cultural void, emphasise their customs are primitive, and dismiss independence as a barbaric anomaly.
These are the words Reihnhard Heidrich the Director of the Reich Main Security Office in 1930s. Much has been made recently of how the Mainstream media have been treating the independence debate. However their incapacity to deal fairly with matters of Scottish history and culture is nothing new. Back in the 1992 as a reaction against the Tories wining a Westminster election with no Scottish representation the need for a Scottish Parliament became manifestly clear and the movement towards greater devolution gathered strength. A demonstration was called for the 12th of December which on the day was attended by over 25,000 people, which at the time was seen as truly momentous. One of the groups actively promoting the cause was the Vigil for a Scottish Parliament which maintained a permanent presence outside the gates of the old Royal High School – originally the designated home of the hoped for Scottish Parliament – from the 10th April 1992 till the Labour General Election victory in 1997. Now the Vigil was non-party single issue concept but those involved, and I was one of them, were concerned about how Scottish history has been dealt with in the period since the Union. When the date of the march was decided we were aware that this was in fact a significant anniversary. Precisely two hundred years earlier there had been a Convention of the Scottish Friends of the People held n Edinburgh calling for parliamentary reform. The upshot of this meeting was that a group of men, known thereafter as the Scottish Political Martyrs were transported to Botany Bay for sedition after a series of blatant show trials presided over by the utterly venal Henry Dundas, Viscount Melville who kept an iron grip on all levels of Scottish public affairs on behalf of William Pitt’s Westminster government.
Now anniversaries have long been a staple of the media so it was decided to inform all media outlets in Edinburgh of this significant anniversary. A for page briefing document was put together and delivered by hand to every television and radio station and all newspaper and news agency offices in the capital. The upshot? Nothing. The Radical agitation of the 1790s – which included specific calls for the overthrow of the Act of Union - was not something the MSM wanted to deal with. Or should we consider the matter in the light of the opening quotation above? The simple truth of the matter is that much of Scotland’s history has been deemed unsuitable for public consumption by the Gatekeepers who have so avidly supported the status quo which suits their nest-feathering self-interest so well. Later this year my book Scotland’s Future History? which looks in detail at the process of how our history has been distorted and suppressed, will be published by Luath Press,but for present purposes a couple of instances should suffice to exemplify the pattern.
The role of the Scottish Radicals, of whom Robert Burns was one, in Scotland of the 1790s and their inks to later political agitation has been virtually ignored and it is a telling point that the most significant monument tin Calton Cemetery at the East End of Edinburgh’s Princes Street – the monument to the transported Martyrs which toers over the cemetery and was raised by public subscription in the 1840s – does not even rate a mention on the board at the gate which lists the notable people buried within. There is no need to censor those who are happy to censor themselves.
Heidrich suggests it is a good idea to “propagate their language as inferior”. This is precisely what was done via the Education Scotland Act if 1872 where is was stipulated that the language of education was to be English, effectively disbarring Scots and Gaelic form the education system entirely. This was thought to have finalised the process – which had accelerated during the Enlightenment with those who considered themselves the ‘elite” in Scotland –aping the manners, attitudes and language of the southern ruling class. In later years, once the assimilation of Scotland into Britain was assumed to be complete, it became acceptable to take an inters tin Gaelic and later in Scots. The fact that the languages have survived and are now taught in our schools to some extent is iIlustrative of the virr and smeddum of our indigenous tungs, despite the best efforts of the gatekeeping classes. The languages if Gaelic and Scots were assumed by the Gatekeepers in the 19th century to have been driven from all important areas of society and could be safely left to slowly die out on the tongues of the great unwashed. If you wanted to get on you spoke English – an attitude that has left deep cultural scars across Scotland.
I mentioned that there was a strand of nationalism apparent amongst the Radicals f the 1790s and later but an earlier period of our history also suggests this was nothing new. The representation of the ’45 as a doomed Romantic adventure by the dying remnants of an anachronistic society has long been a cornerstone of British history. The fact that the Highlands were not truly pacified until almost a decade after Culloden, that much of Lowland Scotland was under military occupation till the same time and that Charles Edward Stewart was still actively trying to regain the thrones of his ancestors till the late 1760s have been conveniently ignored by mainstream historians, happy to go along with the notion of British history – which has never been more than English history with a few sops to the ‘fringe’ nations of these islands. And along with this suppression there has been no attention paid till very recently to the reality that many of the Scots who came out in the ’45, from Lowlands and Highlands were heirs to a tradition of nationalism that had built on the resentment of the people to the Union of 1707. Most of the Jacobite leaders at the time would have been happy to have a Stewart king of Scotland, free of all ties to our southern neighbour.
So we should not be surprised that the MSM in Scotland, thirled as they are to the preservation of the status quo, should be so biased, they perceive it to be in their own interest. They have been pro-Establishment for centuries and the Establishment in Scotland has existed on the back of the Union. Hamish Henderson regularly quoted Gramsci saying ’politics follows culture and never the other way round” and there is no doubt that we have seen a Scottish cultural revival over the past few decades. And history is a cornerstone of culture – the more we know of how we have been lied to, the more we are liable to insist on taking control of our own lives, and our own land. Yes independence is about the future but as the old cliché has it, how can you tell where you are going if you know not where you have been?
King Arthur in Scotland
It has long been known that the Legendary Figure of “King Arthur” was part of the common cultural inheritance of all the British peoples who spoke P-Celtic languages. While many people think this just means the Welsh, Cornish and Britons in fact it also included the Britons of Strathclyde, the Gododdin of Lothian and, in all probability, their Pictish cousins to the north – our ancestors. As Scottish history at last begins to take its rightful place in our national curriculum – Scottish traditions of Arthur become even more important. Placenames and local tales from the Borders to the Moray Firth attest to the hold this enigmatic figure had on our ancestors.
The past decade has seen a major resurgence of interest in the ”Scottish Arthur” following on from earlier works like JS Glennie’s 1869 Arthurian Localities and J Veitch’s 1878 History and Poetry of the Scottish Border. These in turn were much influenced by W F Skene’s ground-breaking Four Ancient Books of Wales, first published in 1868 which opened up the field.
The arthurianscotland blog will provide ongoing information and commentary on the ever-growing interest in Arthurian Scotland and its relevance to understanding this most important of ancient characters.
Arthurian Scotland Introductory Bibliography
Ardrey, A 2007 Finding Merlin Mainstream Edinburgh
Carroll, D F 1996 Arturius: A Quest for Camelot D F Carroll Coxhill
Crighton R 2013 On the Trail of King Arthur Luath Edinburgh
Glennie, J S 1994 Arthurian Localities in Scotland Llanerch Reprint Felinfach Wales
Hope.A D 1970 A Midsummer Eve’s Dream Oliver&Boyd Edinburgh
McArthur, H 2010 The Arthurian Lake and Arthur’s Battle Against the Whirlpool from www.clannarthur.com
McCall A & W1997 Artur, Gwenwhyvawr and Myrddin The Pentland Press Durham
McHardy, S A 2012 King Arthur’s Sword and other Arthurian Tales (Kindle) The Loaby Press Edinburgh
McHardy,S A 2001 The Quest for Arthur Luath Press Edinburgh
McHardy S A 2003 The Quest for the Nine Maidens Luath Edinburgh
Mackenzie,D A 1935 Scottish Folk Lore and Folk Life Blackie&Son Glasgow
Moffatt. A 1999 Arthur and the Lost Kingdoms Weidenfeld&Nicolson London
Randall, J 1987 Arthur and Merlin: The Tweeddale Connection Selkirk
Skene.W.F1988 Arthur and the Britons in Scotland ed. Bryce Llanerch reprint Felinfach Wales
Skene, W.F 1868 The Four Ancient Books of Wales Edmonston a & Douglas Edinburgh