Scots Sangs Fur Schools

Traditional and new Scots songs 
and tunes for use in Scottish schools

THE FLOWERS O 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.


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 sighing 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 preaching, nae wooing, nae fleeching -

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 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.

There is a story that Miss Elliot’s father “offered a bet that she would not compose a ballad on (the Battle of Flodden). She took up the fragments of the old lost ballad, and restored them, as it were, to life.” (Scottish Songs Prior to Burns, by Robert Chambers, 1890)

The Scots had in 1513 invaded England to support their allies, the French. At Branxton Hill the Scots fought and died so bravely that at night the English commander, the Earl of Surrey “berated his commanders for failing to win the day. On discovering himself in possession of the field on the next morning, however, he knighted them instead.” (Scottish and Border Battles and Ballads, Michael Brander, 1975.)