Attributed to James Hogg (1770 – 1835)
Some new words by Dick Gaughan
Tune by Dick Gaughan
What's the spring, breathing jasmine and rose
What's the summer with all its gay train
Or the splendour of autumn to those
Who've bartered their freedom for gain?
Let the love of our land's sacred rights
To the love of our people succeed
Let friendship and honour unite
And flourish on both sides the Tweed
No sweetness the senses can cheer
Which corruption and bribery bind
No brightness that gloom can e'er clear
For honour's the sum of the mind
Let virtue distinguish the brave
Place riches in lowest degree
Think them poorest who can be a slave
Them richest who dare to be free
Succeed: to take over from, to come after and take the place of
Tweed: the river that forms the border between Scotland and England
This song was included by James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, in his 1819 collection, The Jacobite Relics of Scotland being the songs, airs and legends of the adherents to the house of Stuart. It is believed by students of his work to be his own, unclaimed because the songs in the Relics were supposed to date from the Jacobite rebellions of 1715 and 1745.
Dick Gaughan included the song in his first album, Handful of Earth, and his notes there said that he didn’t like the original tune, wrote another and rewrote the words to make it of more contemporary relevance.
The original words are:
What’s the spring-breathing jess’mine and rose,
What’s the summer, with all its gay train,
Or the plenty of autumn, to those
Who’ve bartered their freedom for gain?
Let the love of our king’s sacred right
To the love of our country succeed;
Let friendship and honour unite,
And flourish on both sides the Tweed.
No sweetness the senses can cheer,
Which corruption and bribery blind;
No brightness that gloom e’er can clear,
For honour’s the sun of the mind.
Let virtue distinguish the brave,
Place riches in lowest degree;
Think him poorest who can be a slave,
Him richest who dares to be free.
Let us think how our ancestors rose,
Let us think how our ancestors fell,
The rights they defended, and those
They bought with their blood we’ll ne’er sell.
Through Dick’s performance the amended song has become well-loved and widely known, and is often attributed solely to him. He thinks of it as a comment on the Union of the Crowns of Scotland and England of 1707 and its meaning for him according to the notes for Handful of Earth is that “the only way forward is by mutual respect and understanding”.