Stories of Scottish Songs

Tales of Scottish traditional
and newer songs 
sung by Sangschule 
of Linlithgow

Ye Banks And Braes O' Bonnie Doon

by Robert Burns, first printed in 1792
Tune: The Caledonian Hunt’s Delight

Ye banks and braes o' bonnie Doon
How can ye bloom sae fresh and fair?
How can ye chaunt, ye little birds,
And I sae weary, fu' o' care.
Ye'll break my heart, ye warbling birds
That wanton through the flowery thorn,
Ye mind me o' departed joys,
Departed, never to return.

Oft hae I roved by bonnie Doon
To see the rose and woodbine twine,
And ilka bird sang o' its love,
And fondly sae did I o' mine.
Wi' lightsome heart I pu'd a rose
Fu' sweet upon its thorny tree
But my fause lover stole my rose,
And Ah! he left the thorn wi' me.

Aft hae I : often have I
Bonny (spelled ‘bonie’ by Burns): fair, lovely
Braes: hill-sides
Chaunt: sing
Fause: false
Ilka: every
Lichtsome : carefree
Minds: reminds
Sae: so
Staw: stole
Wantons: frolics, flies happily
Woodbine: honeysuckle

This lyric was first printed in Johnson’s Scots Musical Museum, Vol.4, 13th August 1792, when Burns was 33. Johnson notes that Burns wrote it for this volume, and adds “ the Music by Mr. James Millar, Writer in Edinburgh.”

The flowering rose with its hidden thorn is a metaphor for the pain of love betrayed.

“Ye Banks and Braes” is the third set of verses Burns produced on this theme. The first began Sweet are the banks, the banks o’ Doon / The spreading flowers are fair   to the tune “Cambdelmore”. Burns wrote in March 1792 to Allan Cunningham that he intended this for volume 4 of the Museum, but it does not appear there.

 The second version, “Ye Flowery Banks o’ Bonie Doon”, to the same tune “Cambdelmore”, has often been preferred by academic commentators to “Ye Banks and Braes”. It was also written in 1791 but not printed until 1808, after Burns’s death, in Cromek’s Reliques of Robert Burns:

Ye Flowery Banks o’ Bonie Doon            Tune: Cambdelmore

Ye flowery banks o’ bonie Doon,
How can ye blume sae fair;
How can ye chant, ye little birds,
And I sae fu’ o’ care!

Thou’ll break my heart, thou bonie bird
That sings upon the bough;
Thou minds me o’ the happy days
When my fause luve was true.

Thou’ll break my heart, thou bonie bird
That sings beside thy mate;
For sae I sat, and sae I sang,
And wist na o’ my fate         (knew not)

Aft hae I rov’d by bonie Doon,
To see the woodbine twine,
And ilka bird sang o’ its luve,
And sae did I o’ mine.

Wi lightsome heart I pu’d a rose
Frae aff its thorny tree,
And my fause luver staw my rose,
But left the thorn wi’ me. 

Wi lightsome heart I pu’d a rose,
Upon a morn in June:
And sae I flourish’d on the morn,

And sae was pu’d or noon! 
       (before noon)

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