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A Fiddler In The North

Amang the trees, where humming bees, At buds and flowers were hinging, O, Auld Caledon drew out her drone, And to her pipe was singing, O: 'Twas Pibroch, Sang, Strathspeys, and Reels, She dirl'd them aff fu' clearly, O: When there cam' a yell o' foreign squeels, That dang her tapsalteerie, O. Their capon craws an' queer "ha, ha's," They made our lugs grow eerie, O; The hungry bike did scrape and fyke, Till we were wae and weary, O: But a royal ghaist, wha ance was cas'd, A prisoner, aughteen year awa', He fir'd a Fiddler in the North, That dang them tapsalteerie, O.


David Rintoul
Daniela Nardini

About this work

This is a song by Robert Burns. It was written in 1794 and is read here by David Rintoul.

More about this song

Fiddler in the North was amongst the variations by Burns for the tune of 'The King of France' and was probably a presentation to fiddler and composer Neil Gow, whom Burns met in 1787.

Burns makes a clear comparison of the context for the 'Caledon' pipes in their natural setting with the 'foreign squeels' which are queer to the poet's ears, in a subtle irony of expected sound.

The connection of national identity with music here is a theme familiar to Burns, given his collections of airs and ballads and the added allusion to the Jacobite cause in the form of the exiled prisoner as inspiring a Fiddler makes the song a brisk and multi-layered defence of national music.

Lisa Harrison

Selected for 25 June

Yesterday's choice, 'Scots Wha Hae', was bellicosly patriotic. The Scottish music being played in this little mid summer song is far from martial, yet a defence of Scotland is being mounted all the same. When 'Caledon' draws out her drone it is to complement the drowsy humming of the bees. But up pipes some 'foreign squeels', sophisticatedly alien music to drown out the simple native tunes. Slight it may seem, but the poem gives Burns the chance to praise both Caledonia's music and its putative King 'across the water'.

Donny O'Rourke

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