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Adown winding Nith I did wander


Adown winding Nith I did wander, To mark the sweet flowers as they spring; Adown winding Nith I did wander, Of Phillis to muse and to sing. Awa wi' your Belles and your Beauties, They never wi' her can compare: Wha-ever has met wi' my Phillis, Has met wi' the Queen o' the Fair. The Daisy amus'd my fond fancy, So artless, so simple, so wild: Thou emblem, said I, o' my Phillis, For she is simplicity's child. The rose-bud's the blush o' my Charmer, Her sweet balmy lip when 'tis prest: How fair and how pure is the lily, But fairer and purer her breast. Yon knot of gay flowers in the arbour, They ne'er wi' my Phillis can vie: Her breath is the breath o' the woodbine, Its dew-drop o' diamond, her eye. Her voice is the songs of the morning, That wake thro' the green-spreading grove; When Phebus peeps over the mountains On music, and pleasure, and love. But Beauty, how frail and how fleeting, The bloom of a fine summer's day; While Worth in the mind of my Phillis Will flourish without a decay. Awa wi' your Belles and your Beauties, They never wi' her can compare: Wha-ever has met wi' my Phillis, Has met wi' the Queen o' the Fair.

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Simon Tait

About this work

This is a song by Robert Burns. It was written in 1793 and is read here by Simon Tait.

More about this song

In a letter to George Thomson, Burns revealed that the air for this song, ‘The muckin o Geordie’s Byre’, was one of his favourites.

However, up to this point the words which had been put to the tune had not been worthy of it. Burns attempted to remedy this problem by writing this song to accompany the air.

The subject of the song is Phillis McMurdo, the daughter of John McMurdo who was chamberlain to the Duke of Queensberry. Phillis also appeared in the work, O Philly, happy be that day, and was said to have been one of the most beautiful women of her day.

Thomson was unhappy with some of the stanzas which Burns sent him, and wished to cut parts of the manuscript.

Burns agreed to cut a stanza after line 12 in the manuscript, but was adamant that he would make no further changes.

"I’ll rather write a new song altogether", he announced, "than make this English. – The sprinkling of Scotch in it, while it is but a sprinkling, gives it an air of rustic naïveté, which time will rather increase than diminish".

While this may be true, it did not impress Thomson who did not print the song.

Ralph McLean

Themes for this song

love nature beauty

Selected for 10 July

Burns loved rivers. His very surname was the plural of the Scots word for a small river and he sometimes used the French word for 'burns', 'ruisseaux', as a nom de plume. On his many riverside walks the Bard's mind was often inclined towards thoughts of love, and the banks of the Nith in Dumfries proved as inspiring as had the waterways of his native Ayrshire.

Donny O'Rourke

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