Composed In August


Now westlin winds and slaught'ring guns Bring Autumn's pleasant weather; The moorcock springs on whirring wings Amang the blooming heather: Now waving grain, wide o'er the plain, Delights the weary farmer; And the moon shines bright, as I rove by night, To muse upon my charmer. The paitrick loves the fruitful fells, The plover loves the mountains; The woodcock haunts the lonely dells, The soaring hern the fountains: Thro' lofty groves the cushat roves, The path of man to shun it; The hazel bush o'erhangs the thrush, The spreading thorn the linnet. Thus ev'ry kind their pleasure find, The savage and the tender; Some social join, and leagues combine, Some solitary wander: Avaunt, away, the cruel sway! Tyrannic man's dominion; The sportsman's joy, the murd'ring cry, The flutt'ring, gory pinion! But, Peggy dear, the ev'ning's clear, Thick flies the skimming swallow, The sky is blue, the fields in view, All fading - green and yellow: Come let us stray our gladsome way, And view the charms of Nature; The rustling corn, the fruited thorn, And ilka happy creature. We'll gently walk, and sweetly talk, While the silent moon shine clearly; I'll grasp thy waist, and, fondly prest, Swear how I lo'e thee dearly: Not vernal show'rs to budding flow'rs, Not Autumn to the farmer, So dear can be as thou to me, My fair, my lovely charmer!

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Bill Paterson
Paul Higgins

Mary Ann Kennedy

About this work

This is a song by Robert Burns. It was written in 1783 and is read here by Bill Paterson.

More about this song

This genesis of this song dates back to 1775 when Burns was still at school. The object of his affections, Peggy, is Margaret Thomson, whom Burns described as, ‘a charming Filette who lived next door to the school overset my Trigonometry, and set me off in a tangent from the sphere of my studies’.

According to Mrs Begg (Burns’s sister), he made a copy of this song while he was conducting his affair with Jean Armour, replacing her surname with ‘Charmer’ in lines 8 and 40, and Jeanie for ‘Peggy’ in line 25.

Burns came to revive this song for The Scots Musical Museum, but this time he incorporated more Scots into the piece. The song is set to the tune ‘Port Gordon’.

Ralph McLean

Themes for this song

nature love

Selected for 18 August

Today's song shows the Bard achieving work of real distinction very early in life. So redolent of early autumn, the depiction is detailed, the emotion convincing. And with Burns, 'in love', neither is always the case. The poet's sister maintained that the spark of romance was to flare up again between Robert and his 'Peggy dear', some ten years later but this is unlikely. What is certain is that Burns continued to esteem his August muse and her husband. After a tearful parting, it was he who accompanied the former suitor on the beginning of the journey that all three believed would lead to the poet's emigration.

Donny O'Rourke

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