Farewell to the Banks of Ayr


The gloomy night is gath'ring fast, Loud roars the wild, inconstant blast, Yon murky cloud is foul with rain, I see it driving o'er the plain; The Hunter now has left the moor. The scatt'red coveys meet secure, While here I wander, prest with care, Along the lonely banks of Ayr. The Autumn mourns her rip'ning corn By early Winter's ravage torn; Across her placid, azure sky, She sees the scowling tempest fly: Chill runs my blood to hear it rave, I think upon the stormy wave, Where many a danger I must dare, Far from the bonie banks of Ayr. 'Tis not the surging billow's roar, 'Tis not that fatal, deadly shore; Tho' Death in ev'ry shape appear, The wretched have no more to fear: But round my heart the ties are bound, That heart transpierc'd with many a wound; These bleed afresh, those ties I tear, To leave the bonie banks of Ayr. Farewell, old Coila's hills and dales, Her healthy moors and winding vales; The scenes where wretched Fancy roves, Pursuing past, unhappy loves! Farewell, my friends! farewell, my foes! My peace with these, my love with those The bursting tears my heart declare, Farewell, the bonie banks of Ayr!

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Clare Grogan

About this work

This is a song by Robert Burns. It was written in 1786 and is read here by Clare Grogan.

More about this song

Robert Burns composed 'Farewell to the Banks of Ayr' in Autumn 1786. At the time of composition Burns was planning to emigrate to Jamaica. Earlier that year, Burns had contracted an irregular marriage with Jean Armour who was pregnant with the poet's twins.

Jean Armour's parents disapproved of the union and took steps to dissolve it by destroying what Burns later referred to as an 'unlucky paper' (the document that articulated the couple's intentions).

Jean's parents then sent her to Paisley to distance her from the poet and to conceal her pregnancy for as long as possible. That Burns was sincerely unhappy as a result of these events is apparent from the first verse of the song ('While here I wander, prest with care,/ Along the lonely banks of Ayr').

And yet, it is clear that Burns is reluctant to embark upon his journey ('I think upon the stormy wave,/ Where many a danger I must dare'). In the final stanza of the song Burns refers to Ayrshire as, 'old Coila's hills and dales'.

'Coila' is the name adopted by Burns for his poetic muse (see 'The Vision') and so we might consider that Burns considers his native land to be the inspiration for his poetry.

Robert Burns was eventually dissuaded from emigrating by the success of his Kilmarnock Edition (1786) and the promise of a further edition to be published in Edinburgh. It was in the Edinburgh edition of 1787 that these verses first appeared.

Pauline Mackay

Themes for this song

nature unhappiness

Locations for this song

Ayr

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