Highland Mary

Ye banks, and braes, and streams around The castle o' Montgomery! Green be your woods, and fair your flowers, Your waters never drumlie: There Simmer first unfauld her robes, And there the langest tarry; For there I took the last Farewell O' my sweet Highland Mary. How sweetly bloom'd the gay, green birk, How rich the hawthorn's blossom, As underneath their fragrant shade, I clasp'd her to my bosom! The golden Hours on angel wings, Flew o'er me and my Dearie; For dear to me, as light and life, Was my sweet Highland Mary. Wi' mony a vow, and lock'd embrace, Our parting was fu' tender; And, pledging aft to meet again, We tore oursels asunder; But oh! fell Death's untimely frost, That nipt my Flower sae early! Now green's the sod, and cauld's the clay That wraps my Highland Mary! O pale, pale now, those rosy lips, I aft hae kiss'd sae fondly! And clos'd for aye, the sparkling glance That dwalt on me sae kindly! And mouldering now in silent dust, That heart that lo'ed me dearly! But still within my bosom's core Shall live my Highland Mary.


David Rintoul

About this work

This is a song by Robert Burns. It was written in 1792 and is read here by David Rintoul.

More about this song

Tune: Katherine Ogie
Burns to George Thomson, 14 November 1792:

"The foregoing song pleases myself; I think it is in my happiest manner: you will see at first glance that it suits the air. The subject of the song is one of the most interesting passages of my youthful days, and I own that I would be much flattered to see the verses set to an air which would ensure celebrity. Perhaps, after all, 'tis the still glowing prejudice of my heart that throws a borrowed lustre over the merits of the composition[...] I take one or another, just as the bee of the moment buzzes in my bonnet-lug; and do you, sans ceremonie, make what use you choose of the productions. Adieu. ROBT. BURNS"

The 'interesting passage of youth' alluded to by Burns is the figure of 'Highland' Mary Campbell (1763-1786), about whose romantic relationship with the Bard much is speculated. The figure of Mary also appears in 1786's 'Highland Lassie, O' and 'Will ye go to the Indies my Mary?"

Highland Mary marks a change from these verses, however, in the third stanza which indicates her death (with allusions to star-crossed Shakespearean lovers Romeo & Juliet in ll. 21-22).

The slightly elegiac and lamenting tone seems suitable, as Burns indicates his last goodbyes in l.7, but the end of the verse reminds us that she still lives on in memory - and, with the publication of the lyric in 1792, in print.

Lisa Harrison

Themes for this song

death love regret

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