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My bony Mary

Go fetch to me a pint o' wine, And fill it in a silver tassie; That I may drink, before I go, A service to my bonie lassie: The boat rocks at the Pier o' Lieth, Fu' loud the wind blaws frae the Ferry, The ship rides by the Berwick-law, And I maun leave my bony Mary. The trumpets sound, the banners fly, The glittering spears are ranked ready, The shouts o' war are heard afar, The battle closes deep and bloody. It's not the roar o' sea or shore, Wad make me langer wish to tarry; Nor shouts o' war that's heard afar - It's leaving thee, my bony Mary!


John Bett

About this work

This is a poem by Robert Burns. It was written in 1788 and is read here by John Bett.

Themes for this poem

woman war unhappiness drink

Locations for this poem


Selected for 24 August

After the town had changed hands 12 times down the ages, Berwick-upon-Tweed at last became definitively English on August 24th, 1482 when Edward IV took possession of what had long been Scotland's principal port. Having lost one Berwick, Scotland has (so far) managed to hang onto the other one. Berwick Law is a conical hill dominating the harbour. It is NORTH Berwick that is referred to in today's poem, a lyric affirming its author's fondness for, 'wine, women and song'. Mary is probably, 'Highland Mary', whom Burns, 'seduced and abandoned', although HE didn't set sail from Leith, having planned to emigrate.

Donny O'Rourke

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