Sweet Afton


Flow gently, sweet Afton, among thy green braes, Flow gently, I'll sing thee a song in thy praise; My Mary's asleep by thy murmuring stream, Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream. Thou stock-dove, whose echo resounds thro' the glen, Ye wild whistling blackbirds in yon thorny den, Thou green-crested lapwing, thy screaming forbear, I charge you disturb not my slumbering fair. How lofty, sweet Afton, thy neighbouring hills, Far mark'd with the courses of clear winding rills; There daily I wander as noon rises high, My flocks and my Mary's sweet cot in my eye. How pleasant thy banks and green valleys below, Where wild in the woodlands the primroses blow; There oft, as mild Ev'ning leaps over the lea, The sweet-scented birk shades my Mary and me. Thy crystal stream, Afton, how lovely it glides, And winds by the cot where my Mary resides, How wanton thy waters her snowy feet lave, As gathering sweet flowrets she stems thy clear wave. Flow gently, sweet Afton, among thy green braes, Flow gently, sweet river, the theme of my lays; My Mary's asleep by thy murmuring stream, Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream

Listen

Alan Cumming

About this work

This is a song by Robert Burns. It was written in 1791 and is read here by Alan Cumming.

Themes for this song

love nature

Selected for 05 February

Sweet Afton was sent by its author to his confidante Frances Dunlop in a letter bearing today’s date in 1789. Although set near his new home in Dumfries, the Afton, that ‘murmuring stream’, flows into the Nith. It may be about Margaret Campbell, ‘Highland Mary’, whom Burns had shabbily ‘let down’, shortly before her death in the autumn of 1786. Conventional and (literally) flowery it may be, but Afton Water has a swoony poignancy enhanced by the gorgeous air to which the lulling lyric is set; sweet Afton indeed.

Donny O'Rourke

Skip to top

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.