The Banks O' Doon (First Version)

Sweet are the banks - the banks o' Doon, The spreading flowers are fair, And everything is blythe and glad, But I am fu' o' care. Thou'll break my heart, thou bonie bird, That sings upon the bough; Thou minds me o' the happy days When my fause Luve was true: Thou'll break my heart, thou bonie bird, That sings beside thy mate; For sae I sat, and sae I sang, And wist na o' my fate. Aft hae I rov'd by bonie Doon, To see the woodbine twine; And ilka birds sang o' its Luve, And sae did I o' mine: Wi' lightsome heart I pu'd a rose, Upon its thorny tree; But my fause Luver staw my rose And left the thorn wi' me: Wi' lightsome heart I pu'd a rose, Upon a morn in June; And sae I flourished on the morn, And sae was pu'd or noon!


Maureen Beattie

About this work

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

More about this song

These lyrics, about the well known River Doon in Ayrshire, use the images of rose and thorn (common to medieval court poetry and remaining in popular song) as indicators of a love scorned or rejected.

The narrator is pained by the beautiful birdsong he hears along the banks of the river, comparing this to the days 'when my fause luve was true' - when he too sang of love - and before his false lover 'left the thorn wi' me'.

In a letter of 11 March 1791 to Alexander Cunningham, Burns indicates that he means this to be part of Johnson's Musical Museum, and that it is set to the tune of a Strathspey reel, 'called in Cummin's Collect of Strathspeys, "Ballendalloch's reel," and in other Collections... by the name of Camdelmore".'

Juliet Linden Bicket

Themes for this song

nature love regret

Selected for 11 March

With a letter to Alexander Cunningham bearing today’s date in 1791, Burns sent off the first of his three drafts of ‘The Banks O’Doon’. Each was set to a different air, though the scenario and motifs are similar. Readers can compare and contrast the various versions.

Donny O'Rourke

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