A poem by Robert Burns, commemorating the Battle of Sherrifmuir on the 13th of November, 1715.

As battles go, it was a bit of a disaster. Both sides (the Jacobite army lead by the Earl of Mar, and British forces lead by the Duke of Argyle) made glaring errors, and neither side managed to turn any of these errors to an advantage. Resulting in more or less a bloody stalemate, what was left of the Jacobite army retreated (watched from a nearby hilltop by Rob Roy and many others of the clan MacGregor).

The Corries set the battle to song in their adaptation, 'The Sherramuir Fight', and added a chorus that goes something like 'Hey-dum a heidrum-a-hey-dum-ho, heidrum-heidrum-ho'. Ah, Scottish folk music at its finest.

Burns's poem is a dialogue, mostly from the point of view of an observer of the battle, emphasising that there were several observers of the affair, but very few survivors, contrasting the peaceful pursuit of sheep herding with the bloody fare to follow.

That being quite enough ado for the moment, we'll proceed to the poem...

O', cam ye here the fight to shun,
Or herd the sheep wi' me, man?
Or were ye at the Sherra-muir,
Or did the battle see, man?'
'I saw the battle, sair and teugh,
And reekin-red ran monie a sheugh;
My heart, for fear, gae sough for sough,
To hear the thuds, and see the cluds
O clans frae woods, in tartan duds,
Wha glaum'd at kingdoms three, man.

'The red-coat lads wi black cockauds,
To meet them were na slaw, man;
They rush'd and push'd, and bluid outgush'd,
And monie a bouk did fa', man!
The great Argyle led on his files,
I wat they glanc'd for twenty miles;
They hough'd the clans like nine-pin kyles,
They hack'd and hash'd, while braid-swords clashed,
And thro they dash'd, and hew'd and smash'd,
Till fey men died awa, man.

'But had ye seen the philibegs,
And skyrin tartan trews, man;
When in the teeth they daur'd our Whigs,
And Covenant trueblues, man!
In lines extended lang and large,
When baig'nets o'erpower'd the targe,
And thousands hasten'd to the charge,
Wi' Highland wrath and frae the sheath
Drew blades o' death, till, out o' breath.
They fled like frightened dows, man!'

'O how Deil, Tam, can that be true ?
The chase gaed frae the north, man!
I saw mysel, they did pursue
The horseman back to Forth, man:
And at Dunblane, in my ain sight,
They took the brig wi' a' their might,
And straught to Stirling wing'd their flight;
But, cursed lot! the gates were shut,
And monie a huntit poor red-coat,
For fear amaist did swarf, man!'

My sister Kate came up the gate
Wi' crowdie unto me, man:
She swoor she saw some rebels run
To Perth and to Dundee, man!
Their left-hand general had nae skill;
The Angus lads had nae good will
That day their neebors' bluid to spill;
For fear, by foes, that they should lose
Their cogs o brose; they scar'd at blows,
And hameward fast did flee, man.

'They've lost some gallant gentlemen,
Amang the Highland clans, man!
I fear my Lord Panmuir is slain,
Or fallen in Whiggish hands, man.
Now wad ye sing this double flight,
Some fell for wrang, and some for right,
But mony bade the world guid-night;
Then ye may tell, how pell and mell,
By red claymores, and muskets knell,
Wi' dying yell, the Tories fell,
And Whigs to hell did flee, man.

Robert Burns

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