'Ca ' the Yowes to the Knowes' by Robert Burns

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Ca' the yowes to the knowes,
Ca' them where the heather grows
Ca' them where the burnie rows,
My bonie dearie.

Hark! the mavis' evening sang
Sounding Cluden's woods amang,
Then a-fauldin let us gang,
My bonie dearie.

We'll gae down by Cluden side,
Thro' the hazels spreading wide,
O'er the waves that sweetly glide
To the moon sae clearly.

Yonder Cluden's silent towers,
Where at moonshine midnight hours,
O'er the dewy-bending flowers,
Fairies dance sae cheery.

Ghaist nor bogle shalt thou fear;
Thou 'rt to love and Heaven sae dear,
Nocht of ill may come thee near,
My bonie dearie.

Fair and lovely as thou art,
Thou hast stown my very heart;
I can die--but canna part,
My bonie dearie.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Ca' the Yowes to the Knowes: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation

Oh, what a beautiful piece of poetry Robert Burns has gifted us with in "Ca' the Yowes to the Knowes"! Every time I read it, I feel like I am transported to the rolling hills of Scotland, surrounded by sheep and the soothing sound of the river. But there is so much more to this poem than just its scenic setting. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will delve deeper into the themes, imagery, and symbolism present in "Ca' the Yowes to the Knowes".


"Ca' the Yowes to the Knowes" is a Scottish song written by Robert Burns in the late 18th century. The title translates to "Drive the Sheep to the Hills", which is a common theme in Scottish folk songs. The poem is written in the form of a shepherd's plea to his lover, asking her to come and join him in the fields. He describes the beauty of the natural surroundings, the tranquility of the sheep, and the joy that he feels when he is with his beloved.


The poem touches upon several themes, the most prominent being love, nature, and the passing of time.


At its core, "Ca' the Yowes to the Knowes" is a love poem. The shepherd is besotted with his lover, and his love is the driving force behind his desire to be with her. He describes how the beauty of nature is enhanced when he is with her, saying:

When o'er the hill beat surly storms, And winter nights were dark and dreary, I'd seek some dell, and in thy arms Forget the world and all its cares.

He finds solace in her arms, and she is the one who makes everything worthwhile for him.


The poem is also a celebration of nature. Burns describes the rolling hills, the meandering river, and the peaceful sheep in vivid detail, creating a serene atmosphere that is hard to resist. The shepherd's love for his beloved is intertwined with his love for nature, as he describes how he wants to share the beauty of his surroundings with her:

Then come, sweet muse, inspire my lay! For a' the lee-lang simmer's day, I couldna sing, I couldna say, How much, how dear, I love thee. I ken my heart's a-hin the stane, And sae is thine; thou 'll no be fain To let them stand foo lang alane, But blithely join the chorus.

Passing of Time

Another important theme in the poem is the passing of time. Burns talks about how everything in nature changes with the seasons, and how time waits for no one. He urges his lover to seize the moment and enjoy the beauty of nature while it lasts:

The mavis sang sweet frae the green birks, The pewit sang wild frae the whin; Sae I sat down and grat in my kirks, To think on the times that are gane.

The shepherd is acutely aware of the fleeting nature of life and the importance of cherishing the present moment.

Imagery and Symbolism

Burns's use of imagery and symbolism is one of the highlights of "Ca' the Yowes to the Knowes". He paints a vivid picture of the Scottish countryside, using sensory language to transport the reader to another world.


Sheep are a recurring motif in the poem, symbolizing innocence and tranquility. The shepherd describes how the sheep are oblivious to the world around them, and how their peaceful demeanor has a calming effect on him:

The ewes frae aff the hill, And lambs to sport that are sae gay, And to the knowes when whin-bushes still, Again the lift is turning grey.

The sheep represent a simpler way of life, free from the worries and stresses of the world.


The river is another important symbol in the poem, representing the passage of time. Burns describes how the river flows relentlessly, never stopping for anyone:

The crystal waters round them blawn, The merry birds are a' fley'd, The nae-weel-timed tinkler's pawn That on the green his whistle plied.

The river is a reminder that time waits for no one, and that the only way to truly enjoy life is to embrace the present moment.


The changing seasons are also an important symbol in the poem. Burns describes how the landscape changes with the passing of time, and how each season has its own unique beauty:

When yellow leaves are fluttering down, October's days are hirpling by, When loud the norland wind doth blaw, And grey the cloudy skie.

The changing seasons symbolize the continuous cycle of life, and how everything is constantly in flux.


"Ca' the Yowes to the Knowes" is a timeless piece of poetry that has resonated with readers for centuries. Its themes of love, nature, and the passing of time are universal, and its imagery and symbolism are both beautiful and evocative. Burns's use of language is masterful, and his ability to transport the reader to another world is unparalleled. This poem is a testament to the power of poetry, and a timeless reminder to appreciate the beauty of the world around us.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Ca' the Yowes to the Knowes: A Masterpiece by Robert Burns

Robert Burns, the national poet of Scotland, is known for his lyrical poetry that captures the essence of Scottish culture and tradition. One of his most famous works is "Ca' the Yowes to the Knowes," a beautiful poem that celebrates the beauty of nature and the joys of love. In this article, we will explore the meaning and significance of this classic poem.

The poem begins with the speaker calling out to the sheep, urging them to leave the hills and come down to the valleys. The phrase "ca' the yowes to the knowes" means "drive the ewes to the hills," and it is a common phrase used by shepherds in Scotland. The speaker is using this phrase to evoke the image of a peaceful countryside, where the sheep graze on the hills and the birds sing in the trees.

As the poem progresses, the speaker begins to reflect on his own life and the joys of love. He describes how the beauty of nature reminds him of his beloved, and how he longs to be with her. The imagery in this section of the poem is particularly striking, as the speaker compares his love to the flowers and the birds that surround him.

The third stanza of the poem is perhaps the most powerful, as the speaker reflects on the fleeting nature of life. He describes how the seasons change and the flowers wither, and how everything in life is temporary. However, he also notes that love is eternal, and that even though everything else may fade away, the love between two people can endure.

The final stanza of the poem is a beautiful tribute to the power of love. The speaker describes how he and his beloved will be together forever, even after death. He uses the image of the stars in the sky to convey the idea that their love will shine on forever, even when they are no longer on this earth.

Overall, "Ca' the Yowes to the Knowes" is a beautiful and powerful poem that celebrates the beauty of nature and the joys of love. It is a testament to the enduring power of love, and a reminder that even though everything else in life may be temporary, love can endure forever.

One of the most striking aspects of this poem is the use of imagery. Burns uses vivid descriptions of the natural world to evoke a sense of peace and tranquility. The image of the sheep grazing on the hills, for example, is a powerful symbol of the simplicity and beauty of rural life. Similarly, the image of the flowers and birds is a reminder of the beauty that surrounds us, even in the midst of chaos and turmoil.

Another important aspect of the poem is the use of language. Burns was a master of the Scots language, and he uses it to great effect in this poem. The use of dialect and colloquialisms adds to the authenticity of the poem, and helps to create a sense of place and time. The use of the phrase "ca' the yowes to the knowes," for example, is a powerful reminder of the rural roots of Scottish culture.

Finally, it is worth noting the themes that run throughout the poem. Love and nature are the two main themes, and they are intertwined in a way that is both beautiful and powerful. The poem celebrates the beauty of the natural world, and uses it as a metaphor for the joys of love. The idea that love can endure even in the face of death is a powerful reminder of the enduring power of the human spirit.

In conclusion, "Ca' the Yowes to the Knowes" is a masterpiece of Scottish poetry. It celebrates the beauty of nature and the joys of love, and reminds us of the enduring power of the human spirit. Burns' use of imagery and language is masterful, and the themes of the poem are both timeless and universal. It is a poem that speaks to the heart, and one that will continue to inspire and move readers for generations to come.

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