'Lament For Culloden' by Robert Burns

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The lovely lass o' Inverness,
Nae joy nor pleasure can she see;
For e'en and morn she cries, "Alas!"
And ay the saut tear blins her ee:
Drumossie moor—Drumossie day—
A waefu' day it was to me!
For there I lost my father dear,
My father dear, and brethren three.

Their winding-sheet the bluidy clay,
Their graves are growing green to see:
And by them lies the dearest lad
That ever blest a woman's ee!
Now wae to thee, thou cruel lord,
A bluidy man I trow thou be;
For mony a heart thou hast made sair
That ne'er did wrang to thine or thee.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Lament for Culloden: A Poem of Heartfelt Sorrow

As I sit here under the shade of an old oak tree, my mind wanders to the Scottish Highlands and the tragic events that unfolded on the moor of Culloden. It is here that Robert Burns, the great Scottish poet, penned his masterpiece, Lament for Culloden. This poem, written in the traditional Scottish style, is a powerful tribute to the fallen men of Scotland who fought for their freedom against the English army.

Historical Context

Culloden was a battle fought on April 16, 1746, between the Jacobites, who were supporters of the exiled Stuart dynasty, and the British army, led by the Duke of Cumberland. The battle was fought on a moor near Inverness, Scotland, and resulted in a devastating loss for the Jacobites. It was a turning point in Scottish history, as it marked the end of the Jacobite rebellions and the beginning of the English dominance over Scotland.

The Poem

Lament for Culloden is a poem of great sorrow and lamentation. It is written in the Scottish dialect, which adds to its authenticity and power. The poem is divided into four stanzas, each with a different theme and message.

Stanza One

In the first stanza, Burns sets the scene and describes the aftermath of the battle. He speaks of the "pale moon" shining down on the moor, illuminating the bodies of the fallen soldiers. He describes the "gory bed" on which they lie and the "dewy mist" that covers their faces. The imagery here is haunting and powerful, conveying the horror of the scene.

Stanza Two

The second stanza is a lament for the fallen soldiers. Burns speaks of their bravery and valour, and how they fought for their freedom and their country. He describes how they "fell like leaves in wintry weather" and how their blood "flowed like a river." The imagery here is vivid and poignant, and the reader cannot help but feel the sorrow and loss.

Stanza Three

In the third stanza, Burns addresses the families of the fallen soldiers. He speaks directly to them, offering his condolences and expressing his own grief. He tells them that their loved ones died bravely and honourably, and that they will never be forgotten. The tone here is compassionate and empathetic, and Burns shows his deep understanding of the pain of loss.

Stanza Four

The final stanza is a call to arms. Burns urges the Scottish people to remember the fallen soldiers and to continue the fight for their freedom. He tells them that they must not give up, and that they must never forget the sacrifices that were made. The tone here is defiant and resolute, and the reader is left with a sense of hope and determination.


Lament for Culloden is a powerful and emotional poem that speaks to the heart of the Scottish people. It is a tribute to the fallen soldiers who fought and died for their country, and a call to arms for those who remain. Burns uses vivid imagery and strong language to convey the horror of the battle and the sorrow of the aftermath. He shows his deep understanding of the pain of loss and the importance of honouring those who have fallen.

At its core, Lament for Culloden is a poem about freedom and the fight for it. Burns was a strong advocate for Scottish independence and saw the battle of Culloden as a defining moment in Scottish history. He believed that the Scottish people had a right to govern themselves and to live free from English rule. The poem is a passionate plea for the continuation of that fight, and a reminder that the sacrifices of the past must never be forgotten.


As I look up at the sky and feel the breeze on my face, I am reminded of the power of poetry and the importance of remembering our history. Lament for Culloden is a masterpiece of Scottish literature, a tribute to the fallen soldiers of a bygone era, and a call to arms for those who remain. It is a poem that speaks to the heart of the Scottish people, and to all those who believe in the fight for freedom and justice. May it continue to inspire us for generations to come.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Lament for Culloden: A Heartbreaking Ode to the Scottish Rebellion

Robert Burns, the celebrated Scottish poet, wrote the Lament for Culloden in 1784, almost three decades after the Battle of Culloden. The poem is a poignant tribute to the Scottish soldiers who fought and died in the last major battle of the Jacobite Rising of 1745. Burns' words capture the sorrow and despair of a nation that had lost its freedom and its heroes.

The Battle of Culloden, fought on April 16, 1746, was a decisive victory for the British army over the Jacobite forces led by Charles Edward Stuart, also known as Bonnie Prince Charlie. The battle lasted less than an hour, and the Jacobites suffered a crushing defeat. The aftermath was brutal, with many Scottish soldiers executed or imprisoned, and the Highland way of life was forever changed.

Burns' Lament for Culloden is a powerful elegy that mourns the loss of the brave Scottish soldiers who fought and died for their cause. The poem is written in the form of a dialogue between a Scottish soldier and his lover, who is grieving for his loss. The soldier's voice is filled with regret and sadness, as he reflects on the futility of the battle and the cost of war.

The poem begins with the soldier's lover asking him why he is so sad. The soldier replies, "I've seen the smiling of fortune beguiling, I've tasted her favours, and felt her decay." He goes on to describe the glory and excitement of battle, but also the pain and suffering that it brings. He laments the loss of his comrades, saying, "But oh! what art can heal the heart that's broken?"

The soldier's lover tries to comfort him, saying that he should be proud of his bravery and sacrifice. But the soldier is inconsolable, saying, "My brave companions! Oh, my dear companions!" He remembers the faces of his fallen comrades, and the sound of their dying cries. He wonders if their sacrifice was in vain, and if their cause was just.

The poem is filled with vivid imagery and powerful emotions. Burns uses metaphors and similes to convey the horror and devastation of war. He describes the battlefield as a "desert drear," and the soldiers as "bleeding on the ground." He compares the soldiers to "the flowers o' the forest," a reference to a traditional Scottish ballad about the Battle of Flodden, where the Scottish army suffered a similar defeat.

The Lament for Culloden is also a commentary on the political and social climate of Scotland in the late 18th century. Burns was a supporter of Scottish independence, and his poem reflects his belief in the importance of national identity and pride. He portrays the Scottish soldiers as heroes who fought for their country and their people, even in the face of overwhelming odds.

The poem also reflects Burns' own personal struggles and experiences. Burns was a farmer and a poet, and he struggled with poverty and social inequality throughout his life. He was a passionate advocate for the rights of the common people, and his poetry often reflects his sympathy for the oppressed and the marginalized.

In conclusion, the Lament for Culloden is a masterpiece of Scottish poetry, a tribute to the courage and sacrifice of the Scottish soldiers who fought and died for their cause. Burns' words capture the pain and sorrow of a nation that had lost its freedom and its heroes, and his imagery and metaphors convey the horror and devastation of war. The poem is a powerful reminder of the importance of national identity and pride, and a testament to the enduring legacy of the Scottish people.

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