'Battle Of Sherramuir, The' by Robert Burns

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"O cam ye here the fight to shun,
Or herd the sheep wi' me, man?
Or were ye at the Sherra-moor,
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 icingdoms 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 frac 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 Panmure is slain,
Or in his en'mies' hands, man.
Now wad ye sing this double flight,
Some fell for wrang, and some for right,
But monie bade the world guid-night;
Say, pell and mell, wi' muskets' knell
How Tories feil, and Whigs to Hell
Flew off in frightened bands, man!"

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Battle of Sherramuir: A Masterful Poem by Robert Burns

When it comes to Scottish poetry, few names are as well-known as Robert Burns. The poet's works have been celebrated for centuries, and his The Battle of Sherramuir is no exception. This epic ballad, which tells the story of a historical battle between two Scottish clans, is a masterpiece of both form and content.

Overview of the Poem

The Battle of Sherramuir is a narrative poem that tells the story of a battle that took place in Scotland in 1715. The poem is divided into six stanzas, each of which consists of eight lines. The rhyme scheme of the poem is AABBCCDD, with each line written in trochaic tetrameter.

The poem opens with a description of the two armies, each preparing for battle. The first stanza sets the scene, describing the landscape and the mood of the soldiers. The second and third stanzas describe the two armies as they approach each other, with each side confident that they will emerge victorious.

The fourth stanza describes the chaos and confusion of the battle, with soldiers falling on both sides. The fifth stanza describes the aftermath of the battle, with both clans suffering heavy losses. The final stanza concludes with a message of peace and reconciliation, urging the two clans to put aside their differences and work together for the common good.

Analysis of the Poem

One of the most striking features of The Battle of Sherramuir is its use of language. Burns was a master of the Scottish dialect, and the poem is written in a style that is both lyrical and colloquial. The use of dialect gives the poem a sense of authenticity, transporting the reader to the heart of rural Scotland in the early 18th century.

The poem's rhyme scheme and meter are also noteworthy. The AABBCCDD rhyme scheme creates a sense of rhythm and momentum, propelling the poem forward. The trochaic tetrameter gives the poem a galloping, almost martial quality that echoes the sound of marching soldiers.

But perhaps the most striking feature of the poem is its message of peace and reconciliation. Despite being a ballad about a battle between two clans, the poem ends with a call for unity and cooperation. Burns was known for his sympathy for the common people, and his poetry often expressed a desire for social equality and justice. In The Battle of Sherramuir, Burns uses the story of a historical battle to make a larger point about the importance of working together for the common good.

Interpretation of the Poem

The Battle of Sherramuir can be interpreted in a number of different ways, depending on the reader's perspective. On one level, the poem can be seen as a commentary on the futility of war. The battle between the two clans is depicted as a senseless and destructive conflict, with no clear winner or loser. The poem's message of peace and reconciliation suggests that Burns was critical of the violence and bloodshed that characterized Scottish history.

On another level, the poem can be seen as a celebration of Scottish culture and identity. Burns was a proud Scot, and his poetry often celebrated the country's history and traditions. The Battle of Sherramuir can be seen as a tribute to the bravery and resilience of the Scottish people, who fought fiercely for their beliefs and their way of life.

Ultimately, the poem's meaning is up to interpretation. What is clear, however, is that The Battle of Sherramuir is a masterful work of poetry that has stood the test of time. Burns' use of language, meter, and imagery combine to create a powerful and evocative portrait of a historical battle that still resonates today.


The Battle of Sherramuir is a classic work of Scottish poetry that continues to captivate readers today. Burns' use of language, meter, and imagery create a vivid and memorable portrait of a historical battle, while the poem's message of peace and reconciliation reminds us of the importance of working together for the common good. Whether read as a commentary on war, a celebration of Scottish identity, or simply as a beautifully crafted work of literature, The Battle of Sherramuir is a timeless masterpiece that will continue to inspire and move readers for generations to come.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Poetry Battle of Sherramuir: A Masterpiece by Robert Burns

Robert Burns, the Scottish poet, is known for his lyrical and romantic poetry that captures the essence of Scottish culture and tradition. One of his most famous works is the Poetry Battle of Sherramuir, a ballad that tells the story of a battle between the Jacobites and the Hanoverians in 1715. The poem is a masterpiece that combines history, politics, and human emotions to create a powerful narrative that resonates with readers even today.

The Battle of Sherramuir was fought on November 13, 1715, between the Jacobite rebels, who supported the claim of James Francis Edward Stuart to the throne of England, and the Hanoverian forces, who supported the claim of George I. The battle was inconclusive, with both sides claiming victory, but it marked the beginning of the Jacobite uprising that would continue for several years.

Burns wrote the Poetry Battle of Sherramuir in 1787, more than seventy years after the battle took place. However, the poem captures the spirit of the time and the people who fought in the battle. The poem is written in the form of a ballad, with a simple and repetitive structure that makes it easy to remember and recite. The poem consists of six stanzas, each with four lines, and a chorus that is repeated after each stanza.

The first stanza sets the scene for the battle and introduces the two sides:

"O cam ye here the fight to shun,
Or herd the sheep wi' me, man?
Or were ye at the Sherra-moor,
Or did the battle see, man?"

The speaker is asking if the listener came to avoid the battle or if they were there to fight. The use of the word "man" at the end of each line creates a sense of camaraderie and solidarity between the speaker and the listener. The repetition of the word "man" also emphasizes the masculine nature of the battle and the society in which it took place.

The second stanza describes the Jacobite forces and their leader, the Earl of Mar:

"I saw the dreary dreary fa',
I heard the weapons clash, man;
And ay the swankies o' the Shaw
Frae 'mang the tartan plaid, man."

The speaker describes the chaos and violence of the battle, using onomatopoeia to create a sense of sound and movement. The use of the word "swankies" to describe the Jacobite soldiers is interesting because it means "young men" or "swaggerers," suggesting that they were inexperienced or overconfident. The reference to the tartan plaid emphasizes the Scottish identity of the Jacobites and their loyalty to their clan and culture.

The third stanza describes the Hanoverian forces and their leader, the Duke of Argyll:

"But lang the lairds o' the Lennox
Mixed wi' the gallant Grahams, man,
Frae fields where Death did harvest plex,
To fight or run awa', man."

The speaker describes the Hanoverian forces as a mix of different clans and regions, suggesting that they were less united than the Jacobites. The reference to the "fields where Death did harvest plex" is a powerful metaphor for the casualties of war and the inevitability of death. The use of the phrase "fight or run awa'" suggests that the Hanoverians were less committed to the cause and more likely to flee in the face of danger.

The fourth stanza describes the aftermath of the battle:

"They've lost ae gallant gentleman,
And I fear they've won but few, man;
They've left us mourning auld Scotland
And all her loyal true men, man."

The speaker laments the loss of life and the impact of the battle on Scotland and its people. The use of the word "gentleman" to describe the fallen soldier suggests that he was a noble and honorable man, regardless of which side he fought for. The reference to "auld Scotland" and "loyal true men" emphasizes the patriotic and nationalistic sentiment of the poem.

The fifth stanza describes the aftermath of the battle on the Jacobite side:

"It was na' sae at Sherra-moor,
Where we lay in our camp, man;
But when we saw the English host,
We soon took to our heels, man."

The speaker admits that the Jacobites were defeated and forced to retreat. The use of the phrase "took to our heels" suggests that they fled in a panic, rather than fighting to the end. The reference to the "English host" emphasizes the political and nationalistic divide between the two sides.

The sixth stanza concludes the poem with a message of hope and unity:

"Thus the great folks fa' out, man,
And a' the less will do, man;
But we'll tak' a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne, man."

The speaker suggests that the conflict between the two sides is driven by the "great folks," or the leaders, while the common people suffer the consequences. The use of the phrase "auld lang syne" is a reference to a Scottish song that means "old times" or "long ago," suggesting that the speaker is looking back on the past with nostalgia and sentimentality. The reference to "a cup o' kindness" suggests that despite the conflict and division, there is still room for compassion and friendship.

In conclusion, the Poetry Battle of Sherramuir is a masterpiece of Scottish poetry that captures the spirit of a historical event and the emotions of the people who lived through it. Burns' use of language, imagery, and repetition creates a powerful narrative that resonates with readers even today. The poem is a testament to the enduring legacy of Scottish culture and tradition, and a reminder of the human cost of war and conflict.

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