Dedicated to quite a few people, but especially to Liam, Aaron, Jon, Alan, Marc, Dianna, Paul, Tim, Eric and John – and to Maggie, wha hasna’ a drap o’ the guid bluid, bot wham I lüve, for a’ tha’…
Just a few days ago, my friend and fellow Southern ne’er-do-well, Liam “If-you-can’t- be-good; be-good-at-it!” Jackson – author of the Offspring series (Yeah, that was a blatant plug) – did me the favor of sending me a link to a lovely rendition of one of my favorite songs. Truth be told, I was so grateful, I had to be physically restrained from givin' the ol' boy a big, wet, sloppy French kiss. (Hey, he's from Arkansas, right? It may not be Deliverance country-proper, but it's close enough for gub'mint work, ain't it?)
Anyhoooo, the aforementioned song, entitled “Scots Wha Hae,” essentially consists of Robert Burns’s (1759-96) poem, “Bruce Before Bannockburn,” set to music. Written in 1787, the piece commemorates the battle of Bannockburn, fought on the 24th of June, AD 1314.
The events of the actual battle, for the record, bore absolutely no resemblance to those depicted in the final, stirring moments of the film Braveheart. Certainly, there were English and Scottish armies present. Certainly, said armies did their level best to destroy one another, but the similarities between celluloid and reality end there.
Hollywood silliness aside, though, the Scots ultimately won both the day and their independence. Though hardly comparable in scale to the Somme or Antietam, for example, Bannockburn served to illustrate that a numerically and technologically inferior force could defeat a larger, more sophisticated one, through training, determination, careful choice of terrain, and the ability of its commanders to seize and exploit opportunities as they arose. For this reason, the battle has long been a source of pride and inspiration, not only to native-born Scots, but to their far-flung diaspora, as well.
Hopefully, this holds as true in 2007 as did it in 1787, when, after visiting the site, Burns composed his poem.
Scots, wha hae wi’ Wallace bled,
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led,
Welcome to your gory bed,
Or to victorie.
Now’s the day, and now’s the hour;
See the front of battle lour;
See approach proud Edward’s power –
Chains and slaverie!
Wha will be a traitor knave?
Wha can fill a coward’s grave?
Wha sae base as be a slave?
Let him turn and flee!
Wha for Scotland’s King and Law
Freedom’s sword will strongly draw,
Free-man stand, or free-man fa’?
Let him follow me!
By Oppression’s woes and pains!
By your sons in servile chains!
We will drain our dearest veins,
But they shall be free!
Lay the proud usurpers low!
Tyrants fa’ in every foe!
Liberty’s in every blow!
Let us do or die!