From the Falconer Project: The Flooers o' the Forest

The passage below, recited by Scotland's own David Jack, can be found on pages 152 and 153 of the Sunrise edition of Robert Falconer (available from Wise Path Books). The final published version of our upcoming edition of this book will feature a two-column format for any passages featuring Scots dialogue; however, for this excerpt, we're simply showing the English in parentheses for any lines which might possibly present difficulties for the Scots-challenged. Note also the YouTube video of the song mentioned in the text, at the bottom of this page. 

'Weel, Robert, hoo's the fiddle?' (“Well, Robert, how's the fiddle?”)

'Fine, I thank ye, sir,' answered Robert.

'Lat's hear what ye can do wi' 't.'

Robert fetched the instrument and complied.

'That's no that ill,' (“That's not that bad,”) remarked the farmer. 'But eh! man, ye suld hae heard yer gran'father han'le the bow. That was something to hear—ance in a body's life. Ye wad hae jist thoucht the strings had been drawn frae his ain inside, he kent them sae weel, and han'led them sae fine. He jist fan' them like wi' 's fingers throu' the bow an' the horsehair an' a', an' a' the time he was drawin' the soun' like the sowl frae them, an' they jist did onything 'at he likit. Eh! to hear him play the Flooers o' the Forest wad hae garred ye greit.' (“But eh! man, you should have heard your grandfather handle the bow. That was something to hear-once in your life. You would have just thought the strings had been drawn from his own inside, he knew them so well, and handled them so fine. He just felt them with his fingers through the bow and the horsehair and all, and all the time he was drawing the sound like the soul from them, and they just did anything that he liked. Eh! To hear him play the Flowers of the Forest would have made you cry.”)

'Cud my father play?' asked Robert.

'Ay, weel eneuch for him. He could do onything he likit to try, better nor middlin'. I never saw sic a man. He played upo' the bagpipes, an' the flute, an' the bugle, an' I kenna what a'; but a'thegither they cam' na within sicht o' his father upo' the auld fiddle. Lat's hae a luik at her.' (“Ay, well enough for him. He could do anything he liked to try, better than middling. I never saw such a man. He played the bagpipes, and the flute, and the bugle, and I don't know what all; but altogether they didn't come close to his father on the old fiddle. Let's have a look at her.”)

He took the instrument in his hands reverently, turned it over and over, and said,

'Ay, ay; it's the same auld mill, an' I wat it grun' bonny meal.—That sma' crater noo 'ill be worth a hunner poun', I s' warran',' (“Ay, ay; it's the same old mill, and I know it ground bonny meal.-That small creature now will be worth a hundred pounds, I'll warrant,”) he added, as he restored it carefully into Robert's hands, to whom it was honey and spice to hear his bonny lady paid her due honours. 'Can ye play the Flooers o' the Forest, no?' (“Can you play the Flowers of the Forest, now?”) he added yet again.

'Ay can I,' answered Robert, with some pride, and laid the bow on the violin, and played the air through without blundering a single note.

'Weel, that's verra weel,' (“Well, that's very well,”) said Mr. Lammie. 'But it's nae mair like as yer gran'father played it, than gin there war twa sawyers at it, ane at ilka lug o' the bow, wi' the fiddle atween them in a saw-pit.' (“But it's no more like your grandfather played it, than if there were two sawyers at it, one at each ear of the bow, with the fiddle between them in a saw-pit.”)

Robert's heart sank within him; but Mr. Lammie went on:

'To hear the bow croudin', and wailin', an' greitin' ower the strings, wad hae jist garred ye see the lands o' braid Scotlan' wi' a' the lasses greitin' for the lads that lay upo' reid Flodden side; lasses to cut, and lasses to gether, and lasses to bin', and lasses to stook, and lasses to lead, and no a lad amo' them a'. It's just the murnin' o' women, doin' men's wark as weel 's their ain, for the men that suld hae been there to du 't; and I s' warran' ye, no a word to the orra lad that didna gang wi' the lave (rest).' (“To hear the bow cooing, and wailing, and crying over the strings, would have just made you see the lands of broad Scotland with all the lasses crying for the lads that lay upon red Flodden side; lasses to cut, and lasses to gather, and lasses to bind, and lasses to set up the sheaves, and lasses to lead, and not a lad among them all. It's just the mourning of women, doing men's work as well as their own, for the men that should have been there to do it; and I'll warrant you, not a word to the odd lad that didn't go with the rest.”)