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Flowers of the Forest
Posted by: marian2 (
Date: June 23, 2005 11:00AM

In my Faber's Children's Verse there is a dialect version of this poem attributed to Jean Eliott, which says the first line (I've heard the lilting at our yowe- milking) and refrain (The Flowers of the Forest are a'wede away) date back to the Battle of Flodden (1513)but the rest of the poem was written over 200 years later.

However I already have an English version attributed to an Alison Rutherford Cockburn (1712-1794). This starts 'I've seen the smiling Of Fortune beguiling' and has no refrain, but uses "a'wede away" twice' the second time as part of the final line ' For the flowers of the forest are w'wede away '.

Anyone care to elucidate? (another of my (laughable) attempts to make sense of the (laughable) universe - aka as trying to spell God with the wrong blocks in the kindergarten that is life!

Re: Flowers of the Forest
Posted by: rikki (
Date: June 27, 2005 10:27PM

I have a first edition of The Oxford Book of English Verse 1250-1918, printed in 1939, which has this poem entitled "A Lament for Flodden" by Jane Elliot (1727-1805)

The first stanza is

I've heard them lilting at our ewe-milking,
Lasses a'lilting before dawn o'day;
But now they are moaning on ilka green loaning -
The Flowers of the Forest are a'wede away.

If you'd like the rest of the poem, I'll type it out for you (i might need to brush up on my scottish accent first!) There are five columns of footnotes too, giving the english interpretations of the scottish dialect.


Re: Flowers of the Forest
Posted by: Linda (
Date: June 28, 2005 12:21PM

I've just lifted this from:-
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The Flowers of the Forest

I've heard them liltin', at the ewe milkin,'
Lasses a-liltin' before dawn of day.
Now there's a moanin', on ilka green loanin'.
The flowers of the forest are a' wede away.

As boughts in the mornin', nae blithe lads are scornin',
Lasses are lonely and dowie and wae.
Nae daffin', nae gabbin', but sighin' and sobbin',
Ilk ane lifts her leglin, and hies her away.

At e'en in the gloamin', nae swankies are roamin',
'Mang stacks wi' the lasses at bogle to play.
But ilk maid sits drearie, lamentin' her dearie,
The flowers of the forest are a' wede away.

In har'st at the shearin' nae youths now are jeerin'
Bandsters are runkled, and lyart, or grey.
At fair or at preachin', nae wooin', nae fleecin',
The flowers of the forest are a' wede away.

Dool for the order sent our lads to the Border,
the English for ance by guile wan the day.
The flowers of the forest, that fought aye the foremost,
The prime of our land lie cauld in the clay.

We'll hae nae mair liltin', at the ewe milkin',
Women and bairns are dowie and wae.
Sighin' and moanin' on ilka green loanin',
The flowers of the forest are all wede away.

Re: Flowers of the Forest
Posted by: rikki (
Date: June 28, 2005 07:22PM

This is a bit different to the version that I have, apart from the title, even the stanzas are in a different order.
Some spelling and phrasing differs too, like 'bughts,' 'hairst', 'dool and wae for the order', 'ilk ane sits eerie', 'women and bairns are heartless and wae.'

Re: Flowers of the Forest
Posted by: marian2 (
Date: June 30, 2005 04:14AM

Having read these, and the two I have, I suspect the original was in Scottish dialect, possibly contemporaneous with the battle but not written down for many years, and thereby maybe mutating to several different versions and the rest are anglicized interpretations, some probably with different (partial) back-translations into the dialect . Cockburn's interpretation seems a lot more liberal (or at least taking a lot more liberties) than the others. So, it's anyone's guess exactly which the original one was. Thanks a lot, everyone - things like this fascinate me.

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