Robert Burns: NOW WESTLIN WINDS

The great contemporary Scottish folk singer Dick Gaughan seems to sing this song at every opportunity. It must be his favourite piece of Burns. He has recorded it on his `Handful of Earth' and his `Live in Edinburgh' albums. Details of which can be found in my Dick Gaughan Discography.

It is one of Burns earliest songs, although he revised it later for publication. Written in 1775 at the time of Burns' infatuation with Peggy Thomson of Kirkoswald. `I spent my seventeenth summer,' he wrote in his autobiographical letter to Dr Moore in August 1787, `on a smuggling [coast] a good distance from home at a noted school, to learn Mensuration, Surveying, Dialling, etc ... I went on with a high hand in my Geometry; till the sun entered Virgo, a month which is always a carnival in my bosom, a charming Fillette who lived next door to the school overset my Trigonometry, and set me off on a tangent from the sphere of my studies.' Later, he tried out a modification of this early song in honour of Jean Armour; no known copy survives. Going back to the same song, Burns then sent a version which has a number of Scots words in place of the original English diction to be printed in `The Scots Musical Museum' (vol. iv, 1792, no. 351). Unusually for a love-song, `Now westlin winds' includes four lines of protest against the `slaught'ring guns' of sportsmen (ll 21-4).

Tune: I had a horse, I had nae mair


   Now westlin winds, and slaught'ring guns                     western
      Bring Autumn's pleasant weather;
   The moorcock springs on whirring wings,
      Amang the blooming heather:
   Now waving grain, wide o'er the plain,
      Delights the weary farmer;
   And the moon shines bright, as I rove by night,
      To muse upon my charmer.

   The paitrick lo'es the fruitfu fells;                      partridge
      The plover lo'es the mountains;
   The woodcock haunts the lonely dells;
      The soaring hern the fountains:                             heron
   Thro lofty groves, the cushat roves,                          pigeon
      The path o man to shun it;
   The hazel bush o'erhangs the thrush,
      The spreading thorn the linnet.

   Thus ev'ry kind their pleasure find,
      The savage and the tender;
   Some social join, and leagues combine;
      Some solitary wander:
   Avaunt, away, the cruel sway!
      Tyrannic man's dominion!
   The sportsman's joy, the murd'ring cry,
      The flutt'ring, gory pinion!

   But Peggy dear, the ev'ning's clear,
      Thick flies the skimming swallow;
   The sky is blue, the fields in view,
      All fading-green and yellow:
   Come let us stray our gladsome way,
      And view the charms of Nature;
   The rustling corn, the fruited thorn,
      And ilka happy creature.                                    every

   We'll gently walk, and sweetly talk,
      While the silent moon shines clearly;
   I'll clasp thy waist, and fondly prest,
      Swear how I lo'e thee dearly:
   Not vernal show'rs to budding flow'rs,
      Not Autumn to the farmer,
   So dear can be, as thou to me,
      My fair, my lovely charmer!