Scotlands Culture\|Scotlands Songs

Sic a Parcel of Rogues

A song that protests bitterly about the Union of Scotland and England in 1707.

 

Fareweel to a' our Scottish fame,

Fareweel our ancient glory

Fareweel ev'n to the Scottish name,

Sae famed in martial story

Now Sark rins over Solway sands

An Tweed rins to the ocean

To mark where England's province stands -

Sic a parcel o rogues in a nation!

 

What force or guile could not subdue

Through many warlike ages

Is wrought now by a coward few

For hireling traitor's wages

The English steel we could disdain

Secure in valour's station

But English gold has been our bane -

Sic a parcel o rogues in a nation!

 

O would, or I had seen the day

That Treason thus could sell us,

My auld grey head had lien in clay

Wi Bruce and loyal Wallace!

But pith and power, till my last hour

I'll mak this declaration

We're bought and sold for English gold -

Sic a parcel o rogues in a nation!

 

 

It is usually said that this song was composed by Robert Burns, but he did not himself claim it. Robert Chambers included it in his collection of Scottish Songs Prior to Burns and suggested that there was not at that time known to be clear evidence for corrupt payments having been made to the ‘majority of the Scottish parliament’, the charge of ‘bought and sold for English gold’. More recently details of the payments made at the time have been published.

Many Scots were angry in 1707. Sir Walter Scott summed up the popular Scottish attitude of the time in the words of one of his characters: 'I ken, when we had a king, and a chancellor, and parliament - men o' our ain, we could aye peeble them wi' stones when they werena gude bairns - But naebody's nails can reach the length o' Lunnon.'

Robert Burns asked in 1790, 'What are all the advantages which my country reaps from the union that can counterbalance the annihilation of her independence, and even her very name? Nothing can reconcile me to the terms.'

When in 1707 the Act of Union was given royal assent by the Earl of Seafield, he touched the document with the royal sceptre, saying, 'There's the end of an auld sang.' Nearly 300 years later, at the 're-convening' of parliament in Edinburgh in 1999, the Presiding Officer said it was the 'start of a new sang'.

This song and many others written or collected by Burns have been translated into Russian. However, the Russians thought of Burns's songs as poems and composers set some of his work to their own music.

 

'Sic a Parcel of Rogues', sung by Fiona Forbes of the Sangsters.
From Sharp And Sweet CDTRAX207 (December 2000), Greentrax Recordings.


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Sic a Parcel of Rogues (Fiona Forbes)

 

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