"The Flowers Of The Forest Are A' Wede Away"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: This is the most famous of the laments for Flodden, site of a famous battle between the English and Scots in 1513. The Scots were out-maneuvered and every man was killed, ten thousand of the noblest, including the King. The line, "The flowers of the forest are a' wede [weeded] away," is the refrain in this mournful commemoration of all the noble men who died. The heaviness of the sorrow and the magnitude of the loss are depicted through the contrast of the present state of life in Scotland with the former. In the place of former joys, frolicsomeness, and simple pleasures are low spirits, brokenhearted lassies, and loneliness. Formerly, one could hear "lasses a-lilting [singing] before dawn o' day." Now they are moaning instead. The lads who once went early to the sheepfolds are now gone. During harvest, at the shearing, "nae youths now are jeering." The incident that took the lads is briefly referred to. The lads were sent to the Border, where the English, "for ance, by guilt wan the day." Now the flowers of the forest "lie cauld in the clay." The concluding verse expresses the theme of the poem concisely:

We'll hear nae mair lilting at our ewe-milking;
Women and bairns are heartless and wae;
Sighing and moaning on ilka green loaning:
The flowers of the forest are a' wede away.