Prose & SongCorrespondence & Poetry

The Birks of Aberfeldy

Title: The Birks of Aberfeldy
First line: Bonny lassie, will ye go,
Air: Birks of Abergeldie
Performer: Davidona Pittock
Source: SMM 113

Like many of the recognised songs in the Burns canon, ‘The Birks of Aberfeldy’ is a perfect example of a hybrid text which sees the bard respond to a strong tradition of song culture. An earlier version of the song was titled ‘The Birks of Abergeldie’, named after Abergeldie, by Ballater in Aberdeenshire. Aberfeldy is a burgh in Perthshire on the River Tay. This version was written by Burns on 30 August 1787 during his Highland Tour, and his song has been commemorated with a statue near the spot of his travel. We might also see this song as part of Burns’s attempt to fashion a ‘sentimental topography’ of Scotland (Leask, 252).

Cf. Murray Pittock (ed.) The Oxford Edition of the Works of Robert Burns Volume 3: The Scots Musical Museum, part two: Notes and appendices (Oxford: OUP, 2018), pp. 32-33; Nigel Leask, Robert Burns & Pastoral: Poetry and Improvement in Late Eighteenth-Century Scotland (Oxford: OUP, 2010), p. 252.

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