The lament for the Battle of Flodden (1513), and the needless loss of so many fine young men, has a timeless significance.

It probably existed as a folk song before being taken up by the two eighteenth-century female poets, Alison Rutherford and Jean Elliot. This is the opening of the latter’s version.

from THE FLOWERS OF THE FOREST

Loading article content

I’ve heard them lilting at our yowe-milking –

Lasses a-lilting before dawn of day;

But now they are moaning on ilka green loaning –

The Flowers of the Forest are a’ wede away.

~

At buchts, in the morning, nae blythe lads are scorning;

Lasses are lonely and dowie and wae; -

Nae daffin’, nae gabbin’ -  but sighing and sabbing

Ilk ane lifts her leglin’ and hies her away.

~

In hairst, at the shearing, nae youths now are jeering –

Bandsters are runkled and lyart or grey:

At fair or at preaching, nae wooing, nae fleeching –

The Flowers of the Forest are a’ wede away.

~

At e’en, in the gloaming, nae swankies are roaming,

’Bout stacks with the lasses at bogle to play;

But ilk maid sits drearie, lamenting her dearie –

The Flowers of the Forest are a’ wede away.

~

And to complete this week of war-related poetry, here are Laurence Binyon’s lines which will be read out in church services and at war memorials throughout the country tomorrow.

               from FOR THE FALLEN

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.