Read by George T. Watt

The Scrieve fae Arbroath

Non enim propter gloriam, diuicias aut honores pugnamus set propter libertatem solummodo quam nemo bonus nisi simul cum vita amittit. —Scrieve fae Arbroath (6 Aprile 1320)

by Joseph Charles MacKenzie

Arbroath! Sae lief tae the hairts o the free,
Foondstane o Scotland’s sovereignty
Birthgrund o aw man’s leeberty,
Dear as oor faithers’ bluid ye are tae me!

For we focht na fir glory, nor riches nor gain,
Whilk a man gaes nae ower except wi his life,
But we focht, to the soond o the drum an the fife,
For freedom alane.

I’ ane vyce we declared to Christ’s Vicar on yirth,
Oor Maist Haly Faither, that Scotland’s great worth
Wis her lue o Saunt Andrew, her patron and laird,
Saunt Peter’s guid brither, oor protaktour an gaird.

I’ ane vyce we declared that Laird Robert oor keeng,
Wears by richt Scotland’s croun, an true peace wad he bring,
That sae lang as ane hunder o us sall be livin
Oor kinrik to Edwart wad niver be gywyn.

But shuid Robert the Bruce oor great nation betray
An gree tae subject us tae Ingland ane day,
We’ll drive him awa, that he niver return,
Frae the Scotland we deed fir at auld Bannockburn!

Arbroath! Sae lief tae the hairts o the free,
Foondstane of Scotland’s sovereignty
Birthgrund of aw man’s leeberty,
Dear as oor faithers’ bluid ye are tae me!

For we focht na fir glory, nor riches nor gain,
Whilk a man gaes nae ower except wi his life,
But we focht, to the soond o the drum an the fife,
For freedom alane.

 

 

Author’s translation of his Scots original:

 

The Declaration of Arbroath

Arbroath! Belov’d of the hearts of the free,
Foundation stone of Scotland’s sovereignty
Birthplace of mankind’s liberty,
Dear as my fathers’ blood are you to me!

For we fought not for glory nor riches nor gain,
Which a man does not give, except with his life,
But we fought, to the sound of the drum and the fife,
That freedom would reign.

In one voice we declared to Christ’s Vicar on earth,
Our Most Holy Father, that Scotland’s great worth
Flowed from love of Saint Andrew, her patron and lord,
Saint Peter’s good brother, our defender and guard.

In one voice we declared that Lord Robert our king,
Wears by right Scotland’s crown, true peace would he bring;
That as long as a hundred good Scotsman shall live
Our kingdom to Edward, we never would give.

But should Robert the Bruce our great nation betray
Or agree to subject us to England one day,
Then we’ll drive him away, that he never return,
From the Scotland we died for at auld Bannockburn!

Arbroath! Beloved of the hearts of the free,
Foundation stone of Scotland’s sovereignty
Birthplace of mankind’s liberty,
Dear as my fathers’ blood are you to me!

For we fought not for glory nor riches nor gain,
Which a man does not give except with his life,
But we fought, to the sound of the drum and the fife,
That freedom would reign.

 

 

Joseph Charles MacKenzie is a traditional lyric poet, the only American to have won Scottish International Poetry Competition. His poetry has appeared in The New York Times, The Scotsman (Edinburgh), The Independent (London), US News and World Report, Google News, and many other outlets. He writes primarily for the Society of Classical Poets (New York) and Trinacria (New York). MacKenzie has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.


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8 Responses

    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      You have indicated one of the essential, and not merely constitutive elements of traditional lyric poetry: its musicality. Scots is truly the language of song. I thank you for your astute observation.

      Reply
  1. Joseph Charles MacKenzie

    Just a wee word tae cun thanks tae the poiet GEORGE T WATT for his brawlike readin o ma poem whilk a haed the privilege tae dedicate tae the fowk o Scotland oan this jeyfu day whan the warld is celebratin yon lafty writ o oor freedom, the Scrieve Far Arbroath. A gie cheers tae ma editor, EVAN MANTYK, wha kens the importance o the mither toungue o the kintra that gave birth tae song.

    Reply
  2. Dr Fiona Watson

    What a fabulous poem and how wonderful to know that this special day is being remembered in such a memorable way on the other side of the pond. Truly remarkable.

    Reply
    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      For Our Readers:

      Dr. Watson is a prominent Scottish historian and recognized resource for, among other organizations, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) which produced her 2001 TV series, “In Search of Scotland.”

      She has recently released Volume I of her comprehensive biography of Robert Bruce, which traces his family history and details his early career up to his brutal murder of his rival, John Comyn of Badenoch, his seizure of the Scottish throne and subsequent flight into exile. Entitled, “Traitor, Outlaw, King: Part One: The Making of Robert Bruce,” the groundbreaking history is available at Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Traitor-Outlaw-King-Making-Robert/dp/1719899193

      As we contributors to the Society of Classical Poets hope to renew American interest in the Declaration of Arbroath throughout this “Scottish year” and not just for the one Septuacentennial day—given that Robert Bruce’s achievement is the basis of our own freedoms—I would like to express very deepest gratitude to Professor Watson for taking interest in my American homage to a people whose innovations in every domain of human endeavor have been for centuries the wonder of the entire world.

      Please enjoy this very moving overview of the history of the Declaration of Arbroath, entitled, “Declaration: The Letter of Liberty,” featuring Dr. Watson’s scholarly commentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3bZYWJBpMhQ

      Reply
      • Margaret Coats

        Inspiring presentation–thank you. Adds to my deep appreciation your poem.

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