Friday, 10 July 2020

The Fields In View

One evening last week I found myself wandering along a footpath through a field of barley when the words of a song came drifting into my mind. The sky is blue, the fields in view
all fading green and yellow. I knew immediately which song it was and, with a bit of mental delving, I found I had most of the words stored away somewhere. I first heard it sung by Scottish singer Dick Gaughan on his album "Handful Of Earth" in the 1980s. Since then it's been sung by countless others - even the woman who was my line manager at work! It was written by Robbie Burns.

Now Westlin Winds 
Song Composed In August
(R Burns)

Now westlin winds and slaughtering guns
Bring autumn's pleasant weather
The moorcock springs on whirring wings
Amang the blooming heather
Now waving grain, wild o'er the plain
Delights the weary farmer
And the moon shines bright when I rove at night
To muse upon my charmer.

The partridge loves the fruitful fells
The plover loves the mountains
The woodcock haunts the lonely dells
The soaring hern the fountains
Through lofty groves the cushat roves
The path of man to shun it
The hazel bush o'erhangs the thrush
The spreading thorn the linnet

Thus every kind their pleasure find
The savage and the tender
Some social join and leagues combine
Some solitary wander
Avaunt away! the cruel sway
Tyrannic man's dominion
The sportsman's joy, the murdering cry
The fluttering gory pinion

But Peggy dear, the evening's clear
Swift flies the skimming swallow
The sky is blue, the fields in view
All fading green and yellow
Come let us stray our gladsome way
And view the charms of nature
The rustling corn, the fruited thorn
And every happy creature

We'll gently walk and sweetly talk
Till the silent moon shines clearly
I'll grasp thy waist and, fondly pressed,
Swear how I love thee dearly
Not vernal showers to budding flowers
Not autumn to the farmer
So dear can be as thou to me
My fair, and lovely charmer.

Burns wrote the song in 1775 when he was just sixteen, for Peggy Thompson, a 13-year-old he'd fallen in love with.

Here's a glossary for those struggling with some of the words:
Westlin = westerly.  Moorcock = the male red grouse, a gamebird.  Amang = among.  Partridge, plover, woodcock, hern (heron), cushat (wood pigeon), thrush and linnet are all birds of various kinds.  Avaunt = go away.  Swift = this is what Gaughan sings though Burns wrote "Thick flies the skimming swallow" unless that's just a mistake that's been copied all over the internet. I also suspect that he sings something other than "Not vernal showers to budding flowers" but I can't make it out.

Take care.


  1. Nothing like young love at that age to get the poetic juices flowing.

  2. Robbie was an intense young man that's for sure 😉

  3. Perhaps one day the annual slaughter of the grouse will cease.

    1. Lets hope so, David. Not only is the killing so unnecessary but managing the land solely for grouse and deer has ruined the land and preventing any recovery of the Scots pine forest which should occupy much of the area.

    2. Thank you. I too hope that the slaughter, the world wide slaughter ends.

  4. That was so beautiful. We loved listening to it and hope to add it to our play list. Thank you for posting this, John.

  5. The words are familiar really! Great rendition!

  6. I've not heard of it before either.

  7. I thought your song may have been 'Fields of Gold' when you mentioned walking through a field of barley.

    I enjoyed the video! A song of love and nature, wonderful!

  8. I was anticipating The Wind That Shakes the Barley! Both lovely.

  9. Loving this song, the words, the simple guitar accompaniment, and Dick's accent. . . . and the video with bird calls. Verse 4 is my favorite.

    Happy, healthy weekend John.

  10. Great that songs lodge in our minds so deeply. Even more fun when one finds oneself singing one, prompted by something obvious - or by nothing obvious.

  11. Hi John - he was amazingly talented at such a young age ... what a glorious poem and then song. Dick's accent brings the words to light ... a pleasure to listen to. We are so lucky with our poetry and the folk songs recorded for us ... thank you - all the best - Hilary


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