“Scots Wha Hae (Bruce Before Bannockburn)”


"Scots wha hae wi' Wallace bled, Scots, wham Bruce has aften led, Welcome to your gory bed Or to victory!" As the English army of Edward approaches, the Scots are encouraged to "do or dee" to retain their freedom


Titled, in Currie's publication, "Bruce to his Troops on the eve of the Battle of Bannock-burn."

By the time of Bannockburn, the Scots had been struggling against the English for twenty years, with relatively slight success overall. It was not the accession of Robert Bruce that turned the tide, but rather the death of the strong English king Edward I. His successor, Edward II, was much weaker. When Edward II finally was induced to fight the Scots, he did little more than throw his troops at Bruce's army, leading to a catastrophic and unnecessary defeat.

Although Bannockburn was more Edward's loss than Bruce's victory, it became the defining event in the Scottish story, and hence the inspiration for this poem of Burns's (though there is no reason to think Bruce ever said anything like this). - RBW

Historical references

  • 1286 - Death of Alexander III of Scotland
  • 1290 - Death of his granddaughter Margaret "Maid of Norway"
  • 1292 - Edward I of England declares John Balliol king of Scotland
  • 1296 - Edward deposes John Balliol
  • 1297 - William Wallace, the Guardian of Scotland, defeats the English at Stirling Bridge
  • 1298 - Edward defeats Wallace at Falkirk. Wallace forced into hiding
  • 1305 - Capture and execution of Wallace (August 23)
  • 1306 - Robert Bruce declares himself king of Scotland
  • 1307 - Death of Edward I
  • 1314 - Battle of Bannockburn. Robert Bruce defeats Edward II of England and regains Scottish independence

Same tune

  • The Day of Waterloo (Ord, p. 303)

Cross references


  • NLScotland, RB.m.169(138), "Scots, wha hae wi Wallace bled," J. Pitts (London), 1820-1845; also L.C.Fol.70(47a), "Scots wha hae," unknown (London)


  1. Silber-FSWB, p. 299, "Scots Wha Ha'e Wi' Wallace Bled" (1 text)
  3. BI, FSWB299


Author: Robert Burns
Earliest date: 1800 (Currie)
Found in: Britain(Scotland)