The Yew Tree

Words & Music : Brian McNeill
Lyric as sung by Dick Gaughan

A mile fae Pentcaitland, on the road tae the sea,
Stands a yew tree a thousand years auld,
The auld people swear by the gray o their hair
That it knows what the future will hold,
For the shadows of Scotland stand round it,
'midst the kail an the corn an the kye -
Aa the hopes an the fears of a thousand long years,
Under the Lothian sky.

My bonnie yew tree, tell me what did you see?

Did you look through the haze o the lang simmer's days,
Tae the south an the far English border?
Aa the bonnets o steel on Flodden's far field,
Did they march by your side in guid order?
Did you ask them the price o their glory
When you heard the great slaughter begin?
For the dust o their bones
Would rise up from the stones
Tae bring tears tae the eyes o the wind.

Did ye no think tae tell when John Knox himsel
Preached under your branches sae black
Tae the puir common folk who would cast off the yoke
O the bishops an priests fae their backs?
But you knew the bargain he sold them
An freedom was only one part,
For the price o their souls was a gospel sae cold
It would freeze aa the joy in their hearts.

Not once did you speak for the poor an the weak
When the moss troopers lay in your shade
Tae hide fae the thunder an count out the plunder
An share aa the spoils o the raid.
But you saw the smiles o the gentry
An the laughter o lords at their gains,
For when the poor hunt the poor across mountain an moor
The rich man can keep them in chains.

I thought as I stood an laid hands on your wood
That it might be a kindness tae fell you.
One kiss o the axe an you're freed fae the wracks
O the sad, bloody tales that men tell you.
But a wee bird flew out from your branches
An sang out as never before,
An the words o the song were a thousand years long
Let's learn them before many more.

My bonnie yew tree, tell me what do you see?


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