Traditional Scottish Songs
- Caledonia

Robert Burns, Scottish patriot that he was, sent this to the publishers in January 1789 for inclusion in the "Scottish Musical Museum" - a Scots songs collected (and often improved) by Burns. The song refers back to the days of the Picts when Scotland, inhabited by the Picts, was called "Caledonia" by the Romans.

The defeat of the "Anglian lion" in the 4th verse refers to the defeat of the Angles under Ecgfrith at Nechtansmere in 685AD.

Caledonia is a frequent subject in the songs and poetry of Scotland. Hugh Ogilvie wrote a song Hail Caledonia! in 1912 which has become very popular. Burns wrote (or collected) a song Caledonia and James Hogg, the Ettrick Poet also wrote a poem Caledonia. Sir Walter Scott, in his Lay of the Last Minstrel wrote of "O Caledonia! stern and, wild". A modern song "Caledonia" by Dougie Maclean ("Caledonia you're calling me / And now I'm going home") became very popular in the 1980s but that is still under copyright.


There was on a time, but old Time was then young,
   That brave Caledonia, the chief of her line,
From some of your northern deities sprung
   (Who knows not that brave Caledonia's divine?)
From Tweed to the Orcades was her domain,
   To hunt, or to pasture, or do what she would.
Her heav'nly relations there fixed her reign,
   And pledg'd her their godheads to warrant it good.

A lambkin in peace but a lion in war,
   The pride of her kindred the heroine grew.
Her grandsire, old Odin, triumphantly swore:-
   'Whoe'er shall provoke thee, th' encounter shall rue!
With tillage or pasture at times she would sport,
   To feed her fair flocks by her green rustling corn;
But chiefly the woods were her fav'rite resort,
   Her darling amusement the hounds and the horn,

Long quiet she reign'd, till thitherward steers
   A flight of bold eagles from Adria's strand,
Repeated, successive, for many long years,
bold eagles from Adria's strandThey darken'd the air, and they plunder'd the land,
Their pounces were murder, and horror their cry;
   They'd conquer'd and ravag'd a world beside.
She took to her hills, and her arrows let fly-
   The daring invaders, they fled or they died!

The Cameleon-Savage disturb'd her repose,
   With tumult, disquiet, rebellion, and strife,
Provok'd beyond bearing, at last she arose,
   And robb'd him at once of his hopes and his life.
The Anglian lion, the terror of France,
   Oft, prowling, ensanguin'd the Tweed's silver flood,
But, taught by the bright Caledonian lance,
   He learned to fear in his own native wood.

The fell Harpy-raven took wing from the north
   The scourge of the seas, and the dread of the shore;
The Wild Scandinavian Boar issued forth
   To wanton in carnage and wallow in gore;
O'er countries and kingdoms their fury prevail,
   No arts could appease them, no arms could repel;
But brave Caledonia in vain they assail'd
   As Largs well can witness, and Loncartie tell.

Thus bold, independent, unconquer'd, and free,
   Her bright course of glory for ever shall run,
For brave Caledonia immortal must be,
   I'll prove it from Euclid as clear as the sun:
Rectangle-triangle, the figure we'll chuse,
   The upright is Chance, and old Time is the Base.
But brave Caledonia's the hypothenuse;
   Then, ergo, she'll match them, and match them always!

Meaning of unusual words:
Odin=Swedish god (an allusion to the blief that the Picts came from Scandinavia
Camelon-Savage=Picts in war paint (Camelon near Falkirk was one of the legendary capital of the Picts.
bold eagles from Adria's strand=Roman legions from the Adriatic
Largs=Scottish victory over the Vikings in 1263
Loncartie=Luncartie - a Scottish victory over the Danes in 990AD

Return to the Index of Traditional Scottish Songs

Where else would you like to go in Scotland?

Separator line