Traditional Scottish Songs
- Verses to A Robin Redbreast

James Montgomery (1771-1854) was born in Ayrshire and in 1794 became editor of the Sheffield Iris. At that time, free speech was not as established as it is today - and the government were nervous of the potential ripple effect of the French Revolution. So, for the offence of printing some verses of a song celebrating the fall of the Bastile, he was libelled as "a wicked, malicious, seditious, and evil-disposed person." He was sentenced to three months' imprisonment in the Castle of York. He was condemned to a second imprisonment of six months shortly afterwards, for inserting in his paper an account of a local riot in which he was considered to have cast aspersions on a colonel of volunteers. His spell in jail did at least allow him more time to write poems ands songs - such as this one!

Verses to A Robin Redbreast
   (Which Visits the Window
   of My Prison Every Day)

Welcome, pretty little stranger!
   Welcome to my lone retreat!
Here, secure from every danger,
   Hop about, and chirp, and eat:
Robin! how I envy thee,
   Happy child of Liberty!

Now, though tyrant Winter, howling,
   Shakes the world with tempests round,
Heaven above with vapours scowling,
   Frost imprisons all the ground:
Robin! what are these to thee?
   Thou art bless'd with liberty.

Though yon fair majestic river
   Mourns in solid icy chains,
Though yon flocks and cattle shiver
   On the desolated plains:
Robin! thou art gay and free,
   Happy in thy liberty.

Hunger never shall disturb thee,
   While my rates one crumb afford;
Colds nor cramps shall ne'er oppress thee;
   Come and share my humble board:
Robin! come and live with me -
   Live, yet still at liberty.

Soon shall Spring, in smiles and blushes,
   Steal upon the blooming year;
Then, amid the enamour'd bushes,
   Thy sweet song shall warble clear:
Then shall I, too, join with thee -
   Swell the hymn of Liberty.

Should some rough, unfeeling dobbin,
   In this iron-hearted age,
Seize thee on thy nest, my Robin,
   And confine thee in a cage,
Then, poor prisoner! think of me -
   Think, and sigh for liberty.

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