(Bonnie) Yew Tree

Words and Music: Brian McNeill
Source (history at the bottom): Mudcat
MIDI / NWC / PDF

A mile frae Pentcaitland, on the road to the sea
Stands a yew tree a thousand years old
And the old women swear by the grey o' their hair
That it knows what the future will hold
For the shadows of Scotland stand round it
'Mid the kail and the corn and the kye
All the hopes and 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 summer days
Tae the South and the far English border
A' the bonnets o' steel on Flodden's far field
Did they march by your side in good 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
To bring tears to the eyes o' the wind

My bonnie yew tree
Tell me what did you see

Not once did you speak for the poor and the weak
When the moss-troopers lay in your shade
To count out the plunder and hide frae the thunder
And share out the spoils o' their raid
But you saw the smiles o' the gentry
And the laughter of lords at their gains
When the poor hunt the poor across mountain and moor
The rich man can keep them in chains

My bonnie yew tree
Tell me what did you see

Did you no' think tae tell when John Knox himsel'
Preached under your branches sae black
To the poor common folk who would lift up the yoke
O' the bishops and priests frae their backs
But you knew the bargain he sold them
And freedom was only one part
For the price o' their souls was a gospel sae cold
It would freeze up the joy in their hearts

My bonnie yew tree
Tell me what did you see

And I thought as I stood and laid hands on your wood
That it might be a kindness to fell you
One kiss o' the axe and you're freed frae the racks
O' the sad bloody tales that men tell you
But a wee bird flew out from your branches
And sang out as never before
And the words o' the song were a thousand years long
And to learn them's a long thousand more

My bonnie yew tree
Tell me what CAN you see

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