O, Were I On Parnassus Hill

Corsencon Hill and River Nith

Corsencon Hill and River Nith

O, Were I On Parnassus Hill

O, were I on Parnassus hill,
Or had o’ Helicon my fill,
That I might catch poetic skill,
To sing how dear I love thee!
But Nith maun be my Muse’s well,
My Muse maun be thy bonie sel’,
On Corsincon I’ll glowr and spell,
And write how dear I love thee.

Then come, sweet Muse, inspire my lay!
For a’ the lee-lang simmer’s day
I couldna sing, I couldna say,
How much, how dear, I love thee,
I see thee dancing o’er the green,
Thy waist sae jimp, thy limbs sae clean,
Thy tempting lips, thy roguish een-
By Heaven and Earth I love thee!

By night, by day, a-field, at hame,
The thoughts o’ thee my breast inflame:
And aye I muse and sing thy name-
I only live to love thee.
Tho’ I were doom’d to wander on,
Beyond the sea, beyond the sun,
Till my last weary sand was run;
Till then-and then I love thee!

Robert Burns

Cosrencon hill with the River Nith meandering past

Cosrencon hill with the River Nith meandering past

Corsencon would be a familiar sight to Robert Burns as he journeyed back and forth between his home in Mauchline and the new family home he was setting up in Ellisland in Dumfriesshire, some 25 miles or so through Nithsdale from New Cumnock.A familiar sight indeed but one he would greet with mixed emotions of melancholy or joy, depending on what direction he was travelling !

Rabbie and Jean Armour had only recently been married and time away from his new bride and her ‘tempting lips and roguish een’ inspired him to write one of his finest works, ‘O Were I on Parnassus Hill’ . There is no local tradtion of Rabbie having penned this masterpiece whilst in New Cumnock, but perhaps the seeds were sown one day as he sat under the Trysting Thorn at Gowthornwell (his Muse’s well) on the grassy slopes of his own Parnassus in the kingdom of Kyle !

Ceolbeg sing ‘O, Were I on Parnassus Hill’

Billy Boyd reads ‘O, Were I on Parnassus Hill’

The Muses and Poets on Parnassus Hill

The Muses and Poets on Parnassus Hill

The Muses of Ancient Greece were water-nymphs, the daughters of Zeus, goddesses of inspiration, of learning and of the arts. They would dance and sing around their springs on Mount Parnassus and Mount Helicon. Poets would congregate by these enchanted springs and drink their fill, an elixir of inspiration and poetic skill.

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One Response to O, Were I On Parnassus Hill

  1. wordartskate says:

    Love this song so much. And thank-you for posting such lovely pictures. There’s a wonderful, evocative version sung by Ceolbeg.

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