Such A Parcel Of Rogues

Now attributed to Robert Burns, but not claimed by him.
First printed 1792

Fareweel to a’ our Scottish fame,
Fareweel our ancient glory
Fareweel even to the Scottish name,
Sae famed in martial story!
Now Sark rins o’er the Solway sands,
And Tweed rins to the ocean
To mark where England’s province stands,
Such a parcel o rogues in a nation!

What force or guile could not subdue
Thro’ many warlike ages
Is wrought now by a coward few
For hireling traitors’ wages.
The English steel we could disdain,
Secure in valour’s station,
But English gold has been our bane,
Such a parcel o rogues in a nation!

Oh would, or I had seen the day
That Treason thus could sell us,
My auld grey head had lien in clay
Wi Bruce and loyal Wallace!
But pith and power, till my last hour,
I’ll mak this declaration;
We’re bought and sold for English gold
Such a parcel o rogues in a nation!

Bane: something poisonous, causing death; cause of great distress
Lien: lain
O would, or I had seen: Oh I wish, before I had seen
Pith: energy

According to The Canongate Burns (2003), this song, usually ascribed to Burns, is another where he has taken elements from elsewhere and made them his own. The phrase ‘Such a parcel of rogues in a nation’ is found in James Hogg’s The Jacobite Relics of Scotland in a poem called “The Awkward Squad”, attacking the “thirty-one rogues”, the Scottish commissioners who were alleged to have sold the nation out in 1707 at the Union of the Crowns.

This song was first printed in Johnson’s Musical Museum of 1792, page 391, but not attributed to Burns. It even appears in Chambers’ Scottish Songs Prior to Burns. As he was at that time working as an excise officer, it would have been politically dangerous for him to profess anti-Union opinions around the time of the French Revolution when government informers were active. He supported the ideals of the Revolution and often at that time published in the radical press either anonymously or under a pseudonym.