> Folk Music > Songs > O, Wert Thou in the Cauld Blast

O, Wert Thou in the Cauld Blast

[ Roud V18272 ; Robert Burns]

Rod Paterson sang Wert Thou in the Cauld Blast in 1996 on his Greentrax album of Rubert Burns songs, Songs From the Bottom Drawer. He noted:

The ailing poet’s home help suggested this tune, for which she should be cursed by singers and blessed by the rest of us.

Sangsters sang Wert Thou in the Cauld Blast in 2000 on their Greentrax album Sharp and Swwet. They noted:

Tune Lochiel’s Awa tae France. Words written for Jessie Lewars, sister of an Excise colleague, a young lass who nursed him near the end of his life. The tune is pentatonic, in minor mode.

Lionel McClelland sang O Wert Thou in the Cauld Blast in 2002 on the Linn anthology The Complete Songs of Robert Burns Volume 11.

Ellen Mitchell sang O Wert Thou in the Cauld Blast in 2002 on her Tradition Bearers album On Yonder Lea. She noted:

1 began with Burns and I’ll finish with Burns. I learned this from a friend, Carol McCormick, when she invited me to join her in performing at a Burn’s Supper at her aunties golf club. There is an interesting story behind this song. Burns was nursed on his death bed by a family friend called Jessie Lewars. Burns could not repay her kindness in money so he asked her what her favourite song was. She sang a song which was popular at the time and which told of a wren describing how he would never let the robin stay out in the cold if he had “an auld clout” to wrap him in (The Wren’s Nest, The Scots Musical Museum, James Johnson and Robert Burns 1787-1803 Vol. 2). Burns wrote these new words to the same tune. Much later Mendelssohn heard this when visiting Scotland and wrote the tune I sing here.

RURA sang Caul Wind Blast on their 2015 album Despite the Dark.

The Furrow Collective sang O, Wert Thou in the Cauld Blast in 2023 on their Hudson album We Know by the Moon. Alasdair Roberts noted:

This track begins with the English country dance tune The Emperor of the Moon, which was first published by John Playford’s son, Henry Playford (1657-1709), in his Dancing Master, (8th edition, 1690). It is followed by the very last song written by Scotland’s most famous poet, Robert Burns, who dedicated it to Jessie Lewars. the family friend who nursed him in his final illness. Burns himself suggested that the text be set to the traditional tune Lennox Love to Blantyre; however Felix Mendelssohn composed a tune for it, which is the one that we sing. The legend goes that Mendelssohn heard Jessie Lewars singing the traditional song The Robin Tae the Wren’s Nest, which became the inspiration for his own melody. I first heard this sung by the great Glaswegian singer Ellen Mitchell, although it appears to have been slightly ‘folk processed’ by me over the years into a slightly different shape.


The Furrow Collective sing O, Wert Thou in the Cauld Blast

Oh wert thou in the cauld blast,
On yonder lea, on yonder lea;
My plaidie to the angry airt,
I’d shelter thee, I’d shelter thee:
Or did Misfortune’s bitter storms
Around thee blaw, around thee blaw,
Thy bield should be my bosom,
To share it a’, to share it a’.

Or were I in the wildest waste,
Sae black and bare, sae black and bare,
The desert were a Paradise,
If thou wert there, if thou wert there.
Or were I Monarch o’ the globe,
Wi’ thee to reign, wi’ thee to reign;
The brightest jewel in my Crown
Wad be my Queen, wad be my Queen.