Corn Rigs (Rigs o’Barley) was written entirely by Robert Burns in 1782 adapting it to an old Scottish dance air entitled “Corn Rigs are bonnie“. It seems to be particularly dear to the poet: it tells of the night of love with a beautiful girl among the sheaves of wheat, a magical full moon night…
The Annie of the song has been identified in Anne Rankie, the youngest daughter of a tenant farmer, John Rankine of Adamhill, of the farm that was a short distance from the Burns in Lochlea. In 1782, in September, the woman married a innkeeper, John Merry of Cumnock, so some doubt that in August she was among the sheaves of barley with the handsome Robert; others, however, point out that after 4 years (and once again in August) the poet, being in the neighborhood, was staying right at the inn of the two!
Burns gave Anne Rankie a lock of his hair and his portrait, which she kept together with the song.
Very bravely Burns, however, is silent on the identity of the beautiful Annie.
The analysis of the text unravels the dynamics of the relationship between the two lovers (according to my point of view): the night of Lammas, as usual in the Celtic tradition, is the night of August 1, a day of celebration for the farmers of the Scotland, day of rest and party before the beginning of the harvest.
Among the young it was customary to spend the night in the fields of wheat (or barley) but our Robert at first keeps away from such custom, the beautiful Annie is promised to another …
However, the youthful ardor finally wins and even the girl (without even being asked too much, reveals the bard) consents: the two meet in the fields of barley, at dusk, on a warm summer evening with the moon full to illuminate the night, and what a “happy night”!
The final verse takes up a concept dear to the poet: the best time is spent to love! And on that magical night it seems that the young Robert did it three times!
Ossian from Seal Song 1981 with the traditional Corn Rigs Are Bonnie melody, the video is very well done with the scrolling text, movies and vintage photos as well as “portraits” of the bard, all well structured in the evocation for images of the text
Paul Giovanni from The Wicker Man but with another melody
It was upon a Lammas(1) night,
When the corn rigs(2) were bonnie,
Beneath the moon’s unclouded light,
I held awa’ to Annie;
The time flew by wi’ tentless heed,
‘Til ‘tween the late and early,
Wi’ small persuasion she agreed
To see me thro’ the barley.
Corn Rigs and barley rigs,
Corn rigs are bonny:
I’ll ne’eer forget that happy night,
Amang the rigs wi’ Annie.
The sky was blue (3), the wind was still,
The moon was shining clearly;
I set her down wi’ right good will,
Amang the rigs o’ barley:
I ken’t(4) her heart, was a’ my ain(5);
I loved her most sincerely;
I kissed her o’er and o’er again,
Amang the rigs o’ barley.
I locked her in my fond embrace;
Her heart was beatin’ rarely:
My blessing on that happy place,
Amang the rigs o’ barley!
But by the moon and stars so bright,
That shone that hour so clearly!
She aye shall bless that happy night
Amang the rigs of barley.
I hae been blythe(6) wi’ comrades dear;
I hae been merry drinking;
I hae been joyful gath’rin’ gear(7);
I hae been happy thinking:
But a’ the pleasures e’er I saw,
Tho’ three times doubled fairly,
That happy night was worth them a’,
Amang the rigs wi’ Annie.
1) Lammas is the harvest festival that is celebrated on the first of August, whose origins date back to the Celtic festival of Lugnasad, a festival that marks the beginning of the first harvest (wheat and barley). In the Scottish country tradition it is like our day in San Martino, when the land is rented and the contracts are renewed.(see more)
2) The term Rigs describes an old cultivation technique that involves working the land in long and narrow strips of raised land (the traditional drainage system of the past): the fields were divided into earthen banks raised, so that the excess water drained further down the deep side furrows.
3) the indicated hour is that of twilight
7) earning money
Alasdair Fraser · Paul Machlis · Barry Phillips · Martin Hayes
SCOTTISH COUNTRY DANCE
This song is best known with the title of Corn Rigs or Corn Rigs Are Bonnie and it is also a scottish country dance (see more) taken from the old traditions. During the harvest it was customary to dance among the sheaves of wheat, as shown in this vintage movie by the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society.