Behold, my love, how green the groves

Music: Trad. arr. Brad Pierson. Words: Robert Burns (1759–96)
SSA, piano
Performance time approx 2m 45s
Range: S1: c' – f'' / S2: c' – e''♭ / A: f (or g) – a'♭
Price code: D
Complexity: **

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Burns noted in November 1794: ‘On my visit the other day to my fair Chloris (that is the poetic name of the lovely goddess of my inspiration), she suggested an idea which, on my return from the visit, I wrought into [this] song.’ The song takes up a common theme of his: the superiority of country life and music to that of wealthy princes or courtiers.

The tune (My lodging is on the cold ground) was first associated with lyrics by Matthew Locke and was used in Sheridan’s play The Rivals. It became very popular.

Brad Pierson’s arrangement moves from unison first verse to three part harmony, to another spell of two part harmony before finishing in three parts again. The piano part nicely complements the words, for example conveying the plucking of the wild flowers.

Dynamics have been left to the performers. Let the voicing and tessitura be your guide.

For a different setting of this song (SATB&piano) see Alasdair MacLeans's How green the groves.


Behold, my love, how green the groves,
The primrose banks how fair;
The balmy gales awake the flowers,
And wave thy flaxen hair.

The lav'rock shuns the palace gay,
And o'er the cottage sings:
For Nature smiles as sweet, I ween,
To Shepherds as to Kings.

Let minstrels sweep the skilfu' string,
In lordly lighted ha':
The Shepherd stops his simple reed,
Blythe in the birken shaw.

The Princely revel may survey
Our rustic dance wi’ scorn;
But are their hearts as light as ours,
Beneath the milk-white thorn!

The shepherd, in the flowery glen,
In shepherd's phrase, will woo:
The courtier tells a finer tale,
But is his heart as true!

These wild-wood flowers I've pu'd, to deck
That spotless breast o’ thine:
The courtiers' gems may witness love,
But, 'tis na love like mine.

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