Flow Gently, Sweet Afton


SSAATTBB a cappella
Difficulty Level: Intermediate to Advanced
Text: Robert Burns (1759-1796)


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Composer's Note

Composer's Note

The text of Flow Gently, Sweet Afton came to my attention most directly through the recording by the band Nickel Creek. Their setting maintains the folk styling and is very tenderly rendered. It's a song that holds great meaning for me and my wife, as it's one of the songs she found and liked on my iPod while she was learning about my musical tastes during our courtship. Although I had written my setting before we met, she attended its premiere at the first concert she ever attended of mine, so I dedicated it to her after the fact.

But beyond those personal, sentimental moments, the content of the text is sentimental enough for any love story. Burns is at his romantic, heartfelt best as he describes both the idyllic scene along the banks of Afton River, and his beloved Mary, slumbering along its banks.

The melody is original, though I composed it to sound as though it were a long-known folksong.

Text (Robert Burns)

Flow gently, sweet Afton! among thy green braes,
Flow gently, I'll sing thee a song in thy praise;
My Mary's asleep by thy murmuring stream,
Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream.

Thou stockdove whose echo resounds thro' the glen,
Ye wild whistling blackbirds in yon thorny den,
Thou green-crested lapwing thy screaming forbear,
I charge you, disturb not my slumbering Fair.

How lofty, sweet Afton, thy neighbouring hills,
Far mark'd with the courses of clear, winding rills;
There daily I wander as noon rises high,
My flocks and my Mary's sweet cot in my eye.

How pleasant thy banks and green valleys below,
Where, wild in the woodlands, the primroses blow;
There oft, as mild Ev'ning weeps over the lea,
The sweet-scented birk shades my Mary and me.

Thy crystal stream, Afton, how lovely it glides,
And winds by the cot where my Mary resides;
How wanton thy waters her snowy feet lave,
As, gathering sweet flowerets, she stems thy clear wave.

Flow gently, sweet Afton, among thy green braes,
Flow gently, sweet river, the theme of my lays;
My Mary's asleep by thy murmuring stream,
Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream.

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