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“For the Sake o’ Somebody”

One Scots song reminded Pa of another, and with the fiddle he sang… — These Happy Golden Years, Chapter 25, “The Night Before Christmas”

For the Sake O’ Somebody (or “My Heart is Sair,” taken from the first line) is a poem written by Robert Burns in 1794, set to traditional Scots music for his Scots Musical Museum. This collection, published in six volumes between 1787 and 1803, is still considered the finest collection of Scottish songs. It was re-issued in 1962. The “Somebody” in the song refers Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Charles Ingalls sings “My Heart is Sair” on Christmas eve in These Happy Golden Years, when Almanzo Wilder arrives unexpectedly. Laura wished Mary was there, and she was trying not to think of Almanzo. Had Pa known all along that he was coming?

Robert Burns (1759-1796) was born near Ayr, Scotland, the son of a poor farmer. As a teenager, “Rabbie” began writing verses in Scots dialect and received recognition for his writing. He unsuccessfully labored as a farmer until circumstances (he fathered at least nine children by five different women) made him decide to move to Jamaica. In order to secure money for the trip, he published a book of his verses at Kilmarnock in 1786. It was so highly regarded that he was asked to come to Edinburgh and publish another edition of the work.

This was the turning point in Burns’ life. In Edinburgh, he was among society, riches, and learning, and both his poetry and conversational skills were much in demand. Hard work and hard drink led to health problems, however, and he died at age 37. Today, Burns is the Official Bard (poet) of Scotland, and on his January 25th birthday each year, Scots around the world celebrate with a Burns Night Supper. Mary Ingalls was such a fan of Robert Burns that at her graduation from the Iowa College for the Blind, she performed a Burns essay, “Bide a Wee and Dinna Weary.”

(by Robert Burns)

My heart is sair – I dare na tell-
My heart is sair for Somebody:
I could wake a winter night
For the sake o’ Somebody.
O-hon! for Somebody!
O-hey! for Somebody!
I could range the world around
For the sake o’ Somebody.

Ye Powers that smile on virtuous love,
O, sweetly smile on Somebody!
Frae ilka danger keep him free,
And send me safe my Somebody!
O-hon! for Somebody!
O-hey! for Somebody!
I wad do – what wad I not? –
For the sake o’ Somebody.

For reference — sair: sore; frae: for; ilka: every; wad: would

(from These Happy Golden Years)

My heart is sair, I dare na tell,
My heart is sair for somebody.
Oh! I could make a winter night,
A’ for the sake o’somebody.

CLICK HERE to listen.



Click on the above images to view view a copy of 1878 sheet music of “My Heart is Sair.”    


“My Heart is Sair for Somebody” (THGY 25)
     “My heart is sair, I dare na tell”