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MR. BURNS to MR. THOMSON.
I have received your list, my dear Sir, and here go my observations on it.*
: Down the burn Davie. I have this moment tried an alteration, leaving out the last half of the third stanza, and the first half of the last stanza, thus:
As down the burn they took their way,
And thro' the flowery dale;
And love was ay the tale.
* Mr. Thomson's list of songs for his publication. In his remarks the bard proceeds in order, and goes through the whole; but on many of them he merely signifies his approbation. All his remarks of any importance are presented to the reader.
With “ Mary, when shall we return,
Sic pleasure to renew?"
shall follow you."*
Thro' the wood laddie-I am decidedly of opinion, that both in this, and There'll never be peace till Jamie comes hame, the second or high part of the tune being a repetition of the first part an octave higher, is only for instrumental music, and would be much better omitted in singing
Cowden-knowes. Remember in your index that the song in pure English to this tune, beginning,
“ When summer comes, the swains on Tweed,"
is the production of Crawford. Robert was his Christian name.
Laddie lie near me, must lie by me for some time. I do not know the air; and until I am complete master of a tune, in my own singing
* This alteration Mr. Thomson has adopted (or at least intended to adopt), instead of the last stanza of the original song, which is objectionable in point of delicacy. E.
(such as it is), I can never compose for it. My way is: I consider the poetic sentiment correspondent to my idea of the musical expression ; then choose my theme; begin one stanza; when that is composed, which is generally the most difficult part of the business, I walk out, sit down now and then, look out for objects in nature around me that are in unison and harmony with the cogitations of my fancy, and workings of my bosom; humming every now and then the air, with the verses I have framed. When I feel my muse beginning to jade, I retire to the solitary fire-side of my study, and there commit my effusions to paper; swinging at intervals on the hind legs of my elbow-chair, by way of calling forth my own critical strictures, as my pen goes on. Se. riously, this, at home, is almost invariably my way.
What cursed egotism !
Gill Morice, I am for leaving out. It is a plaguy length; the air itself is never sung; and its place can well be supplied by one or two song's for fine airs that are not in your list. For instance, Craigieburn Wood and Roy's Wife. The first, beside its intrinsic merit, has novelty; and the last has high merit as well as great celebrity. I have the original words of a song for the last air, in the hand-writing of the lady who com
posed posed it; and they are superior to any
edition of the song which the public has yet seen.*
Highland-laddie. The old set will please à mere Scotch ear best; and the new an Italianized
There is a third, and what Oswald calls the old Highland-laddie, which pleases me more than either of them. It is sometimes called Ginglan Johnnie ; it being the air of an old humorous tawdry song of that name. You will find it in the Museum, I hae been at Crookieden, &c. I would advise you in this musical quandary, to offer up your prayers to the muses for inspiring direction; and in the mean time, waiting for this direction, bestow a libation to Bacchus; and there is not a doubt but you will hit on a judicious choice. Probatum est.
Auld Sir Simon, I must beg you to leave out, and put in its place The Quaker's Wife.
Blitie hae I been o'er the hill, is one of the finest songs ever I made in my life; and besides, is composed on a young lady, positively the most beautiful, lovely woman in the world. As
* This song, so much admired by our bard, will be found in a future part of the volume, p. 207. E.
I purpose giving you the names and designations of all my heroines, to appear in some future edi- . tion of your work, perhaps half a century hence, you must certainly include The bonniest lass in a' the warld in your collection.
Dainty Davie, I have heard sung, nineteenthousand nine hundred and ninety-nine times, and always with the chorus to the low part of the tune; and nothing has surprised me so much as your opinion on this subject. If it will not suit as I proposed, we will lay two of the stanzas together, and then make the chorus follow.
Fee him Father--I enclose you Frazer's set of
this tune when he plays it slow; in fact he makes it the language of despair. I shall here give you two stanzas, in that style; merely to try if it will be any improvement. Were it possible, in singing, to give it half the pathos which Frazer gives it in playing, "it would make an admirably pathetic song. I do not give these verses for any merit they have. I composed them at the time in which Patie Allan's mither died, that was about the back o' midnight ; and by the lee-side of a bowl of punch, which had overset every mortal in company, except the hautbois and the muse.