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in my opinion, make it tame. I am exceedingly obliged to you for putting me on reconsidering it; as I think I have much improved it.
I Instead of "soger ! hero!” I will have it “ Ca“ ledonian ! on wi' me!”
I have scrutinized it over and over; and to the world some way or other it shall go as it is. At the same time it will not in the least hurt me, should you leave it out altogether, and adhere to your first intention of adopting Logan's verses. *
* Mr. Thomson has very properly adopted this song (if it may be so called) as the bard presented it to him. He has attached it to the air of Lewie Gordon, and perhaps among the existing airs he could not find a better ; but the poetry is suited to a much higher strain of music, and may employ the genius of some Scottish Handel, if any such should in future arise. The reader will have observed, that Burns adopted the alterations proposed by his friend and correspondent in former instances, with great readiness ; perhaps, indeed, on all ,
, indifferent occasions. In the present instance, however, he rejected them, though repeatedly urged, with determined resolution. With every respect for the judgment of Mr. Thomson and his friends, we may be satisfied that he did so. He who in preparing for an engagement, attempts to withdraw his imagination from I have finished my song to Saw ye my Father ? and in English, as you will see. That there is a syllable too much for the expression of the air, is true; but, allow me to say, that the mere dividing of a dotted crotchet into a crotchet and a quaver, is not a great matter: however, in that I have no pretensions to cope in judgment with you. Of the poetry I speak with confidence; but the music is a business where I hint my
images of death, will probably have but imperfect success, and is not fitted to stand in the ranks of battle, where the liberties of a kingdom are at issue. Of such men the conquerors of Bannock-Burn were not composed. Bruce's troops were inured to war, and familiar with all its sufferings and dangers. On the eve of that memorable day, their spirits were without doubt wound up to a pitch of enthusiasm suited to the occasion : a pitch of enthusiasm at which danger becomes attractive, and the most terrific forms of death are no longer terrible. Such a strain of sentiment, this heroic “ welcome” may be supposed well calculated to elevate—to raise their hearts high above fear, and to nerve their arms to the utmost pitch of mortal exertion. These observations might be illustrated and supported by a reference to the martial poetry of all nations, from the spirit-stirring strains of Tyrtæus, to the war-song of General Wolfe. Mr. Thomson's observation, that “ Welcome to your gory bed, is a discouraging address," seems not sufficiently considered. Perhaps, indeed, it may be admitted, that the term gory is somewhat objectionable, not on account of its presenting a frightful, but a disagreeable image to the mind. But a great poet, uttering his conceptions on an interesting occasion, seeks always to present a picture that is vivid, and is uniformly disposed to sacrifice the delicacies of taste
ideas with the utmost diffidence.
The old verses have merit, though unequal, and are popular : my advice is to set the air to the old words, and let mine follow as English verses. Here they are
on the altar of the imagination. And it is the privilege of superior genius, by producing a new association, to elevate expressions that were originally low, and thus to triumph over the deficiencies of language. In how many instances might this be exemplified from the works of our immortal Shakespeare.
“ Who would fardels bear,
It were easy to enlarge, but to suggest such reflections is probably sufficient.
See p. 121.
Tune- SAW YE MY FATHER?”
WHERE are the joys I have met in the morning,
That danc'd to the lark's early song? Where is the peace that awaited my wand'ring,
At evening the wild woods among ?
No more a-winding the course of yon river,
And marking sweet flow'rets so fair : No more I trace the light footsteps of pleasure,
But sorrow and sad sighing care.
Is it that summer's forsaken our valleys,
And grim surly winter is near? No, no, the bees humming round the gay roses,
Proclaim it the pride of the year.
Fain would I hide what I fear to discover,
Yet long, long too well have I known,
Is Jenny, fair Jenny alone.
Time cannot aid me, my griefs are immortal,
Nor hope dare a comfort bestow : Come then, enamour'd and fond of
my anguish, Enjoyment I'll seek in my woe,
Adieu, my dear Sir! The post goes, so I shall defer some other remarks until more leisure.
MR. BURNS to MR. THOMSON.
September, 1793. I have been turning over some volumes of songs, to find verses whose measures would suit the airs for which you have allotted me to find English songs.
For Muirland Willie, you have, in Ramsay's Tea-table, an excellent song, beginning, “ Ah