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No. LIV.


30th August, 1794. The last evening, as I was straying out, and thinking of, O’er the hills and far away, I spun the following stanza for it; but whether my spinning will deserve to be laid up in store, like the precious thread of the silk-worm, or brushed to the devil, like the vile manufacture of the spider, I leave, my dear Sir, to your usual candid criticism. I was pleased with several lines in it at first : but I own that now it appears rather a flimsy business.

This is just a hasty sketch, until I see whether it be worth a critique. We have many sailor songs, but as far as I at present recollect, they are mostly the effusions of the jovial sailor, not the wailings of his love-lorn mistress. I must here make one sweet exception--Sweet Annie frae the sea-beach came. Now for the: song



Tune-" O'ER THE HILLS,” &c.

How can my poor heart be glad,
When absent from my sailor lad?
How can I the thought forego,
He's on the seas to meet the foe?
Let me wander, let me rove,
Still my heart is with my love;
Nightly dreams and thoughts by day
Are with him that's far away.


On the seas and far away,
On stormy seas and far away;
Nightly dreams and thoughts by day
Are ay with him that's far away.

When in summer's noon I faint,
As weary flocks around me pant,
Haply in this scorching sun
My sailor's thund’ring at his gun:
Bullets, spare my only joy !
Bullets, spare my darling boy!


Fate do with me what you may,
Spare but him that's far


! On the seas, &c.i..

At the starless midnight hour,
When winter rules with boundless power;
As the storms the forest tear,
And thunders rend the howling air,
Listening to the doubling roar,
Surging on the rocky shore,
All I can-I weep and pray,
For his weal that's far away. .

On the seas, &c.

Peace, thy olive wand extend,
And bid wild war his ravage end,
Man with brother man to meet,
And as a brother kindly greet:
Then may heaven with prosperous gales,
Fill my sailor's welcome sails,
To my arms their charge convey,
My dear lad that's far away.

On the seas, &c.

I give you leave to abuse this song, but do it in the spirit of christian meekness.

No. No. LV.


Edinburgh, 16th Sept. 1794.


You have anticipated my opinion of On the seas and far away; I do not think it one of your very happy productions, though it certainly contains stanzas that are worthy of all acceptation.

The second is the least to my liking, particularly, “ Bullets, spare my only joy." Confound the bullets! It might, perhaps, be objected to the third verse, “ At the starless midnight hour," that it has too much grandeur of imagery, and that greater simplicity of thought would have better suited the character of a sailor's sweetheart. The tune, it must be remembered, is of the brisk, cheerful kind. Upon the whole, therefore, in my humble opinion, the song would be better adapted to the tune, if it consisted only of the first and last verses, with the chorusses.


No. LVI.


Sept. 1794. I SHALL withdraw my, On the seas and far away, altogether: it is unequal, and unworthy the work. Making a poem is like begetting a son: you cannot know whether you have a wise man or a fool, until you produce him to the world to try him.

For that reason I send you the offspring of my brain, abortions and all; and, as such, pray look over them, and forgive them, and burn them.* I am flattered at your adopting Ca'


* This Virgilian order of the poet should, I think, be disobeyed with respect to the song in question, the second stanza excepted. Note by Mr. Thomson.

Doctors differ. The objection to the second stanza does not strike the Editor.


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