Page images
PDF
EPUB

No. LII.

Mr. BURNS to Mr. THOMSON.

July, 1794, Is there no news yet of Pleyel? Or is your work to be at a dead stop, until the allies set our modern Orpheus at liberty from the savage thraldom of democratic discords ! Alas the day! And woe is me! That auspicious period, pregnant with the happiness of millionst

I have presented a copy of your songs to the daughter of a much-valued, and much-honoured friend of mine, Mr. Grabam of Fintray. I wrote, on the blank side of the title page, the following address to the young lady.

Here, where the Scottish muse immortal lives,

In secret strains and tuneful numbers join'd, Accept the gift; tho' humble he who gives,

Ricl. is the tribute of the grateful mind.

So may no ruffiant feeling in thy breast,

Discordant jar thy bosom-chords among; But peace attune thy gentle soul to rest,

Or love extatic wake his seraph song.

Or pity's notes, in luxury of tears,

As modest want the tale of woe reveals ; While conscious virtue all the strain endears,

And heaven-born piety her sanction seals.

+ A portion of this letter has been left out, for reasons that will be easily imagined. E.

| It were to have been wished that, instead of ruffian feeling, the bard had used a less rugged epithet, e. g. ruder, E.

NO. LIII.

Mr. THOMSON to Mr. BURNS.

My dear sir, Edinburgh, 10th August, 1794.

I owe you an apology for having so long delayed to acknowledge the favour of your last. I fear it will be as you say, I shall have no more songs from Plegel till France and we are friends; but nevertheless, I am very desirous to be prepared with the poetry, aud as the season approaches in which your muse of Coila visits you, I trust I shall as formerly be frequently gratified with the result of your amorous and tender interviews.

No. LIV. "

Mr. BURNS to Mr, THOMSON.

30th August, 1794. The last evening, as I was straying out, and think. ing 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.

ON THE SEAS AND FAR AWAY.

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.

CHORUS.

On the scas and far away,
On stormy seas and far away ;
Nightly dreams and thoughts by day
Are aye 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 iny darling boy!
Fate, do with me what you may,
Spare but him that's far away!

On the seas, &c.

At the starless midnight hour,
When winter rules with boundless powers
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, o'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 prosp'rous 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. LV.

Mr. THOMSON to Mr. BURNS.

My dear sir,

Edinburgh, 10th 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 choruses.

No. LVI.

Mr. BURNS to Mr. THOMSON.

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 and 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'the yowes to the knowes, as it was owing to me that it ever saw the Yight. About seven years ago I was well quainted with a worthy little fellow of a clergy. man, a Mr. Clunie, who sung it charmingly; and, at my request, Mr. Clarke took it down from his singing. When I gave it to Johnson, I added some stanzas to the song, and mended others, but still it will not do for you. In a solitary stroll which I took to-day, I tried my hand on a few pas. toral lines, following up the idea of the chorus, which I would preserve. Here it is, with all its crudities and imperfections on its head.

ac

CHORUS.

Ca' the yowes to the knowes,
Ca them whare the heather growes,
Ca' them whare the burnie r'owes,

My bonie dearie.

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

Doctors differ. The objetion to the second stanza dots not strike the editor, E.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »