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Now nature cleeds the flowery lea,
Lassie wi', dc.
And when the welcome simmer-shower
Lassie wi', &C.
When Cynthia lights, wi' silver ray,
Lassie wi', &c.
And when the howling wintry blast
I'll comfort thee, my dearie O*.
Lassie wi' the lint-white locks,
Bonnie lassie, artless lassie,
Wilt thou be my dearie 0 ?
This piece has at least the merit of being a re. gular pastoral : the vernal morn, the summer noon, the autumnal evening, and the winter night, are regularly rounded. If
you like it, well : if not I will insert it in the Museum.
In some of the MSS. this stanza runs thus:
And should the howling wintry blast
And comfort thee, my dearie O.
I am out of temper that you should set so sweet, so tender an air, as Deil tak the wars, to the foolish old verses. You talk of the silliness of Saw ye my father : by heavens, the odds is, gold to brass! Besides, the old song, though now pretty well mo dernized into the Scottish language, is, originally, and in the early editions, a bungling low imitation of the Scottish manner, by that genius Tom D'Urfey; so has no pretensions to be a Scottish produce tion. There is a pretty English song by Sheridan in the Duenna, to this air, which is out of sight superior to D'Urfey's. It begins,
- When sable night each drooping plant restoring."
The air, if I understand the expression of it properly, is the very native language of simplicity, tenderness, and love. I have again gone over my song to the tune as follows*,
Now for my English song to Nancy's to the Greenwood, uc
Farewell, thou stream that winding flows
Around Eliza's dwelling!
Within my bosom swelling:
And yet in secret languish, To feel a fire in every vein,
Nor dare disclose my anguishi.
Love's veriest wretch, unseen, unknown,
I fain my griefs would cover :
* See the song in its first and best dress, in page 118. Our bard remarks upon it " I could easily throw this into an English mould, but
to my taste, in the simple and the tender of the pastoral song, a sprinkling of the old Scottish has an in imitable effect,"
The bursting sigh, th' unweeting groan,
Betray the hapless lover.
Nor wilt, nor canst relieve me ;
For pity's sake forgive me.
The music of thy voice I heard,
Nor wist while it enslaved me;
'Till fears no more had sav'd me, The unwary sailor thus aghast,
The wheeling torrent viewing; Mid circling horrors sinks at last
In overwhelming ruin.
There is an air, The Caledonian hunt's delight, to which I wrote a song that you will find in Johnson. ne banks and braes o bonie Doon; this air, I think, might find a place among your hundred, as Lear says of his knights. Do you know the history of the air? It is curious enough. A good many years ago, Mr. James Miller, writer in your good town, a gentleman whom possibly you know, was in company with our friend Clarke ; and talking of Scottish music, Miller expressed an ardent ambition to be able to compose a Scots air. Mr. Clarke, partly by way of joke, told him to keep to the black keys of the harpsichord, and preserve some kind of rythm ; and he would infallibly compose a Scots air. Certain it is, that in a few days Mr. Miller produced the rudiments of an air, which Mr. Clarke with some touches and corrections, fashioned into the tune in question. Ritson, you know, has the same story of the black keys ; but this account which I have just given you, Mr. Clarke informed me of, several years ago. Now, to show you how difficult it is to trace the origin of our airs, I have heard it repeatedly asserted that this was an Irish air ; nay, I met with
an Irish gentleman who affirmed he had heard it in Ireland among the old women ; while, on the other hand, a countess informed me, that the first person who introduced the air into this country, was a baronet's lady of her acquaintance, who took down the notes from an itinerant piper in the Isle of Man, How difficult then to ascertain the truth, respecting our poesy and music! I, myself, have lately seen a couple of ballads sung through the streets of Dumfries, with my name at the head of them as the author, though it was the first time I had ever seen them.
I thank you for admitting Craigie-burn-wood ; and I shall take care to furnish you with a new chorus. In fact, the chorus was not my work, but a part of some old verses to the air. If I can catch myself in a more than ordinarily propitious moment, I shall write a new Craigie-burn-wood altogether. My heart is much in the theme.
I am ashamed, my dear fellow, to make the request; 'tis dunning your generosity; but in a moment, when I had forgotten whether I was rich or poor, I promised Chloris a copy of your songs. It vrings my honest pride to write you this ; but an ungracious request is doubly so, by a tedious apo. logy. To make you some amends, as soon as I have extracted the necessary information out of them, I will return you Ritson's volumes.
The lady is not a little proud that she is to make so distinguished a figure in your collection, and I am not a little proud that I have it in my power to please her so much. Lucky it is for your patience that my paper is done, for when I am in a scribbling bumour, I know not when to give over,
Mr. THOMSON to Mr. BURNS.
My good sir,
15th November, 1794. Since receiving your last, I have had another interview with Mr. Clarke, and a long consultation. He thinks the Caledonian hunt is more Bacchanalian than amorous in its nature, and recommends it to you to match the air accordingly. Pray did it ever occur to you how peculiarly well the Scottish airs are adapted for verses in the form of a dialogue ? The first part of the air is generally low, and suited for a man's voice ; and the second part, in many instances, cannot be sung, at concert pitch, but by a female voice. A song thus performed makes an agreeable variety, but few of ours are written in this form : I wish you would think of it in some of those that remain. The only one of the kind you have sent me is admirable, and will be a universal favourite.
Your verses for Rothemurche are so sweetly pastoral, and your serenade to Chloris, for Deil tak the wars, so passionately tender, that I have sung myself into raptures with them. for My lodging is on the cold ground, is likewise a diamond of the first water; I am quite dazzled and delighted by it. Some of your Chlorises I
suppose have flaxen hair, from your partiality for this colour; else we differ about it; for I should scarce. ly conceive a woman to be a beauty, on reading that she had lint-white locks!
Farewell thou stream that winding flows, I think excellent, but it is much too serious to come after Nancy : at least it would seem an incongruity to provide the same air with merry Scottish and me. lancholy English verses ! The more that the two sets of verses resemble each other in their general character, the better. Those you have manufactured for Daintie Davy, will answer charmingly. I am happy to find you have begun your anec