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Fairest maid on Devon banks,
Chrystal Devon, winding Devon,
And smile as thou were wont to do?
Full well thou knowest I love thee dear;
Fairest maid, 6'c.
Then come, thou fairest of the fair,
Fairest maid, &c.*
* These verses, and the letter enclosing them, are written in a character that marks the feeble state of Burns' bodily strength. Mr. Syme is of opinion that he could not have been in any danger of a jail at Dumfries, where certainly he had many firm friends, nor under any such necessity of imploring aid from Edinburgh. But, about this time, his reason began to be at times unsettled, and the horrors of a jail perpetually haunted his imagination. He died on the 21st of this month.
Mr. THOMSON to Mr. BURNS.
My dear sir,
14th July, 1796. Ever since I received your melancholy letter by Mrs. Hyslop, I have been ruminating in what manner I could endeavour to alleviate your suffer. ings. Again and again I thought of a pecuniary offer, but the recollection of one of your letters on this subject, and the fear of offending your independent spirit, checked my resolution. I thank you heartily, therefore, for the frankness of your letter of the 12th, and with great pleasure inclose a draft for the very suin I proposed sending Would I were chancellor of the exchequer but for one day, for your sake!
Pray, my good sir, is it not possible for you to muster a volume of poetry? If too much trouble to you in the present state of your health, some literary friend might be found here who would select and arrange from your manuscripts, and take upon him the task of editor. In the mean time it could be advertised to be published by subscription. Do not shun this mode of obtaining the value of your labour; remember Pope published the Iliad by subscription. Think of this, my dear Burns, and do not reckon me intrusive with my advice. You are too well convinced of the respect and friendship I bear you, to impute any thing I say to an unworthy motive. Yours faithfully.
The verses to Rothemuirche will answer finely. I am happy to see you can still tune your lyre.
IN the beginning of the year 1787, another work had commenced at Edinburgh, entitled, The Scots Musical Museum, conducted by Mr. James Johnson ; the object of which was to unite the songs and the music of Scotland in one general collection. The first volume of this work appeared in May, 1787, when our poet was in Edinburgh; and in it appeared one of his printed songs, to the tune of Green grow the rashes, beginning “ There's nought but care on every hand.” He appears also to have furnished from his MSS. the last song in that volume, which was an early production, and not thought by himself, worthy of a place in his works. The second volume appeared in the spring of 1788, and contained several original songs of Burns : who also contributed liberally to the third, fourth, and fifth volumes, the last of which did not appear till after his death. In his communications to Mr. Jobnson, to which his name was not in general affixed, our bard was less careful than in his compositions for the greater work of Mr. Thomson, Several of them he never intended to acknowledge, and others, printed in the Museum, were found somewhat altered afterwards among his manuscripts. In the selection which follows, attention has been paid to the wishes of the author as far as they are known.
The printed songs have been compared with the MSS. and the last corrections have been uniformly inserted. The reader will probably think many of the songs which follow, among the finest productions of his muse.
STAY, MY CHARMER, CAN YOU LEAVE
Tune" An Gille dubh ciar dhubh."
Stay, my charmer, can you leave me ?
Cruel charmer, can you go!
By my love so ill requited;
Do not, do not leave me so !
Thickest night o'erhang my dwelling!
Howling tempests o'er me rave! Turbid torrents, wintry swelling,
Still surround my lonely cave !
Crystal streamlets gently flowing,
Busy haunts of base mankind, Western breezes softly blowing,
Suit not my distracted mind.
In the cause of right engaged,
Wrongs injurious to redress, Honour's war we strongly waged,
But the heavens deny'd success.
Ruin's wheel has driven o'er us,
Not a hope that dare attend, The wide world is all before us
But a world without a friend* !
Strathällan, it is presumed, was one of the fol. Rowers of the young chevalier, and is supposed to