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Mr. BURNS to Mr. THOMSON.
1793. Your objection, my dear sir, to the passages in my song of Logan-water, is right in one instance ; but it is difficult to mend it: if I can, I will. The other passage you object to, does not appear in the same light to me.
I have tried my hand on Robin Adair, and, you will probably think, with little success; but it is such a cursed, cramp, out-of-the-way measure, that !-despair of doing any thing better to it.
PHILLIS THE FAIR.
Tunes" Robin Adair."
While larks with little wing,
Fann'd the pure air,
Forth I did fare;
Phillis the fair.
In each bird's careless song,
Glad I did share ;
Chance led me there :
Phillis the fair.
Down in a shady walk,
Doves cooing were,
I mark'd the cruel hawk
Caught in a snare:
Phillis the fair!
So much for namby-pamby. I may, after all, try my hand on it in Scots verse. There I always find myself most at home.
I kave just put the last hand to the song I meant for Cauld Kail in Aberdeen. If it suits you to insert it, I shall be pleased, as the heroine is a favourite of mine: if not, I shall also be pleased ; because I wish, and will be glad, to see you act decidedly on the business*. 'Tis a tribute as a man of taste, and as an editor, which you owe yourself.
Mr. THOMSON to Mr. BURNS.
My good sir,
August, 1793. I consider it one of the most agreeable circumstances attending this publication of mine, that it has procured me so many of your much valued epistles. Pray make my acknowledgments to St. Stephen for the tunes : tell him I admit the justness of his complaint on my stair-case, conveyed in his laconic postscript to your jeu d'esprit ; which I perused more than once, without discovering exactly whether your discussion was music, astronomy, or politics: though a sagacious friend, ac quainted with the convivial babits of the poet and the musician, offered me a bet of two to one, you were just drowning care together ; that an empty
* The song herewith sent, is that in p. 23 of this volume. E.
bowl was the only thing that would deeply affect you, and the only matter you could then study how to remedy !
I shall be glad to see you give Robin Adair a Scottish dress. Peter is furnishing him with an English suit for a change, and you are well matched together.
Robin's air is excellent, though he certainly has an out of the way measure as ever poor Parnassian wight was plagued with: I wish you would invoke the muse for a single elegant stanza to be substituted for the concluding objectionable verses of Down the Burn Davie, so that this most exquisite song may no longer be exclu. ded from good company.
Mr. Allan has made an inimitable drawing from your John Anderson my Jo, which I am to have engraved as a frontispiece to the humorous class of songs ; you will be quite charmed with it, I pro
The old couple are seated by the fireside. Mrs. Anderson in great good humour is clapping Jolin's shoulders, while he smiles and looks at her with such glee, as tu shew that he fully recollects the pleasant days and nights when they were first acquent. The drawing would do honour to the pencil of Teniers.
Mr. BURNS to Mr, THOMSON.
August, 1793. That crinkum-crankum tune, Robin Adair, has run so in my head, and I succeeded so ill in my last attempt, that I have ventured, in this morning's walk, one essay more. You, my dear sir, will remember an unfortunate part of our worthy friend C.'s story, which happened about three years ago. That struck my fancy, and I endeavoured to do the idea justice as follows.
Had I a cave on some wild, distant shore,
Ne'er to wake more,
Falsest of womankind, canst thou declare,
What peace is there!
By the way, I have met with a musical Highlander, in Breadalbane's Fencibles, wbich are quartered here, who assures me that he well remembers his mother's singing Gaelic songs to both Robin Adair and Gramachree. They certainly have more of the Scotch than Irish taste in theni.
This man comes from the vicinity of Inverness ; so it could not be any intercourse with Ireland, that could bring them ;-except, what I shrewdly suspect to be the case, the 'wandering minstrels, harpers, and pipers, used to go frequently errant through the wilds both of Scotland and Ireland, and so
some favourite airs might be common to both.-A case in point-They have lately, in Ireland, published an Irish air, as they say called Caun du delish. The fact is, in a publication of Corri's a great while ago, you will find the same air called a Highland one, with a Gaelic song-set
Its name there, I think, is Oran Gaoil, and a fine air it is. Do ask honest Allan, or the Rev. Gaelic parson, about these matters.
Mr. BURNS to Mr. THOMSON.
My dear sir,
August, 1793. Let me in this ae night, I will reconsider. I am glad that you are pleased with my song, Had I a cave, &c, as I liked it myself.
I walked out yesterday evening with a volume of the Museum in my hand; when turning up Ale lan Water, “What numbers shall the muse repeat, &c." as the words appeared to me rather unworthy of so fine an air; and recollecting that it is on your list, I sat, and raved, under the shade of an old thorn, 'till I wrote one to suit the measure. I may be wrong ; but I think it not in my worst style, You inust know, that in Ramsay's Tea-table, where the modern song first appeared, the ancient name of the tune, Allan says, is Allan Water, or My love Annie's very bonie. This last has certainly been a line of the original song; so I took up the idea, and, as you will see, have introduced the line in its place, which I presume it formerly occupied ; though I likewise give you a chusing line, if it should not hit the cut of your fancy.
By Allan-stream I chanc'd to rove,
While Phobus sank beyond Benleddi* ; The winds were whispering thro' the grove,
The yellow corn was waving ready: I listen'd to a lover's sang,
And thought on youthfu' pleasures mony; And aye the wild-wood echoes rang
O dearly do I loe thee, Anniet.
* A mountain west of Strath-Allan, 3009 feet high. R. B.
+ Or, “O my love Annie's very bonie." R. B.