« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
agree with you, that there may be something of pathos, or tenderness at least, in the air of Fee him, Father, when performed with feeling: but a tender cast may be given almost to any lively air, if you sing it very slowly, expressively, and with serious words. I am, however, clearly and invariably for retaining the cheerful tunes joined to their own humorous verses, wherever the verses are passa. ble. But the sweet song for Fee him, Father, which you began about the back of midnight, I will pubJish as an additional one, Mr. James Balfour, the king of good fellows, and the best singer of the lively Scottish ballads that ever existed, has charmed thousands of companies with Fee him, Father, and with Todlin hame also, to the old words, which never should be disunited from either of these airs. Some bacchanals I would wish to discard. Fy, let's a' to the bridal, for instance, is so coarse and vulgar, that I think it fit only to be sung in a company of drunken colliers ; and Saw ye my Father, appears to me both indelicate and silly.
One word more with regard to your heroic ode. I think, with great deferrence to the poet, that a prudent general would avoid saying any thing to his soldiers which might tend to make death more frightful than it is. Gory, presents a disagreeable image to the mind ; and to tell them, “ Welcome to your gory bed," seems rather a discouraging address, notwithstanding the alternative which forlows. I have shewn the song to three friends of excellent taste, and each of them objected to this line, which emboldens me to use the freedom of bringing it again under your notice. I would sug. gest,
“Now prepare for honour's bed,
Mr. BURNS to Mr. THOMSON.
September, 1793. 6 Who shall decide, when doctors disagree?” My ode pleases me so much that I cannot alter it. Your proposed alterations would, in my opinion, make it tame, I am exceedingly obliged to you for putting me on reconsidering it; as I think I have much improved it. Instead of " soger! hero !" I will have it “ Caledonian ! on wi' me !" I have scrutinized it, over and over ; and to the
. world some way or other it shall go as it is. At the same time it will not in the least hurt me, should you leave it out altogether, and adhere to your first intention of adopting Logan's verses *.
Mr. Thomson has very properly adopted this song (if it may be so called) as the bard presented it to him. He has attached it to the air of Lewie Gordon, and perhaps among the existing airs he could not find a better; but the poetry is suited to a much higher strain of music, and may employ the genius of some Scottish Handel, if any such should in future arise. The reader will have observed, that Burns adopted the alterations proposed by his friend and correspondent in former instances, with great readiness ; perhaps, indeed, on all indifferent occasions. In the present instance, however, he rejected them, though repeatedly urged, with determined resolution. With every respect for the judgment of Mr. Thomson and his friends, we may be satisfied that he did so. He who, in preparing for an engagement, attempts to withdraw his imagination from images of death, will probably have but imperfect success, and is not fitted to stand in the ranks of battle, where the liberties of a kingdom are at issue.
Of such men, the conquerors at Bannock-burn were not composed. Bruce's troops were inured to war, and I have finished my song to Saw ye my father, and in English, as you will see. That there is a syllable too much for the expression of the air, is
familiar with all its sufferings and dangers. On the eve of that memorable day, their spirits were, without doubt, wound up to a pitch of enthusiasm suited to the occasion ; a pitch of enthusiasm, at which danger becomes attractive, and the most terrific forms of death are no longer terrible. Such a strain of sentiment, this heroic “ welcome” may be supposed well calculated to elevate-to raise their hearts high above fear, and to nerve their arms to the utmost pitch of mortal exertion. These observations might be illustrated and supported, by a reference to the martial poetry of all nations, from the spirit-stirring strains of Tyrtæus, to the war-song of general Wolfe. Mr. Thomson's observation, that “ Welcome to your gory-bed, is a dis. couraging address," seems not sufficiently considered. Perhaps, indeed, it may be admitted, that the term gory, is somewhat objectionable, not on account of its presenting a frightful, but a disagreeable image to the mind. But a great poet, uttering his conceptions on an interesting occasion, seeks always to present a picture that is vivid, and is uniformly disposed to sacrifice the delicacies of taste on the altar of the imagination. And it is the privilege of superior genius, by producing a new association, to elevate expressions that were originally low, and thus to triumph over the deficiencies of language. In how many instances might this be exemplified from the works of our immortal Shakespeare ?
“ Who would fardels bear,
It were easy to enlarge, but to suggest such reflections, is probably sufficient. E.
true ; but, allow me to say, that the mere dividing of a dotted crotchet into a crotchet and a quaver, is not a great matter: however, in that, I have no pretensions to cope in judgment with you. Of the poetry I speak with confidence; but the music is a business where I hint my ideas with the utmost diffidence.
The old verses have merit, though unequal, and are popular: my advice is to set the air to the old words, and let mine follow as English verses. Here they are
See page 80.
Tune-“ Saw ye my Father.”
Where are the joys I have met in the morning,
That danc'd to the lark's early song?
At evening the wild-woods among?
No more a winding the course of yon river,
And marking sweet flowrets so fair;
But sorrow and sad-sighing care.
Is it that summer's forsaken our valleys,
And grim, surly winter is near ?
Proclaim it the pride of the year.
Fain would I hide, what I fear to discover,
Yet long, long too well have I known ; All that has caused this wreek in my bosom,
Is Jenny, fair Jenny alone.
Time cannot aid me, my griefs are immortal,
Nor hope dare a comfort bestow;
Enjoyment I'll seek in my woe.
Adieu, my dear sir! The post goes, so I shall defer some other remarks until more leisure,
Mr. BURNS to Mr. THOMSON.
September, 1793. I have been turning over some volumes of songs, to find verses whose measures would suit the airs for which you have allotted me to find English songs.
For Muirland Willie you have, in Ramsay's Tea-table, an excellent song, beginning " Ah, Why those tears in Nelly's eyes." As for The Colo lier's dochter, take the following old Bacchanal.
* Deluded swain, the pleasure
The fickle fair can give thee,
Thy hopes will soon deceive thee.
The billows on the ocean,
The breezes idly roaming,
They are but types of woman.
O! art thou not ashamed,
To doât upon a feature ?
Despise the silly creature.
Go find an honest fellow;
Good claret set before thee;
And then to bed in glory.
The faulty line in Logan-water, I mend thus :