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DUET OF PHILLY AND WILLY.'
MR THOMSON TO BURNS.
15th November 174. MY GOOD SIR-Since receiving your last, I have had another interview with Mr Clarke, and a long consi cation. 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; ard 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 Rothemurchie 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. Your song for My Lodging is on the cold Ground, is likewise a diamond of the firstwater: 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 scarcely 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 melancholy English verses! The more that the two sets of verses resemble each other in their general character, the better. Those you have manufactured for Dainty Davie will answer charmingly. I am happy to find you have begun your anecdotes : I care not how long they be, for it is impossible that anything from your pen can be tedious. Let me beseech you not to use ceremony in telling me when you wish to present any of your friends with the songs : the next carrier will bring you three copies, and you are as welcome to twenty as to a pinch of snuff.
BURNS TO MR. THOMSON.
19th November 1794. You see, my dear sir, what a punctual correspondent I am; though, indeed, you may thank yourself for the tedium of my letters, as you have so Aattered me on my horsemanship with my favourite hobby, and have praised the grace of his ambling so much, that I am scarcely ever off his back. For instance, this morning, though a keen blow. ing frost, in my walk before breakfast, I finished my duet, which you were pleased to praise so much. Whether I have uniformly succeeded, I will not say; but here it is for you, though it is not an hour old.
PHILLY AND WILLY.
TUNE-The Soro's Tail.
O Philly, happy be that day,
And by thy charms, my Philly.
O Willy, aye I bless the grove
To be my ain dear Willy.
As songsters of the early year
And charming is my Philly.
As on the brier the budding rose
The love I bear my Willy.
The milder sun and bluer sky,
As is a sight o' Philly.
The little swallow's wanton wing,
As meeting o' my Willy.
The bee that through the sunny hour
Upon the lips o' Philly.
Tell me honestly how you like it, and point out whatever you think faulty.
I am much pleased with your idea of singing our songs in alternate stanzas, and regret that you did not hint it to me sooner. In those that remain, I shall have it in my eye. I remember your objections to the name Philly, but it is the common abbreviation of Phillis. Sally, the only other name that suits, has, to my ear, a vulgarity about it, which unfits it for anything except burlesque. The legion of Scottish poetasters of the day, whom your brother-editor, Mr Ritson, ranks with me as my coevals, have always mistaken vulgarity for simplicity; whereas, simplicity is as much eloignée from vulgarity on the one hand, as froň affected point and puerile conceit on the other. I agree
with you as to the air, Craigieburn Wood, that a chorus would in some degree spoil the effect, and shall certainly have none in my projected song to it. It is not, however, a case in point with Rothemurchie; there, as in Roy's Wife of Aldivalloch, a chorus goes, to my taste, well enough. As to the chorus going first, that is the case with Roy's Wife, as well as Rothemurchie. In fact, in the first part of both tunes, the rhythm is so peculiar and irregular, and on that irregularity depends so much of their beauty, that we must e'en take them with all their wildness, and humour the verse accordingly. Leaving out the starting-note in both tunes, has, I think, an effect that no regularity could counterbalance the want of.
O Roy's wife of Aldivalloch. compare with,
| Roy's wife of Aldivalloch.
Lassie wi' the lint-white locks. Does not the tameness of the prefixed syllable strike you ! In the
O lassie wi' the lint-white locks.
last case, with the true furor of genius, you strike at once into the wild originality of the air ; whereas, in the first insipid method, it is like the grating screw of the pins before the fiddle is brought into tune. This is my taste; if I am wrong, I beg pardon of the cognoscenti.
The Caledonian Hunt is so charming, that it would make any subject in a song go down; but pathos is certainly its native tongue. Scottish bacchanalians we certainly want, though the few we have are excellent. For instance, Todlin Hame is, for wit and Irumour, an unparalleled composition; and Andrew and his cutty Gun is the work of a master. By the way, are you not quite vexed to think that those men of genius, for such they certainly were, who composed our fine Scottish lyrics, should be unknown ? It has given me many a heartache. Apropos to bacchanalian songs in Scottish, I composed one yesterday, for an air I like much-Lumps o' Pudding.
CONTENTED WI' LITTLE.
TUNE-Lumps o' Pudding.
Contented wi' little, and cantie wi’ mair,
I whiles claw the elbow o' troublesome thought;
A towmond o' trouble, should that be my fa',
Blind Chance, let her snapper and stoyte on her way;
If you do not relish this air, I will send it to Johnson
Since yesterday's penmanship, I have framed a couple of English stanzas, by way of an English song to Roy's Wife. You will allow me, that in this instance my English corresponds in sentiment with the Scottish.
DESCRIPTION OF THE STOCK AND HORN.
CANST THOU LEAVE ME THUS, MY KATY?
Canst thou leave me thus, my Katy?
And canst thou leave me thus for pity ?
Thus cruelly to part, my Katy?
An aching, broken heart, my Katy?
That fickle heart of thine, my Katy!
But not a love like mine, my Katy.
Well! I think this, to be done in two or three turns across my room, and with two or three pinches of Irish Blackguard, is not so far amiss. You see I am determined to have my quantum of applause from somebody.
Tell my friend Allan--for I am sure that we only want the trifling circumstance of being known to one another, to be the best friends on earth—that I much suspect he has, in his plates, mistaken the figure of the stock and horn. I have, at last, gotten one, but it is a very rude instrument. It is composed of three parts : the stock, which is the hinder thigh-bone of a sheep, such as you see in a mutton ham ; the horn, which is a common Highland cow's horn, cut off at the smaller end, until the aperture be large enough to admit the stock to be pushed up through the horn until it be held by the thicker end of the thigh-bone; and lastly, an oaten-reed, exactly cut and notched like that which you see every shepherd-boy have when the corn-stems are green and full-grown. The reed is not made fast in the bone, but is held by the lips, and plays loose in the smaller end of the stock ; while the stock, with the horn hanging on its larger end, is held by the hands in playing. The stock has six or seven ventages on the upper side, and one back-ventage, like the common flute. This of mine was made by a man from the braes of Athole, and is exactly what the shepherds wont to use in that country.
However, either it is not quite properly bored in the holes, or else we have not the art of blowing it rightly; for we can make little of it. If Mr Allan chooses, I will send him a sight of mine, as I look on myself to be a kind of brother-brush with him. • Pride in poets is nae sin ;' and I will say it, that I look on Mr Allan and Mr Burns to be the only genuine and real painters of Scottish costume in the world.