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OBSERVATIONS ON A LIST OF SONGS.

35

BURNS TO MR THOMSON.

Sept. 179. I HAVE received your list, my dear sir, and here go my observa tions on it.

Down the Burn, Davie I have this moment tried an alteration, leaving out the last half of the third stanza, and the first half of the last stanza; thus :

As down the burn they took their way,

And through the flowery dale ;
His cheek to hers he aft did lay,

And love was aye the tale.

With Mary, when shall we return,

Sic pleasure to renew ?'
Quoth Mary: ‘Love, I like the burn,
And
aye

shall follow you??

Through the Wood, Laddie- I am decidedly of opinion that both in this, and There'll never be Peace till Jamie comes Hame, the second or high part of the tune being a repetition of the first part an octave higher, is only for instrumental music, and would be much better omitted in singing.

Cowden-knowes—Remember in your index, that the song in pure English to this tune, beginning

. When summer comes, the swains on Tweed,' is the production of Crawford. Robert was his Christian name.

Laddie, lie near me, must lie by me for some time. I do not know the air; and until I am complete master of a tune, in my own singing (such as it is), I can never compose for it. My way is : I consider the poetic sentiment correspondent to my idea of the musical expression; then choose my theme; begin one stanza: when that is composed, which is generally the most difficult part of the business, I walk out, sit down now and then, look out for objects in nature around me that are in unison and harmony with the cogitations of my fancy, and workings of my bosom; humming every now and then the air with the verses I have framed. When I feel my Muse beginning to jade, I retire to the solitary fireside of my study, and there commit my effusions to paper ; swinging at intervals on the hind-legs of my elbow-chair, by way of calling forth my own critical strictures as my pen goes on. Seriously, this, at home, is almost invariably my way.

1 Mr Thomson's list of songs for his publication. In his remarks, the bard proceeds in order, and goes through the whole; but on many of them he merely signifies his approbation. All his remarks of any importance are presented to the reader. CURRIE.

2 This alteration Mr Thomson has adopted (or at least intended to adopt), instead of the last stanza of the original song, which is objectionable in point of delicacy. CURRIR.

What cursed egotism !

Gill Morice I am for leaving out. It is a plaguy length ; the air itself is never sung ; and its place can well be supplied by one or two songs for fine airs that are not in your list, for instan Craigieburn Wood and Roy's Wife. The first, beside its intrinsic merit, has novelty; and the last has high merit, as well as great celebrity. I have the original words of a song for the last air, in the handwriting of the lady who composed it; and they are superior to any edition of the song which the public has yet seen.

Highland Laddie-The old set will please a mere Scotch ear best; and the new an Italianised one. There is a third, and what Oswald calls the old Highland Laddie, which pleases me more than either of them. It is sometimes called Ginglin Johnnie; it being the air of an old humorous tawdry song of that name. You will find it in the Museum, I hae been at Crookieden, &c. I would advise you, in this musical quandary, to offer up your prayers to the Muses for inspiring direction; and in the meantime, waiting for this direction, bestow a libation to Bacchus; and there is not a doubt but you will hit on a judicious choice. Probatum est.

Auld Sir Simon I must beg you to leave out, and put in its place The Quaker's Wife.

Blithe hae I been o'er the Hill, is one of the finest songs ever I made in my life, and, besides, is composed on a young lady, positively the most beautiful, lovely woman in the world. As I purpose giving you the names and designations of all my heroines, to appear in some future edition of your work, perhaps half a century hence, you must certainly include The bonniest Lass in a the Warld in your collection.

Dainty David have heard sung nineteen thousand, nine hundred, and ninety-nine times, and always with the chorus to the low part of the tune; and nothing has surprised me so much as your opinion on this subject. If it will not suit as I proposed, we will lay two of the stanzas together, and then make the chorus follow.

Fee him, Father-I enclose you Fraser's set of this tune when he plays it slow: in fact, he makes it the language of despair. I shall here give you two stanzas, in that style, merely to try if it will be any improvement. Were it possible, in singing, to give it half the pathos which Fraser gives it in playing, it would make an admirably pathetic song. I do not give these verses for any merit they have. I composed them at the time in which Patie Allan's mither diedthat was, about the back o' midnight, and by the lee-side of a bowl of punch, which had overset every mortal in company except the hautbois and the Muse.

1 I well recollect, about the year 1824, hearing Fraser play Fee him, father, on his benefit night, in the Edinburgh theatre, 'in the manner in which he had played it to Burns' It was istened to with breathless attention, as if the house had felt it to be a medinm of communion with the spirit of the departed bard.

A FRAGMENT—'WHERE ARE THE JOYS,' &c.

37

THOU HAST LEFT ME EVER.

TUNE-Fee him, Father. Thou hast left me ever, Jamie! thou hast left me ever; Thou hast left me ever, Jamie! thou hast left me ever : Aften hast thou vowed that death only should us sever ; Now thou'st left thy lass for aye—I maun see thee never, Jamie,

I'll see thee never.

Thou hast me forsaken, Jamie! thou hast me forsaken;
Thou hast me forsaken, Jamie ! thou hast me forsaken:
Thou canst love anither jo, while my heart is breaking;
Soon my weary een I'll close-never mair to waken, Jamie,

Ne'er mair to waken!1

Jockie and Jenny I would discard, and in its place would put There's nae Luck about the House, which has a very pleasant air, and which is positively the finest love-ballad in that style in the Scottish, or perhaps in any other language. When she came ben she bobbit, as an air, is more beautiful than either, and in the andante way would unite with a charming sentimental ballad.

Saw ye my Father? is one of my greatest favourites. The evening before last, I wandered out, and began a tender song, in what I think is its native style. I must premise, that the old way, and the way to give most effect, is to have no starting-note, as the fiddlers call it, but to burst at once into the pathos. Every country girl sings Saw ye my Father ? &c.

My song is but just begun; and I should like, before I proceed, to know your opinion of it. I have sprinkled it with the Scottish dialect, but it may be easily turned into correct English.

FRAGMENT.

TUNE-Saw ye my Father?
Where are the joys I hae met in the morning,

That danced to the lark's early sang ?
Where is the peace that awaited my wandering,

At e'enin' the wild woods amang?,
Nae mair a-winding the course o' yon river,

And marking sweet flowerets sae fair;
Nae mair I trace the light footsteps o' pleasure,

But sorrow and sad sighing care.

1 It is surprising that Burns should have thought it necessary to substitute new verses for the old song to this air, which is one of the most exquisite effusions of genuine natural sentiment in the whole range of Scottish lyrical poetry.

Its Berit is now fully appreciated, while Buras's substitute song is scarcely ever sung

Is it that simmer's forsaken our valleys,

And grim, surly winter is near?
No, no! the bees humming round the gay roses

Proclaim it the pride o' the year.
Fain wad I hide what I fear to discover,

Yet lang, lang too well I hae known;
A' that has caused the wreck in my bosom

Is Jenny, fair Jenny, alone. Todlin Hame.—Urbani mentioned an idea of his, which has long been mine, that this air is highly susceptible of pathos: accordingly, you will soon hear him at your concert try it to a song of mine in the Museum, Ye Banks and Braes o' bonnie Doon. more, and I have done: Auld Lang Syne. The air is but mediocre; but the following song, the old song of the olden times, and which has never been in print, nor even in manuscript, until I took it down from an old man's singing, is enough to recommend any

air:

One song

AULD LANG SYNE.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And days o' lang syne?

CHORUS

For auld lang syne, my dear,

For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,

For auld lang syne!
We twa hae run about the braes,

And pu'd the gowans fine;
But we've wandered mony a weary foot,

Sin' auld lang syne.
We twa hae paidl’t i’ the burn,

Frae mornin' sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roared,

Sin' auld lang syne.
And here's a hand, my trusty fiere,

And gie's a hand o’thine;
And we'll tak a right guid willie-waughty

For auld lang syne.
And surely ye'll be your pint-stoup,

And surely I'll be mine;
And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet

For auld lang syne.

1 In this case also, the old song, though objectionable in subjoct, has kept ita ground against Burns's effort to supplant it.

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Now, I suppose, I have tired your patience fairly. You must, after all is over, have a number of ballads, properly so called. Gill Morice, Tranent Muir, Macpherson's Farewell, Battle of Sleriffmuir, or, We ran and they ran (I know the author of this charming ballad, and his history), Hardiknute, Barbara Allan (I can funish a finer set of this tune than any that has yet appeared); and besides, do you know that I really have the old tune to which The Cherry and the Slae was sung, and which is mentioned as a well-known air in Scotland's Complaint-a book published before poor Maryß days?1 It was then called, The Banks o Helicon ; an old poem, which Pinkerton has brought to light. You will see all this in Tytler's History of Scottish Music. The tune, to a learned ear, may have no great merit; but it is a great curiosity. I have a good many original things of this kind.

BURNS TO MR THOMSON,

[8th] September 1793. I am happy, my dear sir, that my ode pleases you so much. Your idea, honour's bed,' is, though a beautiful, a hackneyed idea ;? so, if you please, we will let the line stand as it is. I have altered the song as follows:

BANNOCKBURN.

ROBERT BRUCE'S ADDRESS TO HIS ARMY.

Scots, wha hae wi' Wallace bled,
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led;
Welcome to your gory

bed!
Or to glorious victory!

Now's the day, and now's the hour;
See the front o' battle lour:
See approach proud Edward's power--

Edward ! chains and slavery!

1 The tune here alluded to by Burns, and which was inserted in the fifth volume of Johnson, in connection with the Cherry and the Slae, was obtained by Mr Ritson from Edward Williams, a Welshman, who, it is thought, had probably noted it down from memory. The true air of the Banks of Helicon, different from the above, was subsequently discovered in a manuscript now in the Advocates' Library, and has been printed in Stenhouse's notes to Johnson's Museum.

2 From this passage it appears that Mr Thomson, in his letter of the 5th instant, had objected not merely to the word 'welcome,' in one of the lines of the ode, but to a word of more importance; or perhaps the objection has altogether been misprinted or transplanted. Many such liberties appear to have been taken by the original editor of this correspondence.

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