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“Oh, there beyond expression blest,
I'd feast on beauty a’ the night :
Till fley'd awa by Phæbus' light.”
This thought is inexpressibly beautiful; and quite, so far as I know, original. It is too short for a song, else I would forswear you altogether unless you gave it a place. I have often tried to eke a stanza to it, but in vain. After balancing myself for a musing five minutes, on the hind-legs of my elbow-chair, I produced the
The verses are far inferior to the foregoing, I frankly confess; but if worthy of insertion at all, they might be first in place; as every poet, who knows any thing of his trade, will husband his best thoughts for a concluding stroke.
O were my love yon lilac fair,
Wi' purple blossoms to the spring ; And I, a bird to shelter there,
When wearied on my little wing:
How I wad mourn, when it was torn
By autumn wild, and winter rude! But I wad sing on wanton wing,
When youthfu' May its bloom renew'd.
I am extremely sorry, my good Sir, that any thing should happen to unhinge you. The times are terribly out of tune; and when harmony will be restored, Heaven knows.
The first book of songs, just published, will be dispatched to you along with this. Let me be favoured with your opinion of it frankly and freely.
I shall certainly give a place to the song you have written for the Quaker's Wife; it is quite enchanting. Pray will you return the list of songs with such airs added to it as you think ought to be included. The business now rests entirely on myself, the gentlemen who originally
agreed to join the speculation having requested to be off, No matter, a loser I cannot be. The superior excellence of the work will create a general demand for it as soon as it is properly known. And were the sale even slower than it promises to be, I should be somewhat compensated for my labour, by the pleasure I shall receive from the music. I cannot express how much I am obliged to you for the exquisite new songs you are sending me; but thanks, my friend, are a poor return for what you have done: as I shall be benefited by the publication, you must suffer me to enclose a small mark of my gratitude,* and to repeat it afterwards when I find it convenient. Do not return it, for, by Heaven, if you do, our correspondence is at an end: and though this would be no loss to you, it would mar the publication, which under your auspices cannot fail to be respectable and interesting.
Wednesday Wednesday Morning.
* L. 5.
I THANK you for your delicate additional verses to the old fragment, and for your excellent song to Logan Water: Thomson's truly elegant one will follow for the English singer. Your apostrophe to statesmen is admirable; but I am not sure if it is quite suitable to the supposed gentle character of the fair mourner who speaks it.
MR. BURNS to MR. THOMSON.
July 2d, 1793.
MY DEAR SIR,
I HAVE just finished the following ballad, and, as I do think it in my best style, I send it you. Mr. Clarke, who wrote down the air from Mrs. Burns's wood-note wild, is
fond of it, and has given it a celebrity by teaching it to some young ladies of the first fashion here. If you do not like the air enough to give it a place in your collection, please return it. The song you may keep, as I remember it.
There was a lass, and she was fair,
At kirk and market to be seen, When a' the fairest maids were met,
The fairest maid was bonnie Jean.