Complete Songs Of Robert Burns - online book

360+ songs with lyrics, sheet music, historical notes & glossary.

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songs—many no better than the average artificial product of the eighteenth-century song books, and quite beneath the standard of the genius of Burns \
Nevertheless it was from his intimate connexion with this pub­lication and with the Scots Musical Museum that Burns became an extensive writer of songs. To Scotish Airs he contributed verses, partly at his own discretion, partly at the request of the proprietor —though in neither case had he power to decide what should be published2. Of the Museum he was the real though concealed editor from a little after the time when, being engaged then in correcting the proofs of the Edinburgh edition of his Works, he made Johnson's acquaintance. James Johnson was a practical engraver in Edinburgh. In February, 1787, with the assistance of two gentlemen interested in the anthology of Scotland, he had projected and advertised a ' Collection of Scots, English, and Irish Songs in two neat 8vo volumes. . ..' The first volume was nearly ready when Johnson met Burns, and it is surmised that Burns suggested the title of Scots Musical Museum, under which title the volume—despite the more accurate description given of it in the advertisement—appeared in May. Burns eagerly grasped the opportunity of associating himself with a work which eventually he remodelled and extended into six volumes. His position of author, editor, and contributor of verse became more and more established as the original advisers of the publication fell into the rear. His sole assistant was a professional musician, Stephen Clarke, who corrected technical errors in the music and fitted the tunes for presentation to the public in the prescribed form. Johnson was unfitted to conduct any work of the kind. He was of a sImple confiding nature, entirely illiterate, and as poor as Burns himself. However, like Burns also, he was an enthusiast for the Songs of Scotland. He undertook the cost of printing
1  The peculiar 'rhythm of the Caledonian Hunt's Delight only fetched one poor stanza of English verses, although it is the popular and favourite air of the vernacular Banks 0' Boon (No. I2j). The beautiful strathspey Rothiemurche for his last song (No. 12) is practically obscured' because he was constrained to write verses of the ordinary sort to please Thomson.
2  There were fundamental differences between Burns and Thomson, for which reason Scotish Airs contains a large number of Burns's songs with editorial insertions (both in verse and air) for which Burns is in no way responsible.

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