Complete Songs Of Robert Burns - online book

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HISTORICAL NOTES
—i*
Note.—The greater number of the Music Books, referred to in the following Notes, are undated. To avoid defacement by innumerable brackets the ascertained year of publication follows the title and precedes the volume or page of the book quoted. The works with and without dates of publication are shown in the Bibliography.
The Notes marked with an"asterisk * refer to the Songs now printed for the .first time as the works of Burns.
I. LOVE-SONGS: PERSONAL.
a. "Various.
No. 1. O, once I lov'd a bonie lass. Burns remarks in his Commonplace Book, prior to copying this song, ' I never had the least thought or inclination of turning poet till I got once heartily in love,' and records it as ' the first of my performances, and done at an early period of life, when my heart glowed with honest warm sImplicity; unacquainted, and uncorrupted, with the ways of a wicked world. The performance is, indeed, very puerile and silly; but I am always pleased with it, as it recalls to my mind those happy days when my heart was yet honest and my tongue was sincere' (Commonplace Book, Edin. 1872, f). The song was written in 1774 (the above note is dated April, 1783), in honour of Nelly Kilpatrick, ' who sang sweetly,' a farm servant, and daughter of a village blacksmith who in former days had lent the boy Burns romantic chap-books to read. Burns did not publish the song, and it was first printed posthumously in the Scots Musical Museum, 1803, No. jji, without the Fal de lal chorus in the original copy.
I cannot trace the tune I am a man unmarried—the favourite reel of the girl—for which Burns wrote the verses; and the music to which the verses were set in the Museum, and there printed for the first time, has not the ' ancient' character assigned to it by Stenhouse, and there is no evidence that Burns knew the tune as printed.
No. 2. In Tarbolton, ye ken. Chambers's Burns, 1851 ; without title of tune. The farm of the Bennals named in the verses is situated near Afton Lodge, a few miles from Lochlea, where Burns probably lived at the time he celebrated the two daughters of Ronald, who was reputed to be a person of means and gave himself airs. Gilbert Burns, it is said, had wooed Jean, but was rejected on account of his poverty: Robert affected the other, Anna. In 1789 Ronald became a bankrupt, and Burns in conveying the news to his younger brother William did not conceal his feelings when he says, ' You will easily guess, that from his insolent vanity in his sunshine of life, he will now feel a little retaliation from those who thought themselves eclipsed by him; for, poor fellow, I do not think he ever intentionally injured any one.' The tune of the song is unknown.
No. 3. Altho* my bed were in yon muir. This gallant little song has been much neglected, and, so far as I know, has never been printed with its proper melody. The verses are in the Commonplace Book entitled,' Fragment.






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