Complete Songs Of Robert Burns - online book

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360                           HISTORICAL NOTES
henchman, John Forbes, having the honour of suffering on a gallows *ane degree higher' than the others, and of having their heads stuck on a pole and exhibited at the city gate as a warning to other evil-doers. A few years after the execution a black-letter ballad was printed in London, entitled The Scotch Lover's Lamentation ; or Gilderoy's Last Farewell. The verses, in ten double stanzas, are assumed to be written by his paramour, who laments the untimely fate of her 'bonny boy.' In course of time he was canonized and admitted into the Newgate Calendar. His biography is in A compleat History of the Lives and Robberies of the most notorious Highwaymen, Foot-pads, &c, &c, printed in London, 1719. He is there depicted as having set his mother's house on fire, ill-used his sister, fled to France, picked Cardinal Richelieu's pocket in the King's presence, returned to England, hanged a judge, then been taken prisoner, and executed in Scotland.
The popularity of Gilderoy may be judged from the fact that there are at least four different versions of the ballad. The broadside was copied into Collection of Ballads, London, 1723, 271, but a short version of five stanzas was previously published in Westminster Drollery, 1671,112, entitled A Scotch Song, called Gilderoy. The third and best-known version is that of thirteen stanzas attributed to the pen of Lady Wardlaw, the reputed authoress of Hardy Knute. Here the indelicacies of the older versions are pruned, apd this is the one copied into Percy's Reliques, wanting a stanza, and in all modern collections of ballads. The fourth version in seven stanzas, preceding the last-named in order of time, is the best of the series, and is written in vigorous and graphic language. It is in the Orpheus Caledonius, 1733. No. 4T, with the tune here set to the verses of Burns.
The ballad had two tunes in England. In Durfey's Pills, 1719, v. ,?$>, the original verses are set 'to a new tune,' from which it may be inferred that there was an earlier one. The Scottish tune has no striking family resemblance to that in the Pills, except in the cadence. The Scottish tune is in Ramsay's Mustek, c. 1726; in the Caledonian Pocket Companion, 1753, v. 20; McGibbon's Scots Tunes, 1742,26; and in Bremner's Scots Songs, 1757, 10, with the verses beginning, 'Ah! Chloris.'
Ho. 28. "Where, braving angry -winter's storms. Scot's Musical Museum, 1788, No. ipj, signed 'R." Tune, N. Gow's Lamentation for Abercairney. The MS. is in the British Museum. Miss Margaret Chalmers was the subject of this and the next song. The acquaintance ripened into intimacy, and an active correspondence began, lasting from October 26, 1787, to September 16, 1788. Peggy Chalmers is described as having large and bright hazel eyes, white, regular teeth, and possessing a charm in her face not always the result or accompaniment of fine features. Her figure was short, but faultless; she spoke easily and well, but preferred listening to others. Some of the letters to her are among the finest Burns wrote. They are remarkable for an easy flowing style, apparently spon­taneous, and penned without effort. He took her into his confidence, and' discussed his affairs in a frank and confidential manner. She exercised considerable influence over him, and he invariably spoke of her in the highest terms. Dr. Blacklock said that Burns always paid her the most respectful deference. None of her letters have been preserved, but his letters to her are uniformly excellent, and the correspondence ceased only a short time before her marriage with Mr. Lewis Hay, a partner in the distinguished banking house of Sir William Forbes & Co., the founders of Coutts & Co. Mrs. Hay was left a widow in the year 1800, and died in Switzerland in 1843.
This song and the next were sent to the lady with an intimation that he intended to print them. She objected, and he contested the point. Both were sent to the editor of the Museum, the present song being inserted, but the other, My Peggy's Face, was suspended for more than fifteen years.






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