Complete Songs Of Robert Burns - online book

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37°
HISTORICAL NOTES
the harpsichord until he was familiar with it by ear. The song, 0 wert thou in the caitld blast, a carefully polished work of art, was the result. Instead of adhering to the text and melody, Thomson changed the metre and printed the song to a different tune. The hand which penned it was soon to lose its cunning. On the tomb of Franz Schubert, the most prolific German composer, who died at an earlier age than Burns, is inscribed ' Music has here entombed a rich treasure, but still fairer hopes.' As a song-writer the same might probably be said of Burns, whose life and career resemble in many points those of the composer. A generous countryman, said of Schubert that, if he had lived, he would have put the whole German language into music. Of Burns it may be said that, if he had lived, he would have put the whole of Scottish music into verse.
The first theme of Lenox love to Blantyre ends in the minor and the second on the major mode, like many other Scottish tunes. It has an extended compass —a serious drawback to popularity. The peculiar title was obtained from an estate acquired by Lord Blantyre. Frances Theresa Stewart, daughter of Walter Stewart, son of the second Lord Blantyre, born about 1647, was the original of the emblem of Britannia on the coinage. She married Charles Stuart, fourth Duke of Richmond and Lenox, and died in 1702, leaving con­siderable property to her nephew Alexander, fifth Lord Blantyre, requesting that an estate should be purchased in East Lothian, to be named Lenox love to Blantyre. The tune with this title is in Sinkler's MS. 1710. It is also in Bremner's Reels, 1757127; Stewart's Reels, 1761, o ; Campbell's Reels, 1778,7?; and in the Scots Musical Museum, 1796, No. 483, to the old song The wren shoe lyes in care's bed.
b. Ellison Begbie.
Wo. 54. Ilk care and fear, when thou art near. The last two stanzas and the chorus with the tune Braes 0' Balquhidder are in the Scots Musical MusetBn, 1788, No. ipj. The complete song is in Cromek's Reliques, 1808, 441. The MS., wanting the first stanza, is in the British Museum with a note by Burns directing that the chorus is to the first or lowest part of the tune. Burns has stated that Bonie Peggie Alison or Ellison Begbie, was a juvenile production ; but he never directly revealed the episode which occasioned this and the two following songs of his early years. The Braes 0' Balquhidder, one of his favourite reels, is said to be in Walsh's Caledonian Country Dances for 1742. It is in Bremner's Reels, 1758, J7; Aird's Airs, 1782, ii. No. 181, and elsewhere. It is a model specimen of the dance-music of Scotland of the early part of the eighteenth century. The modern air I'm oweryoung to marry yet (not the same as the old tune of that name) is a variation of the Braes d1 Balquhidder.
No. 55. On Cessnock banks a lassie dwells. Twelve stanzas marked Tune, If he be a butcher neat and trim, first Imperfectly printed in Cromek's Reliques, 1808, 442, and complete from the MS., in the Aldine edition, 1839. The verses are founded on a love passage in the poet's youth. The first four letters to an unknown correspondent, E., dated 1780 and 1781, and printed in Currie, Works, 1800, ii, /, with a fifth printed by Scott-Douglas in 1878, were addressed to Ellison or Alison Begbie, the daughter of a farmer in the parish of Galston. At the time Burns knew her, she lived near Cessnock Water, about two miles from Lochlea. She was in the same rank of life as the poet, who began the correspondence partly as practice in the art of letter-writing. Burns's sister described Ellison Begbie as much above the small ordinary farmer's daughter, naturally gifted both in mind and person, accomplished in manners, and with a fair stock of personal attractions. Cromek took down his verses from the recitation of a lady in Glasgow, whom he said Burns affectionately admired. Probably she was the object of them.






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