Complete Songs Of Robert Burns - online book

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ILOVE-SONGS : PERSONAL                  371
The Tune, The butcher boy, is taken from the Scots Musical Museum, 179s, No. J04. I have not seen it in any earlier publication.
No. 56. O Mary, at thy -window be. This exquisite lyric, which Burns of many moods rather disparaged in his later years, written in honour of Ellison Begbie, was originally published by Currie {Works, 1800, iv. 41), marked for the Tune, Bide ye yet; but in the copy sent to Thomson, March 20, 1793, the song is directed for the music of Duncan Davison. In the letter is the following statement: ' The song is one of my juvenile works. I leave it among your hands. I do not think it very remarkable, either for its merits or demerits. It is Impossible to be always original, entertaining and witty.' It was published with the tune The Glasgow lasses, in Scotish Airs 1818, v. 219, and it is invariably printed in modern collections with The Miller, another unauthorized air. For the tune Duncan Davison or Ye'11 ay be welcome back again, see Note 176.
0. Highland Mary (Mary Campbell).
No. 57. Will ye go to trie Indies, my Mary? Currie, Works, 1800, iv. 12. This is the first song of the Highland Mary series, written when Burns proposed to emigrate. It lay unseen for nearly four and a half years, after which time he sent it to George Thomson. His letter of October, 1792, enclosing the song, contains one of his few references to Mary Campbell. ' In my very early years,' he writes, 'when I was thinking of going to the West Indies, I took the following farewell (i.e. the song') of a dear girl. It is quite trifling, and has nothing of the merits of Ewe-bughts; but it will fill up this page. Yon must know that all my earlier love-songs were the breathings of ardent passion, and though it might have been easy in after times to have given them a polish, yet that polish, to me whose they were, and who perhaps alone cared for them, would have defaced the legend of the heart, which was so faithfully inscribed on them. Their uncouth sImplicity was, as they say of wines, their race.' Thomson had a poor opinion of the song, and missed the opportunity of the original publication by sending it to Currie. He printed it more than a quarter of a century later in his Select Melodies, 1822, i. 8.
The fine old verses for air Ewe-bughts Marion were published in Ramsay's Tea-Table Miscellany, 1724, and copied into Percy's Reliques, 1765. Percy misled the public by making it believe that all the pieces of poetry in his collec­tion were in the MS. he described. Ewe-bughts Marion is not there, nor found anywhere else in the peculiar orthography of his Reliques. It is one of the remarkable pastorals for which Scotland is famous. The tune has been very much altered since its original publication in the Orpheus Caledonius, 1733, No. jr. It is in the modern style in Stewart's Scots Songs, 1781, 31; in the Musical Miscellany, Perth, 1786, _y; in Aird's Airs, 1788, I'll. No. 476; and in the Museum, 1787, No. 8j. In the Interleaved Museum, Burns says, 'I am not sure if this old and charming air be of the South, as is commonly said, or the North of Scotland. There is a song, apparently as ancient as Ewe-bughts Marion, which sings to the same tune, and is evidently of the North.' It begins thus:—
'The Lord of Gordon had three dochters, Mar}-, Margret, and Jean; They wad na stay at bonie Castle-Gordon But awa to Aberdeen.' {Reliques, 1808, 229.)
The complete ballad, which Ritson obtained from a stall copy, was originally published in his Scotish Songs, 1794, ii. 169, and partly reprinted in Johnson's Museum, 1796, No. 419. If the fourth Earl of Huntley is referred to, then Burns's denomination, the'Lord of Gordon,' is correct, and that in Ritson's and subsequent copies, the 'Duke of Gordon,' is wrong, for the Dukedom of Gordon was not created until 1684. George Gordon succeeded his grandfather
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