Complete Songs Of Robert Burns - online book

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386
HISTORICAL NOTES
insuperable bars. To add to my misfortune, since dinner, a scraper has been torturing cat-gut.... and thinks himself, on that very account, exceeding good company. In fact, I have been in a dilemma, either to get drunk, to forget these miseries, or to hang myself, to get rid of them ; like a prudent man (a character congenial to my every thought, word, and deed), I, of two evils, have chosen the least, and am very drunk at your service ! . . . Do you know an air We'll gang nae mair to yon town ? I think, in slowish time, it would make an excellent song. I am highly delighted with it; and if you should think it worthy of your attention, I have a fair Dame in my eye to whom I would consecrate it.' After writing the stanza of' doggrell' he went to bed, and Thomson affirms that the handwriting of the poet shows that he had chosen the lesser of the two evils. In April the song was finished, and a month after­ward a copy was sent to Syme, with 'Jeanie' changed to 'Lucy' to-.fit Mrs. Oswald, of Auchencruive, whom he wished to conciliate for a stinging epigram he had previously written on her.
For the tune, see Song No. 09, entitled in Bremner's Reels, I'll gae nae mair to your town.
No. 107. It was the charming month of May. Scotish Airs, 1799, 69. Written as an English song for Thomson. Burns writes, November, 1794: ' Despairing of my own powers to give you variety enough in English «ongs, I have been turning over old collections, to pick out songs of which the measure is somewhat similar to what I want; and with a little alteration, so as to suit the rhythm of the air exactly, to give them for your work. Where the songs have hitherto been but little noticed, nor have ever been set to music, I think the shift a fair one. A song which, under the same first verse of the first stanza, you will find in Ramsay's Tea-Table Miscellany and elsewhere, I have cut down for an English dress to yonr Dainty Davie. You may think meanly of this, but take a look at the bombast original, and you will be surprised that I have made so much of it.' Burns does not underrate the quality of the original song of six stanzas in the Tea-Table Miscellany, 1725, marked to be sung to The happy clown, but he has not Improved it much.
For the tune Dainty Davie, see Song No. joS.
No. 108. Let not woman e'er complain. Scotish Airs, 1798, 48. Written for this work by Robert Burns. Air, Duncan Gray. The MS. is in Brechin Castle. Written to meet Thomson's demand for English verses. It is one of the number which Thomson approved—he inserted it in his next volume—but it is devoid of the warm colour of the poet's Scottish songs. Burns pathetically wrote: ' These English songs gravel me to death. I have not that command of the language that I have of my native tongue. In fact, I think my ideas are more barren in English than in Scottish. I have been at Duncan Gray to dress it in English, but all I can do is deplorably stupid.'— Letter, October, 1794. The opinion of Burns on this song need not be disturbed.
For Duncan Gray, see Nos. 173 and 270.
No. 109. "Where are the joys I hae met in the morning. Cnrrie, Works, 1800, iv. i2i. Tune, Saw ye my father? Thomson's Scotish Airs, 1801, 102. MS. in the Brechin collection. Sent to Thomson in September, 1793, with this note: ' Saw ye my father? is one of my greatest favourites. The evening before last I wandered out, and began a tender song in what I think is its native style. I must premise, that the old way, and the way to give most effect, is to have no starting note, as the fiddlers call it, but to burst at once into the pathos. Every country girl sings Saw ye my father?' Thomson disputed Burns's reading of the air, and thought it should open on an unaccented note. The poet deferred to the editor's opinion, but he was right.
The early song which Burns said delighted him with its descriptive sImple pathos is four stanzas in Herd's Scots Songs, 1769,324, as follows:—






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