Complete Songs Of Robert Burns - online book

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4°4
HISTORICAL NOTES
verses into living, emotional song. The MS. is in the British Museum, and contains this note: ' The tune of this song is in Niel Gow's first collection, and is there called Major Graham? The first three stanzas are in the Museum as No. 402, to the tune Major Graham. One of the chap-books, containing a version of the ballad, belonged to Burns in his youth. Some of the variants are in the metre of Mally Stewart of Song No. 296, as the following opening verses of The Turtle Dove ; or True love's farewell, will show :
' O fare you well, my own true love, O farewell for a while, But I'll be sure to return back again If I go ten thousand miles, my dear, If I go ten thousand miles.'
Thomson printed My luve is like a red, red rose, and with his usual propensity to Improve, he chose a tune of double measure, and altered the song to fit it. For example : ' And fare thee weel awhile' becomes ' And fare thee weel a little while,' truly a water-logged addition.
The tune Major Graham is in Aird's Airs, 1788, I'll. No.Si1, and Gow's Strathspeys, 1784, 6. It is unconsciously framed on the lines of Miss Admiral Gordon's Strathspey, No. 69 supra.
Wo. 153. The ploughman, he 's a bonie lad. Scots Musical Museum, 1788, No. i6j. A new or amended version of a rustic song taken from Herd's Scots Songs, 1769,^7, to furnish words for the tune. The second and third stanzas in the Museum, as follows, are taken from Herd, and Improved:
' My ploughman he comes hame at e'en,
He's aften wat and weary:
Cast aff the wat, put on the dry,
And gae to bed, my dearie.
'I will wash my ploughman's hose, And I will dress his "o'erlay; I will mak my ploughman's bed, And cheer him late and early.'
The rest, considerably altered by Burns, is in the text.
Another song of the same kind is sequestered in the Merry Muses. The tune The Ploughman is in the .Caledonian Pocket Companion, 1752, iv. 6; in Bremner's Reels, 1761, So; in the Perth Musical Miscellany, 1786, 248, entitled Merry Plowman; and in Aird's Airs, 1782, ii. No. 41. A tune Sleepy body in the Orpheus Caledonius, 1733, No. jo, although in different measure, is substantially the same melody. The music for the chorus of The Ploughman is the same for the verse.
No. 154. Thou hast left me ever, Jamie. Scotish Airs, 1799, 90. 'Written for this work by R. Burns.'. After hearing Fraser play the tune Fee him, father, fee him, Burns wrote to George Thomson, in September, 1793 : 'I enclose you Fraser's set of this tune ; when he plays it slow, in fact he makes it the language of despair. I shall here give you two stanzas in that style, merely to try if it will be any Improvement. Were it possible, in singing, to give it half the pathos which Fraser gives it in playing, it would make an admirable pathetic song. I do not give these verses for any merit they have.' Thomson kept the song for six years, altered Jamie into Tarn, and what is more deplorable, set it to the tune My boy Tammie.
Thomas Fraser was a native 'of Edinburgh, and the principal oboe player in the orchestral concerts of the city at the end of the eighteenth century. G. F. Graham, who knew Fraser personally, confirmed Burns s opinion of him as a musician. He died in 1825.