Complete Songs Of Robert Burns - online book

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I'll. LOVE-SONGS : HUMOROUS                419
asjacky Leyton. The English tune Jack a Lent, in Playford's Dancing Master, 1670, has no resemblance to the present air, but it is also a pipe melody. The earliest known ballad of Jack of Lent was written in 1625 to welcome Queen Henrietta Maria. A copy is in Choyce Drollery, 1656, 20. In early times Jack a Lent was a stuffed puppet. The origin of the effigy is obscure, but most likely it was set up in ridicule of the monks. The game survives in the present day as Aunt Sally.
No. 201. Last May a braw wooer. Thomson's Scotish Airs, 1799,^.2. 'Written for this work by Robert Burns.'—Air, The Lothian Lassie {Scots Musical Museum, 1803, No. s22\ A. MS. is in the Thomson collection. Burns has hit off in a ludicrous and veracious manner a particular trait of the Scottish character. The apparent coldness of the people is effected by a simulated repression of the affections. No one has yet undertaken a psycho­logical criticism of the Scot on historical principles. The sober dour Scot has strong human sympathies, but the spring is deep, and an earthquake is some­times required to make them flow. The style of the present song is original; trjgre were verses on the same subject, not devoid of merit, but much inferior to those of Burns. The first stanza of The Lothian Lassie begins as follows:—
' The Queen o' the Lothians cam cruisin to Fife,                   %u. 9,+A*. *£.''
Fal de ral, lal de ral, lairo, To see gin a wooer wad tak her for life, Sing hey fal de ral,' &c.
A wooer does turn up, but he is bashful, and cannot muster sufficient courage to speak to Jenny. He solicits an aunt of the fair one to be the go-between, and she, with a natural faculty for matchmaking, soon arranges the business. When Jenny appears the swain loses courage, runs away, but is brought forcibly back still blushing. Jenny being a person of considerable perspicuity, think's the best way is to accept the offer promptly, lest the lover after consideration should change his mind.
' The question was spier'd, and the bargain was struck The neighbours cam in, and wished them good luck.'
Before forwarding Last May a braw wooer Burns sent to Thomson in May or -June, 1795, The Lothian. Lassie, with a letter, saying: 'The song is well known, but was never in notes before. The first part is the old tune. It is a great favourite of mine. I think it would make a fine Andante ballad.' Here Burns refers to the music. The immediate success of the song published by Thomson caused Johnson to insert it in the Museum, 1803, No. 522, with some alterations for the worse which Stenhouse pretended were authorized by Burns. Whether or not he sent to Johnson a copy of the words of Last May a braw wooer, it is certain from a MS. which I have seen, that he furnished Johnson through Clarke with a copy of the tune, which was first printed with his words in 1799. Some parts of the air have a strong resemblance (o Kellyburn braes, No. 331 infra.
Mo. 202. Wantonness for evermair. Scots Musical Museum, 1796, No. 422; Centenary edition, 1897, '"• *S4- ' This bagatelle was written and communicated by Burns to the Museum' (Stenhouse, Illustrations, p. 379).
This excellent melody, with the precise title of the first line of the verses, is in Aird's Airs, 1788, I'll. No. 443, and the title indicates that a song existed before Burns wrote his stanza, if it is not a corrected verse of the song itself. Wanton­ness was a favourite character with the Scottish poets, Dunbar, Lindsay, and Gavin Douglas, in their dramas and interludes of the early part of the sixteenth century.
Mo. 203. The robin earn to the wren's nest. Scots Musical Museum, 1796, No. 406, entitled The wren's nest (Scott-Douglas edition, 1877, I'll. jpo').
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