Complete Songs Of Robert Burns - online book

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IV. CONNUBIAL
429
words' (Law's MS. List). The MS. is in Chicago. Stenhouse refers to an old song My wife she dang me, but gives no particulars. Burns had no experience of such a wife as is suggested in these verses: his humorous connubial songs are uniformly excellent. The class is very largely represented in the vernacular songs of Scotland, and indicates that the women could hold their own against the lords of creation. Hector Boece, the Scottish historian of the fifteenth century, says that in ancient times they were nearly as strong as the men, and maidens and wives ' yeid als weile to battle as the men' (went as well to battle as the men). In Motherwell's Burns, 1834, I'll. 29, an obviously modern song is quoted, which need not be regarded. The tune My wife she dang me is in Oswald's Companion, 1754, vi. 4 ; and M "Gibbon's Scots Tunes, 1755, 28. It is a characteristic melody probably of the seventeenth centnry.
No. 222. I coft a stane o' haslock woo'. Scots Musical Museum, 1796, No. 4JT, signed ' Z,' entitled The cardin o't. &c. The MS. of this fragment is in the British Museum. The ' haslock woo' named in the first line is the wool on the throat or hals of the sheep, from which the finest and softest yarn is made. The second stanza is a reminiscence aijohn Anderson my jo.
The tune The cardin o't, or Salt fish and dumplings, is a smooth flowing melody, well worth preservation. It is. in Sinkler's MS., 1710, entitled Queensbury's Scots measure; and in Aird's Airs, 1788, I'll. No. 487.
No. 223. The cooper o' Cuddle came here awa. Scots Musical Museum, 1796, No. 431, entitled, The couper 0' Cuddy. The MS. is in the British Museum. A version substantially the same is in the Merry Muses. At | the bottom of the musical MS. for the printer Burns has written ' This tune is to be met with everywhere.' Bab at the bowster is an old favourite dance, and never omitted at penny weddings and other rustic balls. As practised in the West of Scotland it was rather a lengthy function. A row of men and a row of women faced each other, with one in the middle carrying a bolster. The company sang the refrain:—
' Wha learnt yon to dance, you to dance, yon to dance, Wha learnt you to dance, Bab at the bowster, brawly.'
At the close of the stanza, the holder of the bolster, laid it at the feet of one of the opposite sex, and then both knelt and kissed. The process was repeated, until all had participated, or until the company tired of the game. Burns, in a letter dated June 30, 1787, describes a ball he was at in the Highlands, where among others Bab at the boivster was danced with enthusiasm. This form of salutation was common in England to the end of the sixteenth century and later, when the gentlemen kissed the ladies on entering a room. Erasmus does not give it a place in his satire The Praise of Folly, but he was much Impressed with the custom, which he could not sufficiently praise, and on which Captain Topham, a competent critic, has remarked that it says much for the superior beauty of English women who could fire the lifeless soul of a Dutchman. The custom went out earlier in England than in Scot­land, where it only began to decline in the last quarter of the eighteenth century. It still survives as 'kiss in the ring' in ' unfashionable.society.'
In the time of Burns the passion for dancing was at its height in Scotland. Captain Topham, in his Letters from Edinburgh, 1775, describes an upper and a middle class ball, where the company danced nothing-but reels and strath­speys. They sat u12moved at most of the English country .dances, but the • moment a reel was played, they jumped np as if they had been bitten by a tarantula. The gravest men in Edinburgh, with the exception of the ministers, were as fond of dancing as the Scottish rustics of the day, and danced not for recreation, but for the sake of dancing.
The Tune is in the Skene MS. c. 1630, entitled Who learned you to dance and a towdle; as Country Bumpkin, in Stewart's Reels, c. 1768, Ji; and as






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