Complete Songs Of Robert Burns - online book

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436                        HISTORICAL NOTES
' Thay wald me hals with hude and hatt, Quhyle I wes riche and had anewch, About me friendis anew I gatt, Rycht blythlie on me they lewch ; Bot now thay male it wondir tewch, And lattis me stand befoir the yett; Thairfoir this warld is verry frewch, And auld kyndnes is quyt foryett.'
A later ballad is the well-known two sets of verses attributed on slender authority by some to Sir Robert Aytoun (1570-1638), and on more Imperfect evidence by others, to Francis Sempill of Belltrees (died c. 1683). It was first printed in a miscellaneons collection in Watson's Scots Poems, 1711, and begins as follows :
' Should old acquaintance be forgot,     Is thy kind heart now grown so cold
And never thought upon,                     In that loving breast of thine,
The flames of love extinguished,           That thou canst never once reflect
And freely past and gone ?                   On old-long-syne ?'
In the Laing collection, now in the possession of Lord Rosebery, is a street song (referred to in the Centenary Burns) headed ' An excellent and proper new ballad, entitled " Old long syne ". Newly corrected and amended with a large and new edition of several excellent love lines' The date of the issue of this broadside is about the end of the seventeenth century, and the chorus or refrain runs as follows :
'On old long syne,
On old long syne, my jo,
On old long syne :
That thou canst never once reflect On old long syne.'
It will be observed from the title that this ballad is the reprint of an earlier publication, and it is Important to notice that the refrain contains (1) the same sentiment ' That thou canst never once reflect,' as that expressed in the song attributed to Aytoun, and (2) that the words ' my jo' are part of the title of the earliest copy of the tune, and also of Burns's chorus as printed in the Museum. Whether this popular song is anterior to that previously mentioned and ascribed to Aytoun is uncertain.
In Scots Songs, 1720, 77, Allan Ramsay published a song of five stanzas which has often been reprinted. The first lines are :
' Should auld acquaintance be forgot,   I Welcome, my Varo, to my breast, Tho' they return with scars ?                 Thy arms about me twine.
These are the noble hero's lot,             And make me once again as blest,
Obtain'd in glorious wars :             | As I was lang syne.'
And the poem goes on to describe, in the usual conventional style of the eighteenth century, the conjunction of Mars and Venus, and concludes happily with the words:
'Where the good priest the conple blest, And put them out of pine.'
There are, urther, several political or patriotic ballads, one of which modelled ea the Watson set is against the union of the countries, and contains the following lines:
' Is Scotsmen's blood now grown so cold,
The valour of their mind That they can never once reflect On old long sine ?'