Complete Songs Of Robert Burns - online book

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Vri. PATRIOTIC AND POLITICAL              453
to Thomson about September, 1794. the poet writes: ' Mr. Clarke says that the tune is positively an old chant of the Romish Church, which corroborates the old tradition that at the Reformation, the Reformers burlesqued much of the old church music. As a farther proof, the common name for this song is Cumnock Psalms' As shown in Note 212, Bishop Percy first accentuated this myth. A song for the tune is in the Merry Muses and it is very unlikely that Thomson knew it. The origin of the tune Cumnock Psalms is obscure. It is framed upon no existing type of Scottish music, and it stands alone. It is chiefly recitative, with only the rudiments of a modern melody and a compass not extending beyond a musical fifth.
No. 261. The laddies by the banks o' With. In The Spirit of British Song, 1826, ii. S3< an(I Cunningham's Burns, 1834, entitled 'Election Ballad for WesterhaV In this second election ballad of 1789, the poet openly sympa­thizes with the Tory candidate. The Duke of Queensberry is held up to derision. Burns had a very poor opinion of the character of the Whig candi­date, the son of his landlord. He is not named in the ballad but he is described in a letter to Graham of Fintry as ' a youth by no means above mediocrity in his abilities, and is said to have a huckster lust for shillings, pennies and farthings.' For a Note on the tune Up and waur them a' Willie; or, Up and warn a\ see No. 28J.
Ho. 262. As I cam down the banks o' Nith. Centenary Edition, 1896, ii. jo<?. The MS. is in the possession of Lord Rosebery. This is another version of the preceding ballad for the tune of The black watch, for which see Song No. 280.
The two series of Election ballads which Burns wrote to assist his friends are not printed here in chronological order for reasons which it is unnecessary to explain. This and the preceding are the second and third of the election of 1789 ; and No. 267 ' There was five Carlins in the South ' is the first. After the close of the election in 1790 the exasperated Burns addressed to Graham of Fintry a vigorous invective chiefly directed against the Duke of Queensberry who supported the Whigs. It begins ' Fintry my stay in worldly strife,' and is in the metre of Suckling's celebrated ballad ' I tell thee, Dick, where I have been,' and can be sung to that melody, but as Burns did not name any tune for his ballad, and evidently had no mind that it should be sung, it is not in this collection. The various versions can be seen either in the Edinburgh, 1877 edition or the Centenary edition of his Works. The ballads of the 1795-6 contest are in order of time as follows—our Nos. 27;, 270, 274 and 273. The result of this election was not known at the time Burns died.
No. 263. Farewell to the Highlands. Scots Musical Museum, 1790, No. 2/0, signed ' Z.' Tune Faille na miosg. The MS. is in the British Museum. ' The first half stanza of this song is old ; the rest is mine': {Inter­leaved Museum). ' Mr. Burns's old words.' (Law's MS. L ist.) C. Kirkpatrick Sharpe refers to the original as a broadside of seven stanzas and a chorus entitled The strong walls of Derry. The ballad is a mixture of Scottish and Irish affairs of the eighteenth century, and the fifth stanza is the chorus of My heart V in the Highlands. The ballad was a favourite of Sir Walter Scott, who sometimes sung it to his- friends at convivial meetings. Nature had not endowed the great novelist with the gift of true intonation—he was what the Scots call ' timmer-tun'd'—so he very properly confined himself to vocal performances with his intimates only, and at the stage of the proceedings suggested in the following chorus of the ballad.
'There is many a word spoken, but few of the best, And he that speaks fairest, lives longest at rest; I speak by experience—my mind serves me so, But my heart's in the highlands wherever I go.

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