Complete Songs Of Robert Burns - online book

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470
HISTORICAL NOTES
supposed to belong to the Rebellion of 1745 (see Centenary Burns, vol. I'll.) which was reproduced in Chap books with considerable variations, and was popular in the streets of Edinburgh at the close of the eighteenth century. The only stanza' which Burns borrowed is the last one in the ballad from a contem­porary Chap book in my possession, as follows:—
' The trooper turned himself round about
All on the Irish shore; He has gi'en the bridle reins a shake, Saying, "Adieu for evermore, my dear"; Saying, "Adieu for evermore.'"
The rest of Burns's song owes nothing to the original, except the rhythm. The street ballad of Bonny Mally Stuart of' bonny Stirling town ' in eleven stanzas, remarkable for its disregard of metre, describes the parting of the trooper with his sweetheart who, however, disguises herself in men's clothes and follows him. The tune Mally Stuart is a variation of The bailiff's daughter of Islington, an English melody of the seventeenth century. In the black letter copies this ballad is directed to be sung to a North country tune, or I have a good old mother at holne.
Wo. 297. Thickest night, surround my dwelling. Scots Musical Museum, 1788, No. 132, signed ' B': to the Tune, Strathallan's lament. The MS. is in the British Museum. Burns passed through Strathallan on August •28, 1787; shortly afterwards he wrote the song. William Drummond, Viscount Strathallan, was killed at Culloden. His son James, Viscount Strathallan, on whom the song was written, was attainted, and after the disas­trous rout of the Chevalier's army fled to the hills, where he hid until he found an opportunity of escaping to France. He joined the Court of Prince Charles, remained abroad, and died an exile. From the Rebellion to the end of the eigh­teenth century almost every poet wrote Jacobite songs more or less sympathetic. Burns made the following memorandum on Strathallan s lament: ' This air is the composition of one of the worthiest and best-hearted men living—Allan Masterton, School Master in Edinburgh. As he and I were both sprouts of Jacobitism, we agreed to dedicate the words and air to that cause. To tell the matter of fact, except when my passions were heated by some accidental cause, my Jacobitism was merely by way of vive la bagatelle' {Interleaved Museum). The accidental causes were frequent, and he never wrote anything on the Hanover family to show he had any affection for it.
Another MS. of the song differs from that in the text. The first line is 'Thickest darkness o'erhang my dwelling,' and the first half of the second stanza is as follows:—
' Farewell fleeting, fickle treasure, Between mishap and folly shar'd; Farewell peace and farewell pleasure, Farewell flattering man's regard.'
The melody cannot be mistaken for an old air.
Wo. 298. There grows a bonie brier-bush in our kail-yard. Scots Musical Museum, 1796, No. 492, marked ' Z.' Centenary Burns, 1897, I'll. 180. The MS. in Burns's handwriting is in the British Museum. This is sup­posed to be an old song with alterations, but nothing of it is known prior to Burns's manuscript. Stenhouse, as the earliest commentator, need only be referred to: ' This song, with the exception of a few lines which are old, was written by Burns for the Museum. .. . Burns likewise communicated the air to which the words are adapted' {Iltust. p. 432). I can find no song of the kind in any of the many collections examined. From the verses of Burns a pungent critic branded the modem school of Scottish sentimental fiction ' Kail­yard literature.' Baroness Nairne wrote an imitation of The bonie brier-bush,






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