Complete Songs Of Robert Burns - online book

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IX. MISCELLANEOUS                       485
years, and in the end Dr. McGill was found guilty of the major charge. Worried, and threatened with dismissal, he humbled himself and apologized, declared his adherence to the Confession of Faith, and was purged.
For the' style of The Kirk's alarm we must go back to the religious and political pasquils of the seventeenth century, which trampled rough-shod over the reputations of antagonists. He who wrote The Kirk's alarm may not have been a man to be loved, but he clearly was one to be feared and respected. His own opinion of the poem is described in several letters to intimate friends, to whom he sent copies of the verses. He enjoined them to show the poem only to a privileged ' few of ns.' Gavin Hamilton received the first unfinished draft with strict injunctions to read it only to intimate friends. On August 7 a complete copy was forwarded to John Logan, a farmer at Glenshinnoch, and the following is an extract from the letter enclosing it: ' I dare not write you a long letter, as I am going to intrude on your time with a long ballad. I have, as you will shortly see, finished The Kirk's alarm; but now that it is done, and that I have laughed once or twice at the conceits in some of the stanzas, I am determined not to let it get into the public; so I send you this copy, the first that I have sent to Ayrshire (except some few of the stanzas which I wrote off in embryo for Gavin Hamilton), under the express provision and request that you will only read it to a few of us, and do not on any account give or permit to be taken any copy of the ballad.'' Some time later he sent copies to Graham of Fintry and others, and the nature of the ballad leaked out, for it was too good to be kept secret.
The existing MS. copies nearly all differ from one another, and the stanzas vary from nine to twenty in number. The verses in the text include the whole in all the MSS., and are" based on that in the Works of Burns, Edinburgh, 1877. Burns kept the resolution not to print the ballad, but it was published surreptitiously in a broadside in 1789. The fact that The Kirk's alarm is a song, and was written to be sung, has been quite overlooked. It has not until now been printed with a tune. Every copy made by Burns named a tune, but not always the same. Indeed, Burns gave the choice of five different melodies, as if he was not very sure of any of them. In Mrs. Dunlop's copy (Lochryan MS.) the tune is marked Push about the brisk bowl; MS. in Edinburgh University, The hounds are all out; MS. in Burns Monument, Edinburgh, Come rouse brother sportsmen; and in a broadside The Ayrshire Garland, 1789, The vicar and Moses. None of these melodies fit the rhythm, and all are English as well as the one here noted, Prepare my dear brethren, which I believe Burns had in his mind but of which he could not recall the name. The political song on Fox referred to in the Centenary edition ii. 329 indicates that the tune is that of the Freemasons' Song already discussed in Song No. 2}6.
The following notes are partly the poet's own. Stanza 2 : ' Dr. McGill, Ayr (R. B.).' The hero of the Song who was prosecuted for heresy. St. 3 : 'John Ballantine, provost of Ayr, a friend of Burns. The magistrates of" the town advertised their appreciation of Dr. McGill and Robert Aiken, writer, Ayr (R. B.),' who defended the accused and to whom Burns had dedicated The Cottar's Saturday Night. St. 4: ' Dr. Dalrymple, Ayr (R. B.),' who approved the opinions of his colleague, Dr. McGill. St. 6 : ' John Russell, Kilmarnock (R. B.)'; or Black Jock of The holy fair, who poured out brimstone sermons with a ponderous voice. St. 7: 'James MacKinlay, Kilmarnock (R. B.),' on whom Burns wrote The Ordination beginning ' Kilmarnock wabsters, fidge and claw.' He had a persuasive style of Calvinistic oratory which pleased his flock. St. 8: 'Alexander Moodie of Riccarton (R. B.).' Another terror to evil-doers. St. 9: ' William Peebles, in Newton-upon-Ayr, a poetaster, who, among many other things, published an ode on the Centenary of the Revolu­tion, in which was the line " And bound in Liberty's endearing chain " (R. B ).' •St. 10: 'Stephen Young of Bare (R. B.),' formerly assistant at Ochiltree.






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