Complete Songs Of Robert Burns - online book

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No. 31. A rosebud, by my early walk. Scots Musical Museum, 1788, No. 189, signed 'B.' The MS. is in the British Museum. The ' Rosebud' was a little girl of twelve years, the only child of William Cruikshank, Classical Master in the High School of Edinburgh, with whom Burns resided after his return from the Highland tour. The poet stayed with Cruikshank from September, 1787, to February, 1788, with the exception of a few days' visit to Sir William Murray at Ochteityre. During this period he was principally occupied in writing songs for the second volume of the Museum. The ' Rosebud' for her years was an accomplished player on the harpsichord, and Burns was intensely interested in her singing and playing the songs he was preparing for publication. In this way he tested his verses with the melodies. He was so absorbed in this occupation that it was difficult to draw his attention from it. Burns displays his tenderness and love of children in the song, and as a mark of gratitude to the child he freely distributed copies among his friends. ' The air is by a David Sillar, quondam merchant, and now Schoolmaster in Irvine. He is the Davie to whom I address my printed poetical epistle in the measure of the Cherry and the Slae' (Reliqties, 1808, 2j8). I suppose that this is the first reprint of the tune since it was published in the Museum as transmitted by Burns, and it would not be reproduced now if Burns had not made his song for it. It is an attempt in Strathspey style, containing unvocal intervals which unfit it for performance.
Uo. 32. Musing on the roaring ocean. Scots Musical Museum, 1788, No. 279, signed 'R.' Tune, Druimionn dubh. The MS. of the verses is in the British Museum. Written on account of a Mrs. McLachlan, whose husband was an officer in the East India Company's service, on duty abroad (Reliques, 1808, 254). It may be remarked that, although Burns lived in the view of the sea for many years, its immensity or grandeur does not appear to have Impressed him. This is his only sea-song. Mountains and natural scenery he passed over in the same way. His genius lay in studying and dis­secting human life. • For inorganic matter with the modern pan gloss he cared little or nothing. His diary of the Highland tour contains few or no remarks on the beautiful scenery he passed through. In a fragment in the Herd MS., now first printed below, the same idea occurs as in the third line of Burns. Thus :—
' But he's awa, and very far frae hame,
And sair, sair I fear I'll ne'er see him again;
But I will weary Heav'n to keep him in its care,
For OI he's good—and good men are rare.'
The tune Druimionn dubh, Anglice, The black cow, is in Corri's Scots Songs, 1783, ii. 29, and McDonald's Highland Airs, 1784, No. 89. Sir Samuel Ferguson translated the fragment of an Irish Jacobite lyric oh James the Second with the title of the tune. The last stanza is—
* Welcome home, welcome home, druimion dubh, O ! Good was your sweet milk for drinking, I trow; With your face like a rose, and your dewlap of snow, I'll part from you never, ah, druimion dubh, O !'
Another but different air of the same title is in. the Caledonian Pocket Com­panion, c. 1756, viii. 12.
Mo. 33. She 's fair and fause that causes my smart. Scots Musical Museum, 1792, No.398, signed ' R.'; and Thomson's Scotish Airs, 1798, 40. The MS. is in the British Museum. This sprang from the heated imagination of the poet about the middle of January, 1789, on reading an account of the marriage of Miss Ann Stewart, the subject of Song No. 22. She had been engaged to his intimate friend, Alexander Cunningham, W.S., and jilted him. As soon as Burns heard the news, he wrote an indignant letter of condolence to