Complete Songs Of Robert Burns - online book

360+ songs with lyrics, sheet music, historical notes & glossary.

Home Main Menu Singing & Playing Order & Order Info Support Search Voucher Codes

Share page  Visit Us On FB

Previous Contents Next
to one of the happiest and worthiest of married couples in the world, Robert Riddell, Esq., of Glenriddell, and his lady. At their fireside I have enjoyed more pleasant evenings than at all the houses of fashionable people in this country put together; and to their kindness and hospitality I am indebted for many of the happiest hours of my life ' {Reliques, 1808, 269). The leaf of the Interleaved Museum where this has been written is now wanting. Living alone in an old weather-worn house, on the banks of the Nith, the poet was particularly grateful for the Riddell hospitality. This country gentleman was the brother-in-law of Maria Riddell, whom we shall come across by-and-by. He was an antiquarian and amateur musician. It was in his house that the appalling Bacchanalian contest took place commemorated in The Whistle. A letter of September 16, 1788, to Peggy Chalmers, fixed the date when The day returns was written. ' Johnson's collection of songs is going on in the third volume; and, of consequence, finds me a consumpt for a great deal of idle metre. One of the most tolerable things I have done in that way is two stanzas that I made to an air a musical gentleman of my acquaintance composed for the anniversary of his wedding-day, which happens on the seventh of November.'
The tune of Riddell's is in his New Music, 1787. Burns was generally and generously wrong when he adopted the melodies of his personal friends. There are some exceptions, but his amiability obscured his judgement in most cases.
No. 38. Ye gallants bright, I rede ye right. Scots Musical Museum, 1790, No. Hi;, signed 'X,' entitled Beware 0' bonie Ann. Written in 1788, according to Stenhouse; but Scott-Douglas, with better authority, places it a year later—February, 1789—when the poet was in Edinburgh. ' I composed this song out of compliment to Miss Ann Masterton, the daughter of my friend, Allan Masterton, the author of the air of Strathallan's Lament, and two or three others in this work ' {Reliques, 1808, 266). The lady of the song subsequently married a medical doctor of Bath, and died in 1834.
The tune Bonie Arm is the composition of Allan Masterton. Internal evidence proves it to be a modern melody.
No. 39. I gaed a waefu' gate yestreen. Scots Musical Museum, 1790, No. 294, entitled The blue-eyed lassie. ' Mr. Burns's words' (Law's MS. List). This charming song was written on the daughter of Andrew Jeffrey, the parish minister of Lochmaben. He admired Burns, who stayed in his house on several occasions whilst on his Excise excursions. The poet presented the song to Jean Jeffrey—then about fifteen years of age—with a copy of O, Willie brew'd a peck 0' maut, shortly after dining in William NicolNi cottage at Moffat, which the irascible schoolmaster had rented as a summer residence, on account of his daughter's health. Miss Jeffrey was a minor poet; her memoirs and a collected edition of her writings were published in 1850. She became a Mrs. Renwick of New York, and died there about 1850.
Few of Burns's lyrics surpass this one, and it is a pity the poet did not choose a more suitable melody out of the Scottish garner, instead of adopting the composition of Robert Riddell contained in his New Music, 1787. It is by no means the worst of that musical amateur's melodies, but it is spoiled by the prodigious compass of more than two octaves, which renders it unsing-able. In a letter to Mrs. Dunlop of October 29, 1788, Burns states that the song was written for Riddell's composition.
Ho. 40. Blythe hae I been on yon hill. Thomson's Scotish Airs, 1799, jS, ' Written for this work by Robert Burns. Air, The Quaker's Wife.' The jecond song for Miss Lesley Baillie. Burns thought this one of his finest songs, and enthusiastically affirms that the lady was positively the most beautiful young woman in the world. He transmitted the verses to Thomson about June, 1793. And of the tune Tke Quaker's Wife, he says: 'Mr. Fraser plays it slow, and with an expression that quite charms me. I got such an