Complete Songs Of Robert Burns - online book

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I. LOVE-SONGS : PERSONAL                   367
wandering minstrels, harpers, or pipers, used to go frequently errant through the wilds both of Scotland and Ireland, and so some favourite airs might be common to both.' The air is Irish, so far as ascertained.
No. 46. Farewell, thou stream that winding flows. Thomson's Scotish Airs, 1799, So, ' Written for this work by Robert Bums.' Air, The last time 1 came o'er the moor. This is the English version of a song written for Thomson in honour of Mrs. Maria Riddell, and after the qnarrel with her he cancelled her name and replaced it by ' Eliza' as in the text. Of the first version which he sent to Thomson in April, 1793, he says: 'I had scarcely put my last letter into the post-office when I took up the subject of " The last time I came o'er the moor," and e'er I slept, drew the foregoing.' Eighteen months later he rewrote it as in the text, but was not enthusiastic on the result, and asked why Thomson could not take Ramsay's song in the Tea- Table Miscellany for the English specimen.
The tune in the Skene MS.,c. 1630, is entitled Alas ! yatlcame owr the moor and left my love behind me. Although Burns knew not the Skene MS., he makes the following note on his song: ' Where old titles of songs convey any idea at all, it will generally be found to be quite in the spirit of the air' (Reliques, 204). The music is in the Orpheus Caledonius, 1725, No. 6; Ramsay^s Musick, c. 1726; Watts's Musical Miscellany, 1729, i. 142; M "Gibbon's Scots Tunes, 1742,34; Caledonian docket Companion, 1745, fi. 24 ; Bremner's Scots Songs, 1757, o ; Scots Musical Museum, 1787, iS ; Ritson's Scotish Songs, 1794, i- 114. In all cases the tune published differs considerably from that in the Skene MS., which is here reprinted from the transcription in Dauney's Ancient Scottish Melodies, 1838, 217.
No. 47. A slave to love's unbounded sway. Scots Musical Museum, 1803, No.574, signed 'B.' 'Written for this work by Robert Burns,' and confirmed by Stenhouse. How this song was written has not been ascertained. Scott-Douglas surmised that Jessie Lewars, who nursed Burns in his last illness, was the subject of it.
The tune, The Cordwainer's or Shoemakers March, is in Aird's Airs, 1782, i. No. ij6. It is a good melody in the minor mode, framed on the modern scale with sharp sixths and sevenths. The following Russian air, resembling the tune in the leading passages, is taken from Graham's Songs of Scotland, 1848:—
UTo. 48. Turn again, thou fair Eliza! Scots Musical Museum, 1792, No. 368, signed ' B,' entitled Fair Eliza, ' a Gaelic air.' Thomson's Scotish Airs, 1798,42, with a wrong tune. In one of the few existing letters to James Johnson, the publisher of the Scots Musical Museum, the following.extract is from that of November 15, 1788: 'Have you never a fair goddess that leads you a wild-goose chase of amorous devotion t Let me know a few of her qualities, such as whether she be rather black or fair, plump or thin, short or tall, &c, and choose your air, and I shall task my muse to celebrate her.-' Some years later he made a similar application to George Thomson, but that gentleman replied that his name was Geordie, and his wife Katherine, both too unmusical to be .put into verse. The song Fair Eliza was written for Johnson, as the original line in the MS. in the British Museum is Turn again, thou fair Rabina, a name previously suggested by Johnson.