Complete Songs Of Robert Burns - online book

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372                           HISTORICAL NOTES
Alexander, the third Earl of Huntley, in 1523, and had three daughters as in the ballad. Jean married the Earl of Bothwell, who divorced her in 1568 to marry Mary, Queen of Scots. Her second husband was the Earl of Sutherland, who died in 1594, and surviving him (she must have had a tough constitution) she married Captain Alexander Ogilvie of Boyne, who died in 1606. As Jean is described in the ballad as 'bonny Jeanie Gordon,' evidently young, and having three children in three years by Captain Ogilvie, history and the ballad do not fit one another very well.
Ho. 58. Flow gently, sweet Afton, among thy green braes. Scots Musical Museum, 1792, No. j86, signed 'B,'entitled Afton Water. A MS. is in the British Museum, entitled Sweet Afton. The origin of this well-known, beautiful lyric is disputed. Currie relates that it was written on Afton Water, and in compliment to Mrs. Stewart; Gilbert Burns states that Mary Campbell was the heroine; Scott-Douglas agrees with this, but in the Centenary Burns it is asserted that it has no connexion with Highland Mary, but was written as a compliment to the river Afton which flows into the Nith near New Cumnock; and that the verses were sent to Mrs. Dunlop on February 5, 1789. This is doubtless correct; but it may be, and very likely is, a reminiscence of Mary Campbell. In 1791 Burns sent a copy to Mrs. Stewart of Stair. Stenhouse states that Burns communicated the melody to the Museum.
No. 59. Mae gentle dames, tho' ne'er sae fair. Scots Musical Museum, 1788, No. ny, signed ' X,' entitled The Highland Lassie 0'. Scotish Airs, 1798, jj, with a wrong tune. The MS. is in the British Museum. 'This was a composition of mine in very early life, before I was known at all in the world. My Highland Lassie was a warm-hearted, charming young creature as ever blessed a man with generous love. After a pretty long tract of the most ardent reciprocal attachment, we met by appointment, on the second Sunday of May, in a sequestered spot by the Banks of Ayr, where we spent the day taking a farewell, before she should embark for the West Highlands, to arrange matters among her friends for our projected change of life. At the close of Autumn following she crossed the sea to meet me at Greenock, where she had scarce landed when she was seized with a malignant fever, which hurried my dear girl to the grave in a few days, before I could even hear of her illness' (Reliques, 1S08, 237). This note has an important bearing on the Highland Mary episode, and it is necessary to warn the. reader that the leaf from which C'romek is supposed to have copied it is now wanting in the Interleaved Museum. The questions arise, Was the note ever there? and, if so, why was it cut out, who abstracted it, and where is it now? For the Marion controversy see the Edinburgh edition, 1877, iv. 120-130.
The tune, M'Lauchlin's Scots Measure, is in Original Scotch Tunes, 1700, and is unsuitable for Bnrns's gay song from its extended compass, which no ordinary voice can reach, and its skipping intervals. Another copy of the music is in the Caledonian Pocket Companion, 1754, vi. 28, entitled The Inverness Scots Measure, and in Aird's Airs, 1782, ii. No. 95
Ho. 60. Thou ling'ring star with less'ning ray. Scots Musical Museum, 1790, No. .279, entitled My Mary, dear departed shade. Tune, Captain Cook's death, &c. This lyric is believed to have been written in October, 1789, the third anniversary of the death of Mary Campbell. There is no comment on the song by the poet in his notes. Many curious conjectures have been made as to the circumstances of the Highland Mary attachment, and Cromek was the first to connect this song with her. He relates how that on a night in October, Burns lay in the barn-yard on the lee-side of a corn-stack to protect himself from the keen frosty wind, and remained there until the dawn wiped out the stars, &c, &c. Lockhart, Life, chap, vii, on the authority of Mrs. Burns, gives a more circumstantial account of the origin of the song, quite as sensa­tional as the other. That Burns was the victim of great emotion and hypochondria