Complete Songs Of Robert Burns - online book

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444                         HISTORICAL NOTES
the neighbourhood of Thomhlll on the Nith, where the poet sometimes stayed, and where he wrote the verses on a glass tumbler which is now in the library at Abbotsford.
The tune Ye 're welcome, Charlie Stewart is referred to in' Song No. 26.
No. 244. Contented, wi' little and cantie wi' mair. Thomson's Scotisk Airs, 1799, 6j, 'Written for this work by Robert Burns. Air, Lumps 0' pudding. The MS. is in the Thomson collection. Burns accepted Thomson's proposal to write a song for the tune about the middle of November, 1794. In May, 1795, Thomson had presented to Burns a painting of The Cottar's Saturday night, by David Allan, in which the poet figured. Burns, in thanking the donor, suggested that if a vignette were made the motto should be, Con­tented wi' little and cantie wi' mair, ' in order that the portrait of my face and the picture of my mind may go down the stream of Time together.'
The tune known as Lumps of Pudding or Sweet Pudding is in the Dancing Master, 1701 ; Sinkler's MS., 1710; and the Caledonian Pocket Companion, c- *755> yii- 4- Verses and the music are in Durfey's Pills, 1720, joo. In Herd's Scottish Songs, 1776, ii. 221, a vernacular humorous song is marked for the tune, showing that this English melody was domesticated in Scotland. The subject is not an uncommon satire in Scottish song. The last stanza of the Herd fragment is:—
'As I gaed by the minister's yard,
I spied the minister kissing his maid.
Gin ye winna believe, cum here and see
Sic a braw new coat the minister gied me.'
No. 245. I had sax owaen in a pleugh. Scots Musical Museum, 1803, No. 542, ' Corrected by R. Burns.' ' This humorous drinking-song, with the exception of the chorus which is old, was written by Burns' (Stenhouse, Illustrations, p. 47J). Ale was the common beverage and even an article of food of the people of Scotland. Home-brewed small beer and oatmeal porridge were the diet of the peasantry within living memory.
The tune The bottom of the punch-bowl is in Oswald's Companion, 1743, i. 2p; McGibbon's Scots Tunes, 1742, ij; and Aird's Airs, 1782, i. No. $>_;.
(Nos. 246-253.) Poems ascribed to Robert Burns, 1801,7; Cromek's Scotish Songs, 1810, ii. 233. This remarkable composition was written about the end of 1785. Nowhere is the genius of Burns more displayed than in this description of the lowest stratum of human life, and the portraiture of the individuals composing the society of the most depraved Bohemians. One true function of art is to provoke sympathy with all animated nature, and Burns was the first poet of his century who cast aside the artificial Damons and Celias of song and the affectations of the rhymer; he stepped out into the field of nature, saw it with a clear open eye, gauged it with a sound mind, and depicted it with the feeling that he was a part of the great scheme. No poet before him—except Cowper— sang of the weeds, the flowers, and the lower animals as subjects of affectionate regard. Burns's Deil was a human spirit who spoke ' broad Scots,' with whom he could converse in familiar terms, and from whom he parted on the best of terms, hoping he ' will tak a thocht and mend.'
The Jolly Beggars is a sordid scene of the dregs of humanity. The ragged crew are spending their precarious earnings in the most reckless manner. The microscopic analysis of the company, and the humorous portraits of the indi­viduate of the group, are so exquisitely real, that a sneaking kindness is felt for the social outcasts. How the poem originated may be briefly told. On a winter