Complete Songs Of Robert Burns - online book

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448                         HISTORICAL NOTES
France he rade a race,1 which may have been the model of Burns. The second
stanza is:—
'But there cam a fiddler out o' Fife, This fiddler cam wi' sword and lance,
A blink beyond Balwearie, O,                And a' his links o' leary, O,
And he has coft a gully knife               To learn the Whigs a morice dance
To gie the Whigs a bleary, O.             That they lov'd wondrous deary, O.'
The tune is in the Caledonian Pocket Companion, c. 1756, viii. 26, and Campbell's Reels, 1778, 77. but it was printed previously in Bremner's Reels, 1757, /, under the title Lady Doll Sinclair's Reel. The melody is very little known, and Burns's song is here for the first time printed with its tune.
No. 255. Scots, wha hae wi' Wallace bled. Scotish Airs, 1799, 7./, ' Written for this work by Robert Burns.' Two different accounts exist of the origin of Scots, who hae. Syme, the distributer of Government stamps in Dumfries, an intimate friend and neighbour of Burns, communicated to Dr. Cnrrie a graphic account of a short excursion Burns and he made through Galloway in the end of July, 1793. In traversing Kenmure, the savage scenery and desolate appearance was intensified by bad weather. ' Next day,' Syme says,' he produced me the Address of Bruce to his troops, and gave me a copy for Dalziel.' According to this statement related in Currie, Works, 1800, i. 2og, 21}, Scots, wha hae was written and completed between July 28 and 30, 1793. Burns's own account is contained in a letter to Thomson, assigned to September I, 1793, enclosing a copy of the ode. I quote the entire letter, as it formulates Burns's Impressions of music. ' My dear Sir, —You know that my pretensions to musical taste are merely a few of nature's instincts, untaught and untutored by art. For this reason, many musical compositions, particularly where much of the merit lies in counterpoint, however they may transport and ravish the ears of you connoisseurs, affect my sImple lug no otherwise than merely as melodious din. On the other hand, byway of amends, I am delighted with many little melodies, which the learned musician despises as silly and insipid. I do not know whether the old air Hey, tutti, taitie may rank among this number; but well I know that with Fraser's hautboy, it has often filled my eyes with tears. There is a tradition which I have met with in many places in Scotland, that it was Robert Bruce's march at the battle of Bannockburn. This thought, in my yesternight's evening walk, warmed me to a pitch of enthusiasm on the theme of liberty and independence, which I threw into a kind of Scots Ode, fitted to the air, that one might suppose to be the gallant royal Scot's address to his heroic followers on that eventful morning. So may God ever defend the cause of Truth and Liberty, as He did that day. Amen! R. B. P.S.—I shewed the air to Urbani, who. was highly pleased with it and begged me make soft verses for it; but I had no idea of giving myself any trouble on the subject, till the accidental recollection of that glorious straggle for Freedom, associated with the glowing ideas of some other struggles of the same nature, not quite so ancient, roused my rhyming mania. Clarke's set of the tune, with his bass, you will find in the Museum, though I am afraid that the air is not what will entitle it to a place in your elegant selection.' From this letter several inferences may be drawn : first, that Burns suspected Thomson would not care for the tune Hey, tutti, taitie; second, that professional musicians considered it a pathetic air; and third, that the French revolution was a cause of the origin of Scots, wha hae.
Dr. Currie made no attempt to decide when the song was written, and the subject is not of vital Importance here. When Burns sent it to Thomson he may have finally drawn it up and corrected it fit for the press. As we know, he took an active interest in the stirring drama of the French Revolution, and it is interesting to remember that the struggles of the same nature,' not quite so ancient,' produced a much more famous song in France. The Chant de guerre pour I'armie du Rhin, better known as The Marseillaise Hymn, was written and composed at Strasburg, by Rouget de Lisle, a Captain of Engineers in the