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
French Army, between the night of the 25th and the morning of the 26th April, 1792, or about seventeen months before Burns wrote Scots wha hae to com­memorate an event more than five hundred years old.
It must be told how Burns's song was criticized, revised, altered, and finally printed in a different rhythm and to a wrong tune. Thomson having shown it to some friends, they agreed as to the merit of the verses, but 'reprobated the idea of giving it a tune so utterly devoid of interest or grandeur as Hey, tutti, taitie'; saying further, ' I never heard any one speak of it as worthy of notice.' Thomson and the committee of taste decided that the poet must have created some fanciful partiality for the air through connexion with the tradition concerning it, which was nearly correct, but not in the sense they meant; and then they proceeded to suggest what they thought as a more appropriate melody—Lewie Gordon; but as its measure differed, they recommended that a foot should be added to every fourth line of the song,- thus:—Stanza 1, Or to glorious victory; 2, Chains, chains and slavery; 3, Let him, let him turn and flee; 4, Let him bravely follow me ; 5, But they shall, they shall be free; 6, Let us, let us do or die. What was Burns to do? he had not a single supporter; every one disapproved of his tune—that melody for which the song was specially written, and over which he had wept when Fraser played it. Professional musicians, editor, and committee had declared Hey, tutti, taitie unsuitable, so he succumbed and agreed to alter the verses as suggested—in his own way. Thomson, having affected a material and emasculated alteration, proceeded to suggest further amendments but Burns now lost patience, straightened himself, and.sent an ultimatum in the following terms: 'My Ode pleases me so much, that I cannot alter it. Your proposed alterations would, in my opinion, make it tame. I am exceedingly obliged to you for putting me on reconstructing it, as I think I have much Improved it, ... I have scrutinised • it over and over; and to the world some way or other, it shall go as it is.' This closed the correspondence on the subject. Scots wha hae, as reconstructed, completely reversed Burns's invariable method of writing with the sound of some favourite melody ringing in his ears. The verses originally appeared in the London Morning Chronicle, May, 1794. Thomson printed them with the tune Lewie Gordon, in Scotish Airs, 1799, 74 ; or three years after Burns's death.
The public learnt from Currie, in Works, 1800, the struggle for existence of the Ode of Burns, and how the song had been altered; and demanded that the original words should be printed with its own tune. Thomson admitted his error and reprinted the song in his next volume, in 1801, ijj, with a note that he thought that ' Hey, tutti, taitie cave more energy to the words than Lewie Gordon' The original draft in Burns's handwriting—that which he wrote on August 31, 1793—belonged to the late Frederick Lockyer, the author of London Lyrics.
Hey, tutti, taitie or Hey now the day dawes, the tune of Scots wha hae, ' requires an exposition in order to get rid of some misconception regarding its origin. There is no evidence supporting the tradition that it was played at Bannockburn, although one of the earliest fragments of Scottish song existing is in the peculiar rhythm of the tune. In the Book of St. Aldan's—a chronicle relating to the time of Robert the Bruce—the stanza of a contemporary satirical song is quoted on the flamboyant dress of the officers of the English army who kept the country in check at that period. I quote in modern English : 'At that time the Englishmen were clothed all in coats and hoods painted with letters, and with flowers full seemly, with long beards : and therefore the Scots made a rhyme that was fastened upon the Church doors of St. Peter towards Stangate (York). And thus said the scripture in despite
" Longe berdes hertles, '
Payntyd hodes wytles, Gay cotes graceles,
Makyth Englond thrifteles."'