Complete Songs Of Robert Burns - online book

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IX. MISCELLANEOUS                       475
' A great critic (Aikin) on songs says, that love and wine are the exclusive themes for song-writing. This is on neither subject, and consequently is no song; but will be allowed, I think, to be two or three pretty good prose thoughts inverted into rhyme.' He resumes the subject in a later part of the same letter: ' I do not give you the foregoing song for your book, but merely by way of vive la bagatelle ; for the piece is not really poetry.'
The tune For a' that an' o' that has been continuously popular since the middle of the eighteenth century. In Loyal Songs, 1750. there is a Jacobite effusion for the tune, beginning ' Though Geordie reign in Jamie's stead,' which is reprinted in Ritson's Scotish Songs, 1794, ii. 102. The chorus is :— Tor a' that, and a' that,
And thrice as muckle's a' that;
He's far beyond the seas the night,
Yet he'll be here for a' that.' .
In the Merry Muses is a broad vernacular beginning :—
' Put butter in my Donald's brose, For weel does Donald fa' that; I loe my Donald's tartans weel,' &c.
The tune is a close adaptation of Lady Macintosh's Reel, first printed in 1754, and afterwards in Bremner's Scots Reels, 1759, S2, for which see Song No. 2j2. The music is also in the Scots Musical Museum, 1790, No. 290, and Ritson's Scotish Songs, 1794, ii. 102. In Christie's Traditional Ballad Airs, 1888, ii. }6, is a set to a traditional Jacobite song He wears a bonnet for a hat, a variation of that in Loyal Songs with the same chorus. Christie states that his father got his air from the last representative of three generations of pipers called Jaffray.
No. 310. I dream'd I lay. ' These two stanzas I composed when I was seventeen and are among the oldest of my printed pieces' (Interleaved Museum). The MS. is in the British Museum. The song was originally published, and signed 'X' in Johnson's Museum, 1788, No. 146, with the original melody as in the text. In one of the Gray MSS. it appears that the tune was sent to Burns entitled One night I dream'd I lay most easy, and intended to be set to the words of another song. A marginal note by Johnson, the proprietor of the Museum (who like Chaucer could not spell!), is 'do not loss this, as I have not a nother copy. It is a pritty tune. J. J.' Burns drew his pen through the title, and inserted the first line of his own song. Accord­ingly) tne a'r was set t° his verses I dream'd I lay. The discarded song described by Burns as the second set of the Young man's dream, and written by an eccentric genius known as Balloon Tytler, was printed in the same volume of the Museum with a remodelled set of the tune. Burns's verses with the tune were reprinted in Napier's Scots Songs, 1792, ii. 88. Tom Moore adapted the music for his song ' As a beam o'er the face of the waters.'
Wo. 311. Farewell, ye dungeons dark and strong. Scots Musical Museum, 1788, No. 114, signed ' Z,' tune MTherson's farewell. The MS. is in the British Museum. No country in Europe has more increased in wealth during the last hundred and fifty years than Scotland. Four years prior to the time at which the original of McPherson's farewell is supposed to have been written—that is 1705—Scotland was so poor that the Government could not pay a Parliamentary grant of j^oo Scots to James Anderson for writing an ' Historical Essay snowing that the Crown and Kingdom of Scotland is Imperial and Independent,'Edinburgh 1705, in answer to Dr. Drake's offensive Historia Anglo-Scotica which the Parliament ordered to be burnt by the public hangman. Except between two or three of the principal towns in the Lowlands, there were no roads ; that to Inverness for example being sImply a footpath scarcely much better than those winding through Central Africa at the present day.

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