Complete Songs Of Robert Burns - online book

360+ songs with lyrics, sheet music, historical notes & glossary.

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The melody is repeated on page 42 of the same collection with variations by Thomas Morley, proving its popularity. It will be observed that this English set is not the same as the tune in the text originally published in Johnson's Museum.
*Ho. 358. The auld man's mare's dead. Johnson's Museum, 1796, No. 48J. In a letter to Johnson about March, 1795, Bums refers to this song as follows: ' See the air in Aird's Selection and the words in the Scots Nightin­gale? The song is such an excellent specimen of the Scots vernacular, with a very characteristic Scottish melody, that I give here Burns's recension of th* verses, and the melody. He rewrote the second stanza, and verbally altered the rest. The author of the original is stated by Allan Ramsay to have been Pate Birney, an itinerant fiddler in Fife; but the verses in the Scots Nightingale, 1779,_y<5, are stated to be ' By Mr. Watt,' and the earliest record of the tune is in Aird's Airs, 1782, ii. No. i;8. From these two facts it maybe inferred that the song referred to by Ramsay is not that which Burns amended, but some earlier and now unknown song.
*Ho. 359. She sat down below a thorn. Scots Musical Museum, 1792, No. 330. No MS. of these verses is known, and Stenhouse is the authority : 'This ancient and beautiful air with the fragment of the old ballad were both transmitted by Burns to Johnson for the Museum.' (Illust. p. 308.) A smaller fragment of four disconnected stanzas on a similar subject, but more obscure, is in Herd's Scottish Sengs, 1776, ii. 277. Since the time of Bums five or six different and expanded versions have been published. Under the head of Lady Anne it is in Scott's Minstrelsy, 1803, iii. 2jq; and more completely as The Cruel Mother in Motherwell's Minstrelsy, 1827, 161. In Child's Ballads, 1882, No. 20, the whole tale is evolved. The fragment in our text contains descriptive touches, but there is no means of ascertaining what is original. In one of the recensions the child's nurse is described as the murderer. A Scottish Act of Parliament in 1690 prescribed that a mother in certain circumstances was guilty of murder if she concealed a birth, or did not call in assistance in child-bed. The chief point of the tale is dispersed over Europe.
The sweet simple tune is from the original in the Museum. Another and inferior melody is in the Appendix to Kinloch's Ballads, 1827.
*No. 360. It's whisper'd in parlour. This is the fragment of a ballad here reprinted, simply because Bums was the medium by which the verses and the melody were originally published in the Scots Musical Museum, 1796, No. 461. The original MS. has been lost, and Stenhouse is the authority, as follows : ' This fragment of an ancient song, together with the elegant original little air of one strain, to which the words are adapted, were recovered by Bums.' (Illust. p. 404.) The complete tale—mad and revolting—in Motherwell's Minstrelsy, 1727, 189, describes how 'Lady Marget' was killed by her brother, and how—
' He has howkit a grave that was lang and was deep, The broom blooms bonnie and says it is fair, And he has buried his sister wi' her babie at her feet, And they'll never gang down to the broom onie mair.'