« PreviousContinue »
Duncan could na be her death,
Ha, ha, the wooing o't*.
4th December, 1792 The foregoing, I submit, my dear sir, to your better judgment. Acquit them or condemn them, as seemeth good in your sight. Duncan Gray is that kind of light-horse gallop of an air, which precludes sentiment. The ludicrous is its ruling feature.
Mr. BURNS to Mr. THOMSON.
Tune-" I had a horse."
O poortith cauld and restless love,
Ye wreck my peace between ye ;
An' 'twere not for my Jeanie.
Life's dearest bands untwining?
Depend on fortune shining?
This warld's wealth when I think on,
It's pride, and a' the lave o't?
* This has nothing in common with the old licentious ballad of Duncan Gray, but the first line, and part of the third-the rest is wholly original.
Fie, fie on silly coward man,
O why, &c.
Her een sae bonnie blue betray,
How she repays my passion ;
O why, &c.
O wha can prudence think upon,
And sic a lassie by him?
O why, &c.
How blest the humblest cotter's fate* !
He woes his simple dearie ;
Can never make them eerie.
Life's dearer bands untwining?
Depend on Fortune's shining ?
There's braw, braw lads on Yarrow braes,
That wander thro' the blooming heather; But Yarrow braes, nor Ettric shaws,
Can match the lads o' Galla water,
Bnt there is ane, a secret ane,
Aboon them a' I loe him better; And I'll be his, and he'll be mine,
The bonnie lad o' Galla water.
Altho' his daddie was nae laird,
And tho' I hae nae meikle tocher ;
• " The wild-wood Indian's fate” in the original MS. ER
Yet rich in kindest, truest love,
We'll tent our flocks by Galla water.
It ne'er was wealth, it ne'er was wealth,
That coft contentment, peace, or pleasure ;
O that's the chiefest warld's treasure !
Jan. 1793 Many returns of the season to you, my dear sir. How comes on your publication will these two foregoing be of any service to you? I should like to know what songs you print to each tune, besides the verses to which it is set. In short, I would wish to give you my opinion on all the poetry you publish. You know, it is my trade ; and a man in the way of his trade may suggest useful hints, that escape men of much superior parts and endowments in other things.
If you meet with my dear and much-valued C., greet him, in my name, with the compliments of the season,
Mr. THOMSON to Mr. BURNS.
Edinburgh, Jan. 20, 1793. You make me happy, my dear sir, and thousands will be happy to see the charming songs you have sent me. Many merry returns of the season to you, and may you long continue among the sons and daughters of Caledonia, to delight them, and to honour yourself!
The four last songs with which you favoured me, for Auld Rob Morris, Duncan Gray, Galla water, and Cauld kail, are admirable. Duncan is Vol. II.
indeed a lad of grace, and his humour will endear him to every body.
The distracted lover in Auld Rob, and the happy shepherdess in Galla water, exhibit an excellent contrast : they speak from genuine feeling, and powerfully touch the heart.
The number of songs which I had originally in view, was limited, but I now resolve to include every Scotch air and song worth singing ; leaving none behind but mere gleanings, to which the pub. lishers of omnegatherum are welcome. I would rather be the editor of a collection from which nothing could be taken away, than of one to which nothing could be added.
We intend presenting the subscribers with two beautiful stroke engravings; the one characteristic of the plaintive, and the other of the lively songs; and I have Dr. Beattie's promise of an essay upon the subject of our national music, if his health will permit him to write it. As a number of our songs have doubtless been called forth by particular events, or by the charms of peerless damsels, there must be many curious anecdotes relating to them.
The late Mr. Tytler of Woodhouselee, I believe, knew more of this than any body, for he joined to the pursuits of an antiquary a taste for poetry, besides being a man of the world, and possessing an enthusiasm for music beyond most of his contemporaries. He was quite pleased with this plan of mine, for I may say it has been solely managed by me, and we had several long conversations about it, when it was in embryo. If I could simply mention the name of the heroine of each song, and the incident which occasioned the verses, it would be gratifying. Pray will you send me any information of this sort, as well with regard to your own songs as the old ones?
To all the favourite songs of the plaintive or pastoral kind, will be joined the delicate accompaniments, &c. of Pleyel. To those of the comic and humorous class, I think accompaniments scarcely necessary; they are chiefly fitted for the convivi.
ality of the festive board, and a tuneful voice, with a proper delivery of the words, renders them perfect. Nevertheless, to these I propose adding bass accompaniments, because then they are fitted either for singing or for instrumental performance, when there happens to be no singer. I mean to employ our right trusty friend Mr. Clarke to set the bass to these, which he assures me he will do con amore, and with much greater attention than he ever bestowed on any thing of the kind. But for this last class of airs, I will not attempt to find more than one set of verses.
That eccentric bard, Peter Pindar, has started I know not how many difficulties, about writing for the airs 1 sent to him, because of the peculiarity of their measure, and the trainmels they impose on his flying Pegasus. I subjoin for your perusal the only one I have yet got from him, being for the fine air " Lord Gregory.” The Scots verses printed with that air, are taken from the middle of an old ballad, called, The Loss of Locroyan, which I do not admire. I have set down the air therefore as a creditor of yours. Many of the Jacobite songs are replete with wit and humour; might not the best of these be included in our volume of comic songs?
FROM THE HON. A. ERSKINE.
Mr. Thomson has been so obliging as to give me a perusal of your songs. Highland Mary is most enchantingly pathetic, and Duncan Gray possesses native genuine humour: "spak o' lowpin o'er a lin,” is a line of itself that should make you immortal. I sometimes hear of you from our mutual friend C., who is a most excellent fellow, and pos. sesses, above all men I know, the charm of a most obliging disposition. You kindly promised me