Page images

Bessié Bell I lo'ed yestreen,

And thocht I ne'er could alter ;
But Mary Gray's twa pawky een

Gar'd a' my fancy falter.

Bessie's hair's like a lint-tap,

She smiles like a May mornin',
When Phoebus starts from Thetis' lap,

The hills with rays adornin'.
White is her neck, saft is her hand,

Her waist and feet fu’ genty ;
With ilka grace she can command, -
Her lips, oh, now,

they're denty!

Mary's locks are like the craw,

Her een like diamonds' glances ;
She's aye sae clean, redd up, and braw,

She kills whene'er she dances.
Blythe as a kid, wi' wit at will,

She blooming, tight, and tall is,
And guides her airs sae gracefu' still,-

0 Jove ! she's like thy Pallas.

Young Bessie Bell and Mary Gray,

Ye unco sair oppress us ;
Our fancies jee between ye twa,

Ye are sic bonnie lasses.
Wae's me! for baith I canna get,

To ane by law we're stentit ;
Then I'll draw cuts, and tak my fate,

And be wi' ane contentit.

The heroines of this well-known ballad were the daughters of two Perthshire gentlemen. Bessy Bell was the daughter of the Laird of Kinnaird, and Mary Gray of the Laird of Lynedoch. A romantic attachment subsisted between them, and they retired together to a secluded spot called the “ Burn Braes,” in the neighbourhood of Lynedoch, to avoid the plague that then raged in Perth, Dundee, and other towns. They caught the infection, however, and both died. Tradition asserts that a young ntleman, in love with one of them, visited them in their solitude, and that it was

him they caught the contagion. The late gallant Lord Lynedoch, on whose the heroines lie buried, erected a kind of bower over their graves. The following is the original ballad on which Allan Ramsay's is founded. The melody to which it is sung was introduced by Gay into the “ Beggars' Opera," to the words commencing:

“ A curse attends that woman's love
Who always would be pleasing.”

O Bessie Bell and Mary Gray,

They were twa bonnie lasses;
They biggit a bower on yon burn-brae,

And theekit it ower wi' rashes.
They theekit it ower wi' rashes green,

They theekit it ower wi' heather;
But the pest came frae the burrow town,

And slew them baith thegither.

They thought to lie in Methven kirkyard

Amang their noble kin;
But they maun lie in Stronach Haugh

To beek forenent the sun.
And Bessie Bell and Mary Gray,

They were twa bonnie lasses;
They biggit a bower on yon burn-brae,

And theekit it ower wi' rashes.



The last time I cam’ower the muir,

I left my love behind me:
Ye powers, what pains do I endure

When soft ideas mind me!
Soon as the ruddy morn display'd

The beaming day ensuing,
I met betimes my lovely maid

In fit retreats for wooing.

We stray'd beside yon wand'ring stream,

And talk'd with hearts o'erflowing,
Until the sun's last setting beam

Was in the ocean glowing.
I pitied all beneath the skies,

Even kings, when she was nigh me;
In raptures I beheld her eyes,

Which could but ill deny me.

Should I be call’d where cannons roar,

Where mortal steel may wound me,
Or cast upon some foreign shore,

Where dangers may surround me;
Yet hopes again to see my love,

To feast on glowing kisses,
Shall make my cares at distance move,

In prospect of such blisses.

In all my soul there's not one place

To let a rival enter ;
Şince she excels in ev'ry grace,

In her my love shall centre.
Sooner the seas shall cease to flow,

Their waves the Alps shall cover,
On Greenland ice shall roses grow,

Before I cease to love her.


The neist time I gang ower the muir,

She shall a lover find me;
And that my faith is firm and pure,

Though I left her behind me;
Then Hymen's sacred bonds shall chain

My heart to her fair bosom ;
There, while my being does remain,

My love more fresh shall blossom.

" The first lines of this song, and several others in it, are beautiful; but in my opinion – pardon me, revered shade of Ramsay!- the song is unworthy of the divine air." - BURNS.




When first my dear laddie gae'd to the green hill,
And I at ewe-milking first sey'd my young skill,
To bear the milk-bowie nae pain was to me,
When I at the bughting forgather'd with thee.


When corn-riggs waved yellow, and blue heather-bells
Bloom'd brightly on moorland and sweet rising fells;
Nae burns, brier, or bracken, gave trouble to me,
If I found but the berries right ripen'd for thee.


When thou ran, or wrestled, or putted the stane,
And cam aff the victor, my heart was aye fain;
Thy ilka sport manly gave pleasure to me,
For nane can put, wrestle, or run swift as thee.


Our Jenny sings saftly the “Cowden-Broom-Knowes,"
And Rosie lilts sweetly the “ Milking the Ewes;"
There's few “ Jenny Nettles” like Nancy can sing ;
With “Through the wood, laddie,” Bess gars our lugs ring :
But when my dear Peggy sings, with better skill,
The “Boatman, ," “ Tweedsdale," or the “ Lass o' the Mill,”
'Tis many times sweeter and pleasing to me;
For though they sing nicely, they cannot like thee.


How easy can lasses trow what they desire,
With praises sae kindly increasing love's fire !
Give me still this pleasure, my study shall be
To make myself better and sweeter for thee.



In April, when primroses paint the sweet plain,
And summer approaching rejoiceth the swain,
The yellow-hair'd laddie would oftentimes go
To woods and deep glens where the hawthorn-trees grow.
There under the shade of an old sacred thorn
With freedom he sung his loves ev’ning and morn:

sung with so soft and enchanting a sound, That silvans and fairies, unseen, danced around.

The shepherd thus sung: “Though young Maddie be fair,
Her beauty is dash'd by a scornfu' proud air;
But Susie was handsome, and sweetly could sing, -
Her breath’s like the breezes perfumed i’ the spring.
That Maddie, in all the gay bloom of her youth,
Like the moon, was inconstant, and never spoke truth;
But Susie was faithful, good-humoured, and free,
And fair as the goddess that sprung from the sea.
That mamma's fine daughter, with all her great dower,
Was awkwardly airy, and frequently sour.
Then sighing, he wish’d, would but parents agree,

The witty sweet Susie his mistress might be. Allan Ramsay founded this song upon a much older composition - of itself not devoid of merit, and free from the concetti of its more modern namesake. It was inserted “ Tea-Table Miscellany," and here appended.

The yellow-hair'd laddie sat down on yon brae,
Crying, “Milk the ewes, lassie ; let nane o' them gae."
And aye as she milkit she merrily sang,
The yellow-hair'd laddie shall be my gudeman.
The weather is cauld and my cleadin' is thin,
The yowes are new-clipt and they winna bught in;
They winna bught in, although I should dee,
O yellow-hair'd laddie, be kind unto me!
The gudewife cries butt the house, “ Jennie, come ben;
The cheese is to mak and the butter's to kirn."
Though butter and cheese and a' should gang sour,
I'll crack and I'll kiss wi' my love a half-hour.
It's ae lang half-hour, and we'll e'en mak it three,
For the yellow-hair'd laddie my gudeman shall be.

[ocr errors]

Air—"The yellow-hair'd laddie.” From the “ Tea-Table Miscellany."

On Whitsunday morning

I went to the fair ;
My yellow-hair'd laddie

Was selling his ware;
He gied me sic a blythe blink

With his bonny black ee,
And a dear blink and a fair blink

It was unto me.

« PreviousContinue »