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are introduced ; while from one or two others which are included, the objectionable passages are silently omitted ; the editor judging it better to fit his book, by that very slight sacrifice, for the use of the tasteful, the fair, and the young, than to consult the wishes of the antiquary; who, after all, has but little reason to complain of such violations, seeing that the songs are to be found, in all their native beauty, in the collections of Ramsay and Herd.
HANOVER STREET, EDINBURGH;
April 27, 1829.
It seems extremely strange, that, although the Scot. tish people are more proud of their songs and music than of any other branch of literature or accomplishment peculiar to them, they can tell very little regarding the origin and early history of these endeared national treasures. Yet, mysterious as the thing appears, it is perhaps easily to be accounted for. Poetry and music, till the early part of the last century, lived a very vagrant and disreputable life in Scotland. They flourished vigorously in the hearts and souls of the people for the people of Scotland were susceptible of the strongest impressions from poetry and music. But they were discountenanced, to the last degree, by the public institutions of the country. The voice of song was, perhaps, daily heard on the lea and on the mountain side, where the simple ploughman and shepherd were following their various occupations ; it was also, perhaps, heard nightly under the sooty rafters of the humble cot, breathing from fair or from manly lips, as an amusement for the hours of relaxation, It was
employed universally in giving expression to the passions of humble life. It supplied language to the bashful shepherd lover in addressing the beautiful and barefooted divinity, who had first sent the thrill of love into his heart. It supplied that divinity, in her turn, with innuendoes and evasive phrases, wherewith to play the first game of coquetry; and finally, with metaphorical imagery, in which to clothe her confession and consent. Youth found in song a weapon to employ against the selfish views of age ; and age found, in its various and interminable armoury, a dart wherewith to transfix and mortify the inconsiderate passions of youth. Yet, although thus of universal application in ordinary life, and although forming so great a part in the sum of rustic enjoyment, it was always looked upon with aversion and disrespect by persons concerned in public affairs. It was a sinful thing, arising from the natural wickedness of the heart; a thing, at least, that tended to pleasure, and which was therefore condemned by the oracles of a religious creed, which looked upon every human pleasure, however innocent, as calculated to ensnare and mislead. If it lived at all, it lived as crimes live against the exertions of the High Court of Justiciary, or as the tribe of rats continues to exist notwithstanding the craft of the rat-catcher. Its ex. istence was altogether clandestine and desultory. It never appeared, so to speak, above board. It stole along, a little hidden rill of quiet enjoyment, beneath the incumbent mass of higher, and graver, and more solid matters. Its history, thus, is no more noted by the chroniclers of the kingdom, than the course of a subterraneous river is marked on the map of the country in which it is situated.
Such having been the condition of Scottish song till a recent period, it necessarily follows that very little can be recovered by the present generation regarding it. It would be no more possible to compile a history of the vagrant ditties which delighted the sixteenth
century, than it would be to present a distinct and connected historical view of the condition of the gipsies or the beggars of the same period. The most vigilant researches into the annals of the country have only been able to procure for us a few vague and meagre incidental notices regarding the existence of such a thing as song; and if any fragments have been preserved in connexion with these notices, they refer almost exclusively to public transactions-are, in general, only national pasquils—and scarcely in any case have the appearance of what is now considered song. The light of history, in attempting to illuminate this dark subject, has only as yet sent the level rays of its dawn along the mountain tops, and spires, and towers; it has not yet risen so high as to penetrate down into the deep and quiet vale of humble life, and glisten the cottages open the daisies which nestle and blossom there. These little incidental notices, however, unsatisfactory as they are upon the whole, may be presented to the reader, as approaching in the nearest possible degree to an elucidation of a very interesting subject, and as being, in the very worst view of the case, preferable to nothing at all.
It is recorded, for instance, by Andrew Wintoun, prior of Lochleven, who wrote a rhyming chronicle of Scottish history about the year 1420, that when Alex. ander III. was killed by a fall from his horse in 1286, the people composed a brief song upon the subject, in which they lamented the cessation of that extraordinary degree of plenty and prosperity which distinguished his reign, and anticipated the misery which was to arise from a disputed succession. The song
is introduced by a couplet, which seems to intimate that song-making was a matter of common occurrence in the time of the wars of the competition, or at least in that of Wintoun.
This falyhyd fra he deyd suddanly ;