« AnteriorContinuar »
The times are terribly out of tune, and when place in your collection, please return it. harmony will be restored, Heaven knows. The song you may keep, as I remember it.
The first book of songs, just published, will be dispatched to you along with this.
[Here follows the song of “ Bonnie Jean."] Let me be favoured with your opinion of it, I have some thoughts of inserting in frankly and freely.
your index, or in my notes, the names of I shall certainly give a place to the song the fair ones, the themes of my songs. I you have written for the “Quaker's Wife; do not mean the name at full; but dashes it is quite enchanting. Pray, will you return or asterisks, so as ingenuity may find them the list of songs, with such airs added to it as you think ought to be included? The The heroine of the foregoing is Miss M., business now rests entirely on myself, the daughter to Mr. M., of D., one of your gentlemen who originally agreed to join the subscribers. I have not painted her in the speculation having requested to be off. No rank which she holds in life, but in the dress matter, a loser I cannot be. The superior and character of a cottager. excellence of the work will create a general demand for it, as soon as it is properly known; and were the sale even slower than it promises to be, I should be somewhat compensated for my labour, by the pleasure I shall receive from the music. I cannot
NO. CCLXXVI. express how much I am obliged to you for
BURNS TO MR. THOMSON. the exquisite new songs you are sending me; but thanks, my friend, are a poor
July, 1793. return for what you have done-as I shall be benefited by the publication, you must truly hurt me with your pecuniary parcel.
I ASSURE you, my dear Sir, that you suffer me to enciose a small mark of my It degrades me in my own eyes. However, gratitude (166), and to repeat it afterwards
to return it would savour of atfectation; when I find it couvenient. Do not return but, as to any more traffic of that debtor it, for, by Heaven! if you do, our corres
and creditor kind, I swear, by that HONOUR pondence is at an end; and though this would be no loss to you, it would mar the BURNS'S INTEGRITY-on the least motion
which crowns the upright statue of ROBERT publication, which, under your auspices, can
of it, I will indignantly spurn the bypast not fail to be respectable and interesting.
transaction, and from that moment comWednesday Morning. mence entire stranger to you ! BURNS'S I thank you for your delicate additional character for generosity of sentiment and verses to the old fragment, and for your independence of mind, will, I trust, long excellent song to “Logan Water :” —Thom- outlive any of his wants which the cold son's truly elegant one will follow for the unfeeling ore can supply :—at least, I will English singer. Your apostrophe to states
take care that such a character he shall men is admirable, but I am not sure if it is deserve. quite suitable to the supposed gentle cha
Thank you for my copy of your publicaracter of the fair mourner who speaks it.
tion. Never did my eyes behold in any musical work such elegance and correctness. Your preface, too, is admirably written, only your partiality to me has made you say too much : however, it will bind me down to
double every effort in the future progress of BURNS TO MR. TIIOMSON.
the work. The following are a few remarks
on the songs in the list you sent nie. I July 2nd, 1793. never copy what I write to you, so I may
be often tautological, or perhaps conMY DEAR SIR--I have just finished the
tradictory. following ballad, and, as I do think it in my
“The Flowers o'the Forest,” is charming best style, I send it you. Mr. Clarke, who wrote down the air from Mrs. Burns's
as a poem, and should be, and must be, set
to the notes; but, though out of your rule, wood-note wild, is very fond of it, and has
the three stanzas beginning, given it a celebrity by teaching it to some young ladies of the first fashion here. If “I have seen the smiling o fortune bo you
do not like the air enough to give it a guiling,"
are worthy of a place, were it but to im- | like; for, in the manner the latter were mortalise the author of them, who is an old frequently sung, you must be contented lady of my acquaintance, and at this with the sound, without the sense. Indeed, moment living in Edinburgh. She is a both the airs and words are disguised by the Mrs. Cockburn, I forget of what place, but very slow, languid, psalm-singing style in from Roxburghshire. (167) What a charm
What a charm- which they are too often performed; they ing apostrophe is
lose animation and expression altogether,
and, instead of speaking to the mind, or “Oh fickle fortune, why this cruel sporting, Why, why torment us, poor sons of a day 1” touching the heart
, they cloy upon the ear,
and set us a-yawning! The old hallad, “I wish I were where
Your ballad, “There was a Lass, and sho Helen lies," is silly, to contemptibility. My was fair," is simple and beautiful, and shall, alteration of it, in Jolinson's, is not wuch undoubtedly grace my collection. better. Mr. Pinkerton, in his, what he calls, ancient ballads (many of them notorions, though beautiful enough, forgeries), has the best set. It is full of his own interpolations but no matter. In my next, I will suggest to your con
BURNS TO MR. THOMSON. sideration a few songs which may have escaped your hurried notice. In the mean
August, 1793. time, allow me to congratulate you now, as a
MY DEAR THOMSON-I hold the pen brother of the quill. You have committed for our friend Clarke, who at present is your
character and fame, which will now be tried, for ages to come, by the illustrious studying the music of the spheres at my
elbow. The Georgium Sidus he thinks is jury of the SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF
rather out of tune; so, until he rectify that TASTE-all whom poesy can
can please, or
matter, he cannot stoop to terrestrial music charm.
affairs. Being a bard of nature, I have some pre
He sends you six of the rondeau subjects, tensions to second sight; and I am warranted by the spirit to fortell and affirm, , have them.
and if more are wanted, he says you shall
R. B. that your great-grand-child will hold up
Confouud your long stairs ! your volumes, and say, with honest pride,
S. CLARKE “This so much admired selection was the work of my ancestor!"
BURNS TO MR. THOMSON,
MR. THOMSON TO BURNS.
Your objection, my dear Sir, to the pas. Edlinburgh, August 1st, 1793.
sages in my song of “ Logan Water," is DEAR SIRRI had the pleasure of receiving right in one instance; but it is difficult to your last two letters, and am happy to find mend it: if I can, I will. The other
passage you are quite pleased with the appearance of you object to does not appear in the same the first book." When you come to hear the light to me. songs sung and accompanied, you will be I have tried my hand on “Robin Adair," charmed with them.
and, you will probably think, with little “The bonuie brucket lassie” "certainly de- success; but it is such a cursed, cramp, outserves better verses, and I hope you will of-the-way measure, that I despair of doing match her. "Cauld kail in Aberdeen,” “Let anything better to it. me in this ane night," and several of the livelier airs, wait the muse's leisure; these are
[Here follows “Phillis the Fair."] peculiarly worthy of her choice gifts; besides, So much for namby-pamby. I may, after you'll notice, that in airs of this sort the all, try my hand on it in Scots verse. There singer can always do greater justice to the I always find myself most at home. poet, than in the slower airs of “The bush I have just put the last hand to the song aboon Traquair," "Lord Gregory," and the l I meant for “Cauld kail in Aberdeen.” 1
it suits you to insert it, I shall be pleased, as the heroine is a favourite of mine; if not, I
BURNS TO MR. THOMSON. shall also be pleased; because I wish, and will be glad to see you act decidedly in the
August, 1793. business. 'Tis a tribute as a man of taste,
THAT crinkum-crankum tune, and as an editor, which you owe yourself.
Adair," has run so in my head, and I súcceeded so ill in my last attempt, that I have ventured, in this morning's walk, one essay more. Youl, my dear Sir, will remember an unfortunate part of our worthy friend Cun
ningham's story, which happened about MR. THOMSON TO BURNS.
three years ago. That struck my fancy, and
I endeavoured to do the idea justice as August, 1793.
follows: My Good SIR-I consider it one of the
[Here follows "Had I a Cave."] most agreeable circumstances attending this
By the way, I have met with a musical publication of mine, that it has procured me Highlander in Breadalbane's Fencibles, which so many of your much-valued epistles. Pray are quartered here, who assures me that he make niy acknowledgements to St. Stephen well remembers his mother singing Gaelic for the tunes; tell him I admit the justness songs to both “Robin Adair” and Gramaof his complaint on my staircase, conveyed chree.” They certainly have more of the in his laconic postscript to your jeu d'esprit, Scotch than Irish taste in them. which I perused more than once, without
This man comes from the vicinity of discovering exactly whether your discussion Inverness: so it could not be any intercourse was music, astronomy, or politics ! though a
with Ireland that could bring them ; except, sagacious friend, acquainted with the con
what I shrewdly suspect to be the case, the vivial habits of the poet and the musician, wandering ministrels, harpers and pipers, offered me a bet of two to one you were just used to go frequently errant through the drowning care together; that an empty wilds both of Scotland and Ireland, and so bowl was the only thing that would deeply some favourite airs might be common to both. affect you, and the only matter you could A case in point--they have lately, in Ireland, then study how to remedy !
published an Irish air, as they say, called I shall be glad to see you give “Robin \ *Caun du delis.” The fact is, in a publication Adair” a Scottish dress. Peter is furnishing of Corri's, a great while ago, you will find him with an English suit for a change, and
and the same air, called a Highland one, with a you are well matched together. Robin's air
Gaelic song set to it. Its name there, I is excellent, though he certainly has an out-think, is "Oran Gaoil,” and a fine air it is. of-the-way measure as ever poor Parnassian Do ask honest Allan, or the Rev. Gaelie wight was plagued with. I wish you would
parson, about these matters. invoke the muse for a single elegant stanza to be substituted for the concluding objectionable verses of “Down the Burn Davie," so that this most exquisite song may no longer be excluded from good company.
Mr. Allan has made an inimitable drawing from your
John Anderson, my jo,” which BURNS TO MR. THOMSON. I am to have engraved as a frontispiece to
August, 1793. the humorous class of songs; you will be quite charmed with it, I promise you.
The MY DEAR SIR" Let me in this ane old couple are seated by the fireside. Mrs. night," I will reconsider. I am glad that you Anderson, in great good humour, is clapping are pleased with my song, Had I a Cave," John's shoulders, while he smiles and looks &c., as I liked it myself. at her with such glee, as to show that he ( walked out yesterday evening with 8 fully recollects the pleasant days and nights volume of the Museum in my hand, when, when they were
“first acquent." The turning up “ Allan Water,” “What numbers drawing would do honour to the pencil of shall the muse repeat," &c., as the words Teniers.
appeared to me rather unworthy of so fine an air, and recollecting that it is on your list, I sat and raved under the shade of an
old thorn, till I wrote one to suit the measure. I may be wrong; but I think it is not in my
BURNS TO MR. THOMSON. worst style. You must know, that in Ramsay's Tea-table, where the modern song first
August, 1793. appeared, the ancient name of the tune, Allan says, is “Allan Water," or
THAT tune," Cauld kail,” is such a favo
My love Annie's very bonnie." This last has cer
rite of yours, that I once more roved out tainly been a line of the original song; so I yesterday for gloamin-shot at the muses (168); took
when the muse that presides o'er the shores the idea, and, as you up
have introduced the line in its place, which I of Nith, or rather my old inspiring dearest presume it formerly occupied; though I like nymph, Coila, whispered me the following. wise give you a choosing line, if it should I have two reasons for thinking that it was not hit the cut of your fancy:
my early, sweet, simple inspirer that was by
my elbow, "smooth glidmg without step,” [llere follows “ By Allan stream I chanc'd and pouring the song on my glowing fancy; to rove."]
In the first place, since I left Coila's native Bravo! say I; it is a good song. Should haunts, not a fragment of a poet has arisen
to cheer her solitary musings, by catching you think so too (not else), you can set the inspiration from her, so I more than suspect music to it, and let the other follow as
that she has followed me hither, or, at least, English verses.
makes me occasional visits; secondly, the Autumn is my propitious season. I make
last stanza of this song I send you, is in the more verses in it than all the year else.
very words that Coila taught me many years God bless you!
ago, and which I set to an old Scots reel in Johnson's Museum.
[Here follows Come, let me take thee."]
If you think the above will suit your idea
of your favourite air, I shall be highly BURNS TO MR. THOMSON. pleased. “The last time I came o'er the
moor” I cannot meddle with, as to mending August, 1793.
it; and the musical world have been so lon: Is "Whistle and I'll come to you, my accustomed to Ramsay's words, that a lad,” one of your airs ? I admire it much; different song, though positively superior, and yesterday I set the following verses to would not be so well received. I am not it. Urbani, whom I have met with here, fond of chornses to songs, so I have not begged them of me, as he admires the air made one for the foregoing. much; but as I understand that he looks with rather an evil eye on your work, I did not choose to comply. However, if the song does not suit your taste, I may possibly send it him. The set of the air which I had in
BURNS TO MR. THOMSON. (169) my eye is in Johnson's Museuin.
August, 1793. [Here follows “ Oh whistle, and I'll come to you.”]
So much for Davie. The chorus, you
know, is to the low part of the tune. See Another favourite air of mine is, “The Clarke's set of it in the Museum. muckin' o' Geordie's byre.” When suny
N.B. In the Museum they have drawled slow, with expression, I have wished that it
out the tune to twelve lines of poetry, which had had better poetry; that I have endea
nonsense. Four lines of song, voured to supply as follows:
and four of chorus, is the way. [Here he gives the song " Adown winding Nith.”]
Mr. Clarke begs you to give Miss Phillis a corner in your book, as she is a particular
TO MISS CRAIK. (170) flame of his. She is a Miss Phillis M'Murdo, sister to “Bonnie Jean.” They are both
Dumfries, August, 1793. pupils of his. You shall hear from me, the MADAM-Some rather unlooked-for accivery first grist I get from my rhyming-mill
. I dents have prevented my doing myself the
honour of a second visit to Arbigland, as I was so hospitably invited, and so positively
TO LADY GLENCAIRN (171). meant to have done. However, I still hope to have that pleasure before the busy
MY LADY-The honour you have done months of harvest begin.
your poor poet, in writing him so very I enclose you two of my late pieces, as obliging a letter, and the pleasure the ensome kind of return for the pleasure I have closed beautiful verses have given him, came received in perusing a certain MS. volume of very seasonably to his aid, amid the cheerless poems in the possession of Captain Riddel. gloom and sinking despondency of diseased To repay one with an old song, is a proverb, nerves and December weather. As to forwhose force, you, Madam. I know, will not getting the family of Glencairn, Heaven is allow. What is said of illustrious descent my witness with what sincerity I could use is, I believe, equally true of a talent for those old verses, which please me more in poetry—none ever despised it wino had pre- their rude simplicity than the most elegant tensions to it. The fates and characters of lines I ever saw. the rhyming tribe often employ my thoughts “If thee, Jerusalem, I forget, when I am disposed to be melancholy. There Skill part from my right hand. is not, among all the martyrologies that
My tongue to my mouth's roof let cleave, ever were penned, so rueful a narrative as
If I do thee forget, the lives of the poets. In the comparative
Jerusalem, and thee above view of wretches, the criterion is not what
My chief joy do not set." they are doomed to suffer, but how they are formed to bear. Take a being of our When I am tempted to do anything imkind, give him a stronger imagination and proper, I dare not, because I look on myself a more delicate sensibility, which between as accountable to your ladyship and family. them will ever engender a more ungovern- Now and then, when I have the honour to able set of passions than are the usual lot be called to the tables of the great, if I of man; implant in him an irresistible im- happen to meet with any mortification from pulse to some idle vagary, such as arranging the stately stupidity of self-sufficient squires, wild flowers in fantastical nosegays, tracing or the luxurious insolence of upstart nabobs, the grasshopper to his haint by his chirp- 1 get above the creatures by calling to reing song, watching the frisks of the little membrance that I am patronised by the noble minnows in the sunny pool, or hunting after house of Glencairn; and at gala-times, such the intrigues of butterflies--in short, send as New-year's day, a christening, or the kirnhim adrift after some pursuit which shall night, when my punch-bowl is brought from eternally mislead him from the paths of its dusty corner, and filled up in honour of lucre, and yet curse him with a keener the occasion, I begin with-The Countess of relish than any man living for the pleasures Glencairn! My good woman, with the enthat lucre can purchase; lastly, fill up the thusiasm of a grateful heart, next cries, My measure of his woes by bestowing on him a Lord! and so the toast goes on until I end spurning sense of his own dignity-and you with Lady Harriet's little angel ! (172) have created a wight nearly as miserable as whose epithalamium I have pledged myself a poet. To you, Madam, I need not recount to write. the fairy pleasures the muse bestows, to When I received your ladyship's letter, I counterbalance this catalogue of evils. Be. was just in the act of transcribing for you witching poetry is like bewitching woman: some verses I have lately composed; and she has, in all ages, been accused of mislead- meant to have sent them my first leisure ing mankind from the councils of wisdom ! hour, and acquainted you with my late and the paths of prudence, involving them change of life. I mentioned to my lord my in difficulties, baiting them with poverty, fears concerning my farm. Those fears were: branding them with infamy, and plunginy i indeed too true; it is a bargain would have them in the whirling vortex of ruin ; yet, ruined me, but for the lucky circumstance where is the man but must own that all our of my having an Excise commission, happiness on earth is not worthy tlie name- People may talk as they please of the ig. that even the holy hermit's solitary prospect nominy of the Excise; £50 a year will
supof paradisiacal bliss is but the glitter of a port my wife and children, and keep me porthern sun rising over a frozen region, independent of the world, and I would compared with the many pleasures, the much rather have it said that my profession nameless raptures, that we owe to the lovely borrowed credit from me, than that I bor- . queen of the heart of man!
R. B. rowed credit from my profession. Another