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BURNS TO MR. THOMSON
the poetry I speak with confidence; but the ain house” is a great favourite air of mine; music is a business where I hint my ideas and if you will send me your set of it, I will with the utmost diffidence.
task my muse to her highest effort. What The old verses have merit, though un is your opinion of “I hae laid a herrin' in equal, and are popular: my advice is to set saut ?" I like it much. Your Jacobite airs the air to the old words, and let mine follow are pretty, and there are many others of the as English verses. Here they are :
same kind pretty; but you have not room (Here follows the song "Where are the joys."]
for them. You cannot, I think, insert“ Fy!
let's a' to the bridal,” to any other words Adieu, my dear Sir! the post goes, so I than its own. shall defer some other remarks until nore What pleases me, as simple and naïf, disleisure.
gusts you as ludicrous and low. For this reason, “ Fy! gie me my cogyie. Sirs." “ Fy!
let's a' to the bridal," with several others of NO. CCXCVI.
that cast, are to me highly pleasing; while,
“Saw ye my father, or saw ye my mother?" BURNS TO THOMSON.
delights me with its descriptive simple September, 1793.
pathos. Thus my song, " Ken ye what lies
o'the mill has gotten ?” pleases myself so I HAVE been turning over sonie volumes
much, that I cannot try my hand at another of songs, to find verses whose measures
song to the air, so I shall not attempt it. I would suit the airs for which you have
know you will laugh at all this; but “ilka allotted me to find English songs.
nan wears his belt his ain gait." For “Muirland Willie," you have, in Ramsay's Tea-table an excellent song, hegiming, “Ah, why those tears in Nelly's eyes?” As for “The Collier's dochter,"
NO. CCXCVII. take the following old bacchanal :[Here follows “Deluded swain, the
BURNS TO MR. THOMSON. pleasure."]
October 1793. The faulty line in Logan-Water, I mend Your last letter, my dear Thomson, was thus :
indeed ladi'n with heavy news. Alas, poor
Erskine! (178) The recollection that he “How can your flinty hearts enjoy The widow's tears, the orphiau's cry?”
was a coadjutor in your publication, has, till
now, scared me from writing to you, or The song otherwise will pass. As to turning my thoughts on composing for you. "M'Gregoria Rua-Ruth.” you will see a I am pleased that vou are reconciled to song of mine to it, with a set of the air the air of the “ Quaker's wife ;” though, by superior to yours, in the Museum, vol. ii. the bye, an old Highland gentleman, and a p. 181. The song begins,
deep antiquarian, tells me it is a Gaelic air, “Raving winds around her blowing.” and known by the name of "Leiger m' Your Irish airs are pretty, but they are
choss.” The following verses, I hope, will downright Irish. If they were like the
please you, as an English song to the air. “Banks of Banna," for instance, though
[Here follows “ Thine am I, my faithful really Irish, yet in the Scottish taste, you might adopt them. Since you are so fond of Your objection to the English song I proIrish music, what say you to twenty-five of posed for “ John Anderson, my jo," is certhem in an additional number? We could tainly just. The following is by an old easily find this quantity of charming airs: I acquaintance of mine, and I think has merit. will take care that you shall not want songs; The song was never in print, which I think and I assure you that you would find it the is so much in your favour. The more origimost saleable of the whole. If you do not nal good poetry your collection contains, it approve of “Roy's wife,” for the music's certainly has so much the more merit. sake, we shall not insert it. “Deil tak the wars ” is a charming song; so is, “Saw ye
SONG.-By GAVIN TURNBULL. (179) my Peggy?” “ There's nae luck about the “Oh condescend, dear charming maid, house" well deserves a place. I cannot say My wretched state to view; that“O'er the hills and far awa” strikes me A tender swain to love betray'd, as equal as your selection. “This is no my And sad despair, by you.
While here, all melancholy,
Where the sweetest May-born flowers My passion I deplore,
Paint the meadows, deck the corrers; Yet, urg'd by stern resistless fate,
Where the linnet's early song
Echoes sweet the woods among :
Let me wander where I will,
Laura haunts my fancy still.
If at rosy dawn I choose
To indulge the smiling muse;
If I court some cool retreat,
To avoid the noontide heat;
If beneath the moon's pale ray,
Thiro' unfrequented wilds I strav:
Let me wander where I will,
Laura haunts my fancy still.
When at night the drowsy god
Waves his sleep-compelling rod,
And to fancy's wakeful eyes
Bids celestial visions rise;
While with boundless joy I rove
Thro' the fairy land of love:
Let me wander where I will,
Laura haunts my fancy still." The following address of Turnbull's to the
The rest of your letter I shall answer on Nightingale, will suit as an English song to the air, - There was a lass, and she was fair."
>> | some other opportunity. By the bye, Turnbull has a great many sougs in MS., which I can command, if you like his manner. Possibly, as he is an old friend of mine, I may be prejudiced in his favour:
NO. CCXCVIII. but I like some of his pieces very much.
MR. THOMSON TO BURNS. THE NIGHTINGALE.
November 7th, 1793. “Thou sweetest minstrel of the grove,
My Good SIR-After so long a silence, That ever tried the plaintive strain,
it gave me peculiar pleasure to recognise
your well kuown-hand, for I had begun to Awake thy tender tale of love,
be apprehensive that all was not well with And soothe a poor forsaken swain.
you. I am happy to find, however, that For though the muses deign to aid, your silence did not proceed from that
And teach him smoothly to complain; cause, and that you have got among the Yet Delia, charming, cruel maid,
ballads once more. Is deaf to her forsaken swain.
I have to thank you for your English All day, with fashion's gaudy sons,
song to “Leiger m'choss," which I think
extremely good, although the colouring is In sport she wanders o'er the plain :
warm. Your friend, Mr. Turnbull's songs Their tales approves, and still she shuns
have doubtless considerable merit; and as The notes of her forsaken swain.
you have the command of his manuscripts, When evening shades obscure the sky, I hope you may find out some that will And bring the solemn hours again,
answer as English songs, to the airs yet Begin, sweet bird, thy melody,
unprovided. (180) And soothe a poor forsaken swain.”
I shall just transcribe another of Turnbull's, which would go charmingly to “Lewie
TO JOHN MÖMURDO, Esq.
Dumfries, December, 1793. “Let me wander where I will,
SIR-It is said that we take the greatest By shady wood, or winding rill; | liberties with our greatest friends, and I
pay myself a very high compliment in the pertinent in my anxious wish to be honoured manner in which I am going to apply the with your acquaintance. You will forgive it remark. I have owed you money longer-it was the impulse of heart-felt respec than ever I owed it to any man. Here is “He is the father of the Scottish county Ker's account, and here are six guineas; reform, and is a man who does honour to and now, I don't owe a shilling to man-or the business, at the same time that the woman either. But for these d dirty, 1 business does honour to him," said my dog-eard little pages (181), I had done my worthy friend Glenriddel to somebody by self the honour to have waited on you long me who was talking of your coming to this ago. Independent of the obligations your country with your corps. “Then,” I said, hospitality has laid me under, the con- "I have a woman's longing to take him by ciousness of your superiority in the rank of the hand, and say to him, 'Sir, I honour you man and gentleman, of itself was fully as as a man to whom the interests of humanity much as I could ever make head against; are dear, and as a patriot to whom the but to owe you money too, was more than I rights of your country are sacred." could face,
In times like these, Sir, when our comI think I once mentioned something of a j moners are barely able, by the glimmering collection of Scots songs I have for some of their own twilight understandings, to years been making. I send you a perusal of scrawl a frank, and when lords are what what I have got together. I could not gentlemen would be ashamed to be, to conveniently spare them above five or six whom shall a sinking country call for days, and five or six glances of them will help? To the independent country gentleprobably more than suffice you. A very man. To him who has too deep a stake in few of them are my own. When you are his country not to be in earnest for her ired of them, please leave them with Mr. | welfare; and who, in the honest pride of Clint, of the King's Arins. There is not man, can view, with equal contempt, the another copy of the collection in the world ; insolence of office, and the allurements of and I should be sorry that any unfortunate | corruption. negligence should deprive me of what has I mentioned to you a Scots ode or cost me a good deal of pains. R. B. song I had lately composed (181), and
which, I think, has some merit. Allow me to enclose it. When I fall in with you at
the theatre, I shall be glad to have your NO, CCC.
opinion of it. Accept of it, Sir, as a very TO JOIIN M’MURDO, Esq.,
humble, but most sincere tribute of respect
for a man who, dear as he prizes poetic DRUMLANRIG.
fame, yet holds dearer an independent
Dumfries, 1793. i mind. I have the honour to be, Will Mr. M’Murdo do me the favour to accept of these volumes (182); a trifling but sincere mark of the very high respect I bear for his worth as a man, his manners as a gentleman, and his kindness as a friend.
NO. CCCII, However inferior now, or afterwards, I may rank as a poet, one honest virtue to which
TO MRS. RIDDEL few poets (an pretend, I trust I shall ever WHO WAS ABOUT TO BESPEAK A PLAY ONE claim as mine-to no man, whatever his EVENING AT THE DUMFRIES THEATRE. station in life, or his power to serve me,
I AM thinking to send my “ Address” to have I ever paid a compliment at the
some periodical publication, but it has not expense of TRUTH. THE AUTHOR.
got your sanction, so pray look over it.
As to the Tuesday's play, let me beg of
you, my dear Madam, to give us “The NO. CCCI.
Wonder, a Woman keeps a Secret!” to
which please add, “The Spoilt Child”-you TO CAPTAIN m. (183) will highly oblige me by so doing.
Ah, what an enviable creature you are ! Dumfries, December 5th, 1793.
There now, this cursed, gloomy, blue-devil SIR-Heated as I was with wine yesterday, you are going to a party of choice night, I was perhaps rather seemingly im- | spirits
To play the shapes | position of mine (186), as a small tribute of Of frolic fancy, and incessant form
gratitude for the acquaintance with which Those rapid pictures, assembled train
you have been pleased to honour me. IndeOf fleet ideas, never join'd before,
pendent of my enthusiasm as a Scotsman, I Where lively wit excites to gay surprise: have rarely met with any thing in history Or folly-painting humour, yrave himself, which interests my feelings as a man, egual Calls laughter forth, deep shaking every with the story of Bannockburn. On the one nerve,
hand, a cruel but able usurper, leading on
the finest army in Europe to extinguish the But, as you rejoice with them that do rejoice, do also remember to weep with them
last spark of freedom among a greatly-daring that weep, and pity your melancholy friend,
and greatly-injured people; on the other
hand, the desperate relics of a gallant nation, R. B. (185)
devoting themselves to rescue their bleeding country, or perish with her.
Liberty! thou art a prize truly, and indeed NO. CCCIII.
invaluable, for never caust thou be too dearly
bought! TO A LADY,
if my little ode has the honour of your IN FAVOUR OF A PLAYER'S BENEFIT.
lordship's approbation, it will gratify my
highest ambition. I have the honour to be. Dumfries, 1794.
R. B. MADAM-You were so very good as to promise me to honour my friend with your presence on his benefit night. That night is fixed for Friday next: the play a most interesting one-"The Way to Keep Him."
NO. CCCV. I have the pleasure to know Mr. G. well.
TO CAPTAIN MILLER, His merit as an actor is generally acknowledged. He has genius and worth which
DALSWINTON. would do honour to patronage: he is a poor and modest man : --claims which, from
DEAR SIR-The following ode (137) is on their very silence have the more forcible
| a subject which I know you by no means power on the generous heart. Alas, for
regard with indifference. Oh, Liberty, pity! that, from the indolence of those who Thou mak'st the gloomy face of nature gay, have the good things of this life in their Giv'st beauty to the sun, and pleasure to gift, too often does brazen-fronted im
the day. portunity snatch that boon, the rightful due of retiring, humble want! Of all the
It does me so much good to meet with a qualities we assign to the author and man whose honest bosom glows with the director of Nature, by far the most enviable yenerous enthusiasm, the heroic daring of is to be able to wine away all tears from a liberty, that I could not forbear sending you all eves." Oh what insignificant, sordid a composition of iny own on the subject, wretches are they, however chance may which I really think is in my best manuer. have loaded them with wealth, who go to
I have the honour to be, dear Sir, &c. their graves, to their magniticent mauso
R. B. leums, with hardly the consciousness of having made one poor honest heart happy.
But I crave your pardon, Madam; I came to beg not to preach. R. B.
DEAR MADAM-I meant to have called
on you yesternight; but as I edged up to NO. CCCIV.
your box-door, the first object which greeted TO THE EARL OF BUCHAN. my view was one of those lobster-coated
puppies, sitting like another dragon, guarding Dumfries, January 12th, 1794.
the Hesperian fruit. On the coulitions and MY LORD-Will your lordship allow me capitulations you so obligingly offer, I shall to present you with the enclosed little con- I certainly make my weather-beaten, rustic
phiz a part of your box-furniture on Tuesday, spoilt it a good deal. It shall be a lesson to when we may arrange the business of the me how I lend him anything again. visit.
I have sent you “Werter," truly happy to Among the profusion of idle compliments, have any, the smallest, opportunity of obliwhich insidious craft, or unmeaning folly, ging you. incessantly offer at your shrine-a shrine, 'Tis true, Madam, I saw you once since I how far exalted above such adoration-per- was at Woodlee; and that once froze the mit me, were it but for rarity's sake, to pay very life-blood of my heart. Your reception you the honest tribute of a warm heart and of me was such, that a wretch meeting the an independent mind,-and to assure you, eye of his judge, about to pronounce sentence that I am, thou most amiable, and most of death on him, could only have envied my accomplished of thy sex, with the most feelings and situation. But I hate the respectful esteem, and fervent regard, thine, theme, and never more shall write or speak &c.
R. B. on it.
One thing I shall proudly say, that I can pay Mrs. R. a higher tribute of esteem, and appreciate her amiable worth more truly, than any man whom I have seen approach her.
R. B. NO. CCCVII.
TO THE SAME. I will wait on you, my ever-valued friend, but whether in the morning I am not sure. Sund:y closes a period of our curst
NO. CCCIX. revenue business, and may probably keep
TO THE SAME. me employed with my pen until noon. Fine employment for a poet's pen! There is a
I RAVE often told you, my dear friend, species of the human genus that I call the that you had
that you had a spice of caprice in your com
anime, gin-horse class: what enviable doys they are!
position, and you have as often disavowed it; Round, and round, and round they go even, perhaps, while your opinions were, at Nundell's ox, that drives his cotton mill, is the moment, irrefragably proving it. Could their exact prototype--without an idea or
anything estrange me from a friend such as wish beyond their circle--fat, sleek, stupid, you? No! Tö-morrow I shall have the patient, quiet and contented; while here I honour of waiting on you sit, altogether Novemberish, a d--- melange ! Farewell, thou first of friends, and most of fretfulness and melancholy; not enough i accomplished of women, even with all thy of the one to rouse me to passion, nor of the
little caprices !
R. B. other to repose me in torpor; my soul flouncing and fluttering round her tenement, like a wild finch, caught amid the horrors of winter, and newly thrust into a cage. Well, I am persuaded, that it was of me the Hebrew sage prophesied, when he foretold—“And, behold, on whatsoever this man doth set his
NO. CCCX. heart, it shall not prosper!" If my resent
TO THE SAME. ment is awaked, it is sure to be where it dare pot squeak; and if- * * *
MADAMMI return your common-place Pray that wisdom and bliss be more fre book. I have perused it with much pleasure, quent visitors of
and would have continued my criticisms, but as it seems the critic has forfeited your esteem, his strictures must lose their value.
If it is true that “offences come only from the heart;" before you I am guiltless. To
admire, esteem and prize you, as the most NO. CCCVIII.
accomplished of women, and the first of
friends—if these are crimes, I am the most TO THE SAME.
offending thing alive. I HAVE this moment got the song from In a face where I used to meet the kind Syme, and I am sorry to see that he has complacency of friendly confidence, now to