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away,” I spun the following stanza for it; , you have a wise man or a fool, until you but whether my spinning will deserve to be produce him to the world to try him. laid up in store, like the precious thread of For that reason I send you the offspring the silk-worm, or brushed to the devil, like of my brain, abortions and all; and, ag the vile manufacture of the spider, I leave such, pray look over them and forgive them, niy
dear Sir, to your usual candid criticism. and burn them. (192) I am flattered at your I was pleased with several lines in it at first, adopting “Ca' the yowes to the knowes," but I own that now it appears rather a as it was owing to me that ever it saw the flimsy business.
light. About seven years ago I was well This is just a hasty sketch, until I see acquainted with a worthy little fellow of a whether it be worth a critique. We have clergyman, a Mr. Clunie, who sang it charmmany sailor songs, but as far as I at present ingly; and, at my request, Mr. Clarke took recollect, they are mostly the effusions of it down from his singing. When I gave it the jovial sailor, not the wailings of his love to Johnson, I added some stanzas to the lorn mistress. I must here make one sweet song, and mended others, but still it will exception—“Sweet Annie frae the sea-beach not do for you.
not do for you. In a solitary stroll which I Now for the song :
took to-day, I tried my hand on a few [“ On the seas and far away."]
pastoral lines, following up the idea of the I give you leave to abuse this song, but with all its crudities and imperfections on
chorus, which I would preserve. Here it is, do it in the spirit of Christian meekness. its head.
[Here follows “ Ca' the yowes."] I shall give you my opinion of your other newly adopted songs my first scrib
bling fit. MR. THOMSON TO BURNS.
Edinburgh, Sept. 16th, 1794.
BURNS TO MR. THOMSON productions, though it certainly contains
Sept. 1794. stanzas that are worthy of all acceptation, The second is the least to my liking, par
Do you know a blackguard Irish song
The air is ticularly “Bullets, spare my only joy.” called “Onagh’s Waterfall ?” Confound the bullets! It might, perhaps, charming, and I have often regretted the be objected to the third verse, “At the want of decent verses to it. It is too much, starless midnight hour," that it has too
at least for my humble rustic muse, to much grandeur of imagery, and that greater expect that every effort of hers shall have simplicity of thought would have better merit; still, I think it is better to have suited the character of a sailor's sweetheart. mediocre verses to a favourite air, than none The tunc, it must be remembered, is of the
at all. On this principle I have all along brisk, cheerful kind. Upon the whole, there proceeded on the Scots Musical Museum; fore, in my humble opinion, the song would and as that publication is at its last volume, be better adapted to the tune, if it con- I intend the following song, to the air sisted only of the first and last verses, with above mentioned, for that work.
If it does not suit you as an editor, you the choruses,
may be pleased to have verses to it that you
of a'"] BURNS TO MR. THOMSON.
Not to compare small things with great,
my taste in music is like the mighty Sept. 1794.
Frederick of Prussia's taste in painting; we I SHALL withdraw my “On the seas and are told that he frequently admired what far away” altogether : it is unequal, and the connoisseurs decried, and always withunworthy the work. Making a poem is like out any hypocrisy confessed his admiration. begetting a son: you cannot know whether | I am sensible that my taste in music must
be inelegant and vulgar, because people of You save fair Jessie from the grave
, because God grant you patience with this stupid I am cheaply pleased, is that any reason why I should deny myself that pleasure ?
epistle! Many of our strathspeys, ancient and modern, give me most exquisite enjoyment, where you and other judges would probably be showing disgust. For instance, I am just now making verses for “Rothemurche's
MR. THOMSON TO BURNS. rant," an air which puts me in raptures ; and, in fact, unless I be pleased with the I PERCEIVE the sprightly muse is now tune, I never can make verses to it. Here I attendant upon her favourite poet, whose have Clarke on my side, who is a judge that woodnotes wild are become as enchanting as I will pit against any of you.
“She says she loes nie best of a'," is murche,” he says, “is an air both original one of the pleasantest table songs I have and beautiful ; '; and, on his recommenda- seen, and henceforth shall be mine when the tion, I have taken the first part of the tune song is going round. I'll give Cunningham for a chorus, and the fourth or last part for a copy; he can more powerfully proclaim the song. I am but two stanzas deep in the its merit. I am far from undervaluing work, and possibly you may think, and your taste for the strathspey music; on the justly, that the poetry is as little worth contrary, I think it highly animating and your attention as the music.
agreeable, and that some of the stratlıspeys,
when graced with such verses as yours, will [Here follow two stanzas of the song,
make very pleasing songs, in the same way beginning “ Lassie wi' the lint-white locks.”]
that rough Christians are tempered and I have begun anew, “Let me in this ane softened by lovely woman, without wliom, night.” Do you think that we ought to you know, they had been brutes. retain the old chorus? I think we must I am clear for having the "Sow's tail,” retain both the old chorus and the first particularly as your proposed verses to it are stanza of the old song. I do not altogether so extremely promisiug. Geordie, as you like the third line of the first stanza, but observe, is a name only fit for burlesque cannot alter it to please myself. I am just composition. Mrs. Thomson's name (Kathathree stanzas deep in it. Would you have rine) is not at all poetical. Retain Jeanie, the denouëment to be successful or other therefore, and make the other Jamie, or any wise ?---should she let him in " or not? other that sounds agreeably.
Did you not once propose “The sow's Your “Ca' the ewes” is a precious little tail to Geordie” as an air for your work? morceau. Indeed, I am perfectly astonished I am quite delighted with it; but I acknow- and charmed with the endless variety of ledge that is no mark of its real excellence. your fancy. Here let me ask you, whether I once set about verses for it, which I meant you never seriously turned your thoughts to be in the alternate way of a lover and his upon dramatic writing ? That is a field mistress chanting together. I have not the worthy of your genius, in which it might pleasure of knowing Mrs. Thomson's shine forth in all its splendour. One or Christian name; and yours, I am afraid, is two successful pieces upon the London stage rather burlesque for sentiment, else I had would make your fortune. The rage at meant to have made you the hero and present is for musical dramas : few or none heroine of the little piece.
of those which have appeared since the How do you like the following epigram “ Duema,” possess much poetical merit; which I wrote the other day on a lovely there is little in the conduct of the fable, or young girl's recovery from a fever ? Doctor in the dialogue, to interest the audience: Maxwell was the physician who seemingly they are chiefly vehicles for music and saved her from the grave; and to him I pageantry. I think you might produce a address the following :
comic opera in three acts, which would live
by the poetry, at the same time that it TO DR. MAXWELL,
would be proper to take every assistance from her tuneful sister.
Part of the songs, ON MISS JESSIE STAIG'S RECOVERY,
of course, would be to our favourite Scottish Maxwell, if merit here you crave,
airs; the rest might be left to the London That merit I deny:
composer---Storace for Drury-lane, or Shield
for Covent-garden, both of them very able | going to the oldest collections of our music, and popular musicians, I believe that it does not follow that we find the melodies interest and manoeuvring are often necessary in their original state. These melodies had to have a drama brought on; so it may be been preserved, we know not how long, by with the namby-pamby tribe of flowery oral communication, before being collected scribblers : but were you to address Mr. and printed; and, as different persons sing Sheridan himself by letter, and send him a the same air very differently, according to dramatic piece, I am persuaded he would, their accurate or confused recollection of it, for the honour of genius, give it a fair and so, even supposing the first collectors to candid trial. Excuse me for obtruding possess the industry, taste, and discernment, these hints upon your consideration. (193) to choose the best they could hear (which is
R. B. far from certain), still it must evidently be
a chance, whether the collections exhibit any of the melodies in the state they were first composed. In selecting the melodies for my own collection, I have been as much
guided by the living as by the dead MR. THOMSON TO BURNS. Where these differed, I preferred the sets
that appeared to me the most simple and Edinburgh, October 14th, 1794.
beautiful, and the most generally approved : The last eight days have been devoted to and withont meaning any compliment to my the re-examination of the Scottish collections. own capability of choosing, or speaking of I have read, and sung, and fiddled, and the pains I have taken, I flatter myself that considered, till I am half blind, and wholly my sets will be found equally free from stupid. The few airs I have added, are vulgar errors on the one hand, and affected enclosed.
graces on the other. Peter Pindar has at length sent me all the songs I expected from him, which are, in general, elegant and beautiful. Have you heard of a London collection of Scottish airs and songs, just published by Mr. Ritson, an Englishman? I shall send you a copy. His introductory essay on the BURNS TO MR. THOMSON. subject is curious, and evinces great reading and research, but does not decide the
October 19th, 1794. question as to the origin of our melodies; MY DEAR FRIEND-By this morning's though he shows clearly that Mr. Tytler, in post I have your list, and, in general, I his ingenious dissertation, has adduced no highly approve of it. I shall, at more lei. sort of proof of the hypothesis he wished to sure, give you a critique on the whole. establish, and that his classification of the Clarke goes to your town by to-day's fly, airs according to the eras when they were and I wish you would call on him and take composed, is mere fancy and conjecture. his opinion in general : you know his taste On John Pinkerton, Esq., he has no mercy, is a standard. He will return here again in but consiyns him to damnation. He snarls
He snarls a week or two, so please do not miss asking at my publication, on the score of Pindar for him. One thing I hope he will dobeing engaged to write songs for it; un- persuade you to adopt my favourite, “Craigiecandidly and unjustly leaving it to be burn wood," in your selection: it is as great inferred, that the songs of Scottish writers a favourite of his as of mine. The lady on had been sent a-packing to make room for whom it was made is one of the finest women Peter's ! Of you he speaks with some
ome in Scotland ; and in fact (entre nous) is in a respect, but gives you a passing hit or two, manner to me, what Sterne's Eliza was to for daring to dress up a little some old him-a mistress, or friend, or what you will, foolish songs for the Museum. His sets of' in the guileless simplicity of Platonic love. the Scottish airs are taken, he says, from l (Now, don't put any of your squinting conthe oldest collections and best authorities ; structions on this, or have
structions on this, or have any clishmaclaver many of them, however, have such a strange about it among our acquaintances.) I assure aspect, and are so unlike the sets which are you that to my lovely friend you are indebted sung by every person of taste, old or young, for many of your best songs of mine. Do in town or country, that we can scarcely you think that the sober, gin-horse routine recognise the features of our favourites. By of existence could inspire a man with life,
and love, and joy—could fire him with enthu- , enlarged; and to please you, and to suit siasm, or melt him with pathos, equal to the your favourite air, I have taken a stride or genius of your book ? No! no! Whenever two across my room and have arranged it I want to be more than ordinary in song-to / ane
anew, as you will find on the other
page. be in some degree equal to your diviner airs
do you imagine I fast and pray for the [Here follows “ How long and dreary is celestial emanation ? Tout au contraire! I the Night.”] have a glorious recipe; the very one that for
Tell me how you like this. I differ from his own use was invented by the divinity of
your idea of the expression of the tune. healing and poetry, when erst he piped to
There is, to me, a great deal of tenderness in the flocks of Admetus. I put myself in a
You cannot, in my opinion, dispense regimen of admiring a fine woman; and in with a bass to your addenda airs. A lady of proportion to the adorability of her charms, in proportion you are delighted with my and sings at the same time so charmingly,
my acquaintance, a noted performer, plays The lightning of her eye is the god- that I shall never bear to see any of her songs head of Parnassus, and the witchery of her
sent into the world, as naked as Mr. Whatsmile the divinity of Helicon! To descend to business; if you like my tion. (197)
d'ye-call-um has done in his London collecidea of "When she cam ben she bobbit,” the following stanzas of mine, altered a little I have not that command of the language
These English songs gravel me to death. from what they were formerly, when set to
that I have of my native tongue. I have another air, may perhaps do instead of worse
been at “Duncan Gray," to dress it in stanzas :
English, but all I can do is deplorably stupid,
For instance:[Here follows “ Saur ye my Philly."]
[Here follows “Let not Woman e'er Now for a few miscellaneous remarks.
complain."] “ The Posie” (in the Museum) is my compo
the air was taken down from Nīrs, Since the above, I have been out in the Burns's voice. (194) It is well known in country taking a dinner with a friend, where the west country, but the old words are I met with the lady whom I mentioned trash. By the bye, take a look at the tune in the second page in this odds-and-ends of again, and tell me if you do not think it is la letter.
a letter. As usual, I got into song; and the original from which “Roslin Castle” is returning home I composed the following:composed. The second part, in particular, for the first two one old air. Strathallan's Lament is mine
TO HIS MISTRESS. the music is by our right trusty and deservedly well-beloved Allan Masterton,
TUNE-Deil tak the Wars. “Donocht-Head” (195) is not mine; I would Sleep'st thou, or wak’st thou, fairest creagive ten pounds it were. It appeared first
ture; in the Edinburgh Herald, and came to the editor of that paper with the Newcastle post. Numbering ilka bud which nature
Rosy morn now lifts his
eye, mark on it. (196) “Whistle o'er the lave
Waters wi' the tears o' joy: o't" is mine : the music said to be by a
Now thro' the leafy woods, John Bruce, a celebrated violin player in
And by the reeking floods, Dumfries, about the beginning of this
Wild nature's tenauts, freely, gladly stray; century. This I know, Bruce, who was an
The lintwhite in his bower honest man, though a red-wud Highlandınan,
Chants o'er the breathing flower; constantly claimed it; and by all the old
The lay'rock to the sky musical people here, is believed to be the
Ascends wi' sangs o' joy, author of it.
While the sun and thou arise to bless tho “Andrew and his cutty gun.” The song to
day. which this is set in the Museum is mine, and was composed on Miss Euphemia Murray, of Phoebus gilding the brow o' morning, Lintrose, commonly and deservedly called Banishes ilk darksome shade, the Flower of Strathmore.
Nature gladd’ning and adorning ; "How long and dreary is the night!” I Such to me my lovely maid. met with some such words in a collection of When absent frae my fair, songs somewhere, which I altered and The murky shades o' care
With starless gloom o'ercast my sullen sky; , them into the world naked as they were But when in beauty's light,
born, was ungenerous. They must all be She meets my ravished sight,
clothed and made decent by our friend When through my very heart
Clarke. Her beaming glories dart;
I find I am anticipated by the friendly "Tis then I wake to life, to light, and Cunningham in sending you Ritson's Scotjoy! (198)
tish collection. Permit me, therefore, to
present you with his English collection, If you honour my verses by setting the which you will receive by the coach. I do air to them, I will vamp up the old song, and not find his historical essay on Scottish song make it English enough to be understood.
interesting. Your anecdotes and miscellaI enclose you a musical curiosity, an East
neous remarks will, I am sure, be much more Indian air, which you would swear was a Allan has just sketched a charming deScottish one. I know the authenticity of it, sign from “Maggie Lauder.” She is dancing as the gentleman who bronght it over is a with such spirit as to electrify the piper, who particular acquaintance of mine.
seems almost dancing too, while he is playing serve me the copy I send you, as it is the
with the most exquisite glee. I am much only one I have. Clarke has set a bass to it, inclined to get a small copy, and to have it and I intend putting it into the Musical engraved in the style of Ritson’s prints. Museum. Here follow the verses I intend
P.S. Pray what do your anecdotes say for it.
concerning “ Margie Lauder ?”—was she a [Here follows “ But lately seen in glad real personage, and of what rank? You some green.”]
would surely “spier for her, if you ca'd at
would procure me a sight of Ritson's collection of English songs, which you mention in your letter. I will thank you for another information, and that as speedily as you please : whether this miserable, drawliny, hotchpotch epistle has not completely tired
BURNS TO MR. THOMSON.
November, 1794. Many thanks to you, my dear Sir, for your present. it is a book of the utmost importance to me. I have yesterday begun
my anecdotes, &c., for your work. I intend MR. THOMSON TO BURNS.
drawing them up in the form of a letter to
you, which will save me from the tedious Edinburgh, October 27th, 1794. dull business of systematic arrangement. I AM sensible, my dear friend, that a Indeed, as all I have to say consists of ungenuine poet can no more exist without his unconnected remarks, anecdotes, scraps of mistress than his meat. I wish I knew the
I wish I knew the old songs, &c., it would be impossible to give adorable she, whose bright eyes and witching the work a beginning, a middle, and an end, smiles have so often enraptured the Scottish which the critics insist to be abolutely necesbard, that I might drink her sweet health sary in a work. In my last, I told you my when the toast is going round. “Craige objections to the song you had selected for burn wood” must certainly be adopted into “My lodging is on the cold ground.” On my family, since she is the object of the my visit the other day to my fair Chloris song; but, in the name of decency, I must (that is the poetic name of the lovely god. beg a new chorus verse from you.
dess of my inspiration), she suggested an be lying beyond thee, dearie,” is perhaps a idea, which I, on my return from the visit, consummation to be wished, but will not do wrought into the followiny song. for singing in the company of ladies. The
“My Chloris, mark how green the groves." songs in your last will do you lasting credit, and suit the respective airs charmingly. I am How do you like the simplicity and tenperfectly of your opinion with respect to derness of this pastoral? I think it pretty the ådditional airs. The idea of sending well.