« AnteriorContinuar »
I like you for entering so candidly and so kindly into the story of “ma chere amie." I assure you I was never more earnest in my
BURNS TO MR. THOMSON. life, than in the account of that affair which I sent you in my last. Conjugal love is a
I AM out of temper that you should set passion which I deeply feel, and highly vene
so sweet, so tender an air, as “ Deil tak the rate; but somehow it does not make such a
wars," to the foolish old verses. You talk figure in poesy as that other species of the of the silliness of “Saw ye my father ?” passion,
(200)-by Heavens! the odds are gold to
brass! Besides, the old song, though now Where love is liberty, and nature law.
pretty well modernised into the Scottish Musically speaking, the first is an instru- | language, is originally, and in the early ment of which the gamut is scanty and editions, a bungling low imitation of the contined, but the tones inexpressibly sweet, D'Urfey, so has no pretensions to be a
Scottish manner, by that genius Tom
Scottish production. There is a pretty intellectual modulations of the human soul. Still, I am a very poet in my enthusiasm English song by Sheridan, in the “Duenna, of the passion. The welfare and happiness to this air, which is out of sight superior to of the beloved object is the first and invio- | D'Urfey's. It begins, late sentiment that pervades my soul; and “When sable night each drooping plant whatever pleasures I might wish for, or restoring.” whatever might be the raptures they would give me, yet, if they interfere with that tirst The air, if I understand the expression of principle, it is having these pleasures at a
it properly, is the very native language of dishonest price; and justice forbids, and simplicity, tenderness, and love. I have generosity disdains, the purchase! (199)
again gone over my song to the tune as Despairing of my own powers to give you
follows. (201) variety enough in English songs, I have
Now for my English song to “Nancy's been turning over old collections, to pick to the greenwoods,” &c. out songs, of which the measure is some- [Here follows the song "Farewell thou thing similar to what I want; and, with a stream."] little alteration, so as to suit the rhythm of the air exactly, to give you them for
There is an air, “The Caledonian Hunt's
your work. Where the songs have hitherto been delight,” to which I wrote a song that you but little noticed, nor have ever been set to
will find in Johnson, “ Ye bauks and braes music, I think the shift a fair one.
o' bonnie Doon :" this air, I think, might which, under the same first verse, you will find a place among your hundred, as Lear find in Ramsay's Tea-Table Miscellany, I says of his knights. Do you know the have cut down for an English dress to your history of the air ? It is curious enough. Dainty Davie," as follows:
A good many years ago, Mr. James Miller,
writer in your good town, a gentleman whom “ It was the charming month of May." possibly you know, was in company with our
friend Clarke; and talking of Scottish music, You may think meanly of this, but take Miller expressed an ardent ambition to be a look at the bombast original, and you will able to compose a Scots air. Mr. Clarke, be surprised that I have made so much of partly by way of joke, told him to keep to it. I have finished my song to
Rothe- the black keys of the harpsicord, and premurche's rant," and you have Clarke to serve some kind of rhythm, and he would consult as to the set of the air for singing. infallıbly compose a Scots air. Certain it is
that, in a few days, Mr. Miller produced the [Here follows “ Lassie wi' the lint-white rudiments of an air, which Mr. Clarke, with locks :"]
some touches and corrections, fashioned into This piece has at least the merit of being has the same story of the black keys; but
the tune in question. Ritson, you know, a regular pastoral : the vernal morn, the this account which I have just given you, summer noon, the autumnal evening, and
Mr. Clarke informed me of several years the winter night, are regularly rounded. If you like it, well; if not, I will insert it in ago. Now, to show you how difficult it is the Museum.
to trace the origin of our airs, I have heard it repeatedly asserted that this was an Irish air; nay, I met with an Irish gentleman
who affirmed he had heard it in Ireland | voice; and the second part, in many inamong the old women ; while, on the other stances, cannot be sung, at concert pitch, hand, a countess informed me, that the first but by a female voice. A song thus perperson who introduced the air into this formed mikes an agreeable variety, but few country, was a baroniet's lady of her ac- of our's are written in this form : I wish you quaintance, who took down the notes from would think of it in some of those that an itinerant piper in the Isle of Man. How remain. The only one of the kind you have difficult, then, to ascertain the truth respect- sent me is admirable, and will be an universal ing our poesy and music! I, myself, have favourite. lately seen a couple of ballads sung through Your verses for “Rothemurche the streets of Dumfries, with my name at sweetly pastoral, and your serenade to the head of them as the author, though Chloris, for “Del tak the Wars," so passionit was the first time I had ever seen | ately tender, that I have sung myself into then.
raptures with them. Your song for “My I thank you for admitting “Craigieburn lodying is on the cold ground,” is likewise a wood: ” and I shall take care to furnish diamond of the first water: I am quite dazyou with a new chorus. In fact, the chorus zled and delighted by it.
Some of your was not my work, but a part of some old Chlorises, I suppose, have flaxen hair, from verses to the air. If I can catch myself in your partiality for this colour-else we differ a more than ordinarily propitious moment, about it; for I should scarcely conceive a I shall write a new “ Cragieburn wood" woman to be a beauty, on reading that she altogether. My heart is much in the hail lint-white locks! theme.
“ Farewell thou stream that winding I am ashamed, my dear fellow, to make flows,” I think, excellent, but it is much too the request; 'tis during your generosity; serious to come after “Nancy;"-at least, it but in a moment when I had forgotten would seem an incongruity to provide the whether I was rich or poor, I promised same air with merry Scottish and melancholy Chloris a copy of your songs. It wrings English verses! The more that the two sets my honest pride to write you this ; but an of verses reseinble each other, iu their genungracious request is doubly so by a tedious eral character, the better. Those
have apology. To make you some amends, as
manufactured for Dainty Davie” will soon as I have extracted the necessary infor- answer charmingly. I am happy to find you mation out of them, I will return you Rit-have begun your anecdotes: I care not how son's volumes.
long they be, for it is impossible that any. The lady is not a little proud that she is thing from your pen can be tedious. Let to make so distinguished a figure in your
me beseech you not to use ceremony in collection, and I am not a little proud that I telling me when you wish to present any of have it in my power to please her so much. your friends with the songs: the next carrier Lucky it is for your patience that my paper will bring you three copies, and you are as is done, for when I am in a scribbling welcome to twenty as to a pinch of snuff. humour, I know not when to give over.
BURNS TO MR. THOMSON.
November 19th, 1794.
You see, my dear Sir, what a punctual My Good SIR--Since receiving your last, correspondent I am; though, indeed, you I have had another interview with Mr. Clarke, may thank yourself for the tedium of my and a long consultation, He thinks the letters, as you have so flattered me on my “ Caledonian Hunt” is more bacchanalian horseinanship with my favourite hobby, and than amorous in its nature, and recommends have praised the grace of his ambling so it to you to match the air accordingly. Pray,
Pray, much, that I am scarcely ever off his back. did it ever occur to you how peculiarly well | For instance, this morning, though a keen the Scottish airs are adapted for verses in the blowing frost, in my walk before breakfast, I form of a dialogue ? The first part of the finished my duet, which you were pleased to air is generally low, and suited for a man's | praise so much. Whether I have uniformly
succeeded, I will not say; but here it is for want, though the few we have are excellent. you, though it is not an hour old,
For instance, “Todlin hame,” is, for wit and
humour, an unparalleled composition; and [Here follows the song "Philly and
“Andrew and his cutty gun," is the work of Willy.”]
a master. By the way, are you not quite Tell me honestly how you like it, and point vexed to think that those men of genius, for out whatever you think faulty.
such they certainly were, who composed our I am much pleased with your idea of fine Scottish lyrics, should be unknown? It singing our songs in alternate stanzas, and has given me many a heart-ache. A-propos regret that you did not hint it to me sooner. to bacchanalian songs in Scotch, I comIn those that remain, I shall have it in my eye. posed one yesterday, for an air I like much I renuember your objections to the name " Lumps o' pudding." Philly, but it is the comnion abbreviation of Phillis. Sally, the only other name that
[Here follows “ Contented wi' Little.”] suits, has, to my ear, a vulgarity about it, If you do not relish this air, I will send it which unfits it for anything except burlesque. to Johuson. The legion of Scottish poetasters of the day, whoin your brother editor, Mr. Ritson, ranks with me as my coevals, have always mistaken vulgarity for simplicity; whereas, simplicity is as much eloignée from vulgarity on the one hand, as from affected point and puerile con.
BURNS TO MR. THOMSON. ceit on the other.
I agree with you as to the air, “Craigie- SINCE yesterday's penmanship, I have burn wood," that a chorus would, in some framed a couple of English stanzas, by way degree, spoil the effect, and shall certainly of an English song to “Roy's Wife.” You have none in my projected song to it. It is will allow me, that in this instance my pot, however, a case in point with “Rothe- English corresponds in sentiment with the murchc;” there, as in "Koy's wife of Aldi- Scottish. valloch,” a chorus goes, to my taste, well
[Here follows “ Canst thou leave me thus, enough. As to the chorus going first, that is the case with Roy's wife, as well
my Katy?"] as “Rothemirchie." In fact, in the first Well! I think this to be done in two or part of both tunes, the rhythm is so peculiar three turns across my room, and with two or and irregular, and on that irregularity three pinches of Irish blackguard, is not so depends so much of their beauty, that we far amiss. You see I am determined to have must e’en take them with all their wildness, my quantum of applause from somebody. and humour the verse accordingly. Leaving Tell my friend Allan (for I am sure that out the starting note, in both tunes, has, I we only want the trifling circumstance of think, an effect that no regularity could being known to one another, to be the best counterbalance the want of.
friends on earth), that I much suspect he
but it is a very rude instrument. It is comand
posed of three parts; the stock, which is the Roy's wife of Aldiralloch.
hinder thigh bone of a sheep, such as you compare with, Lassie wi' the lint-white
see in a mutton ham; tlie horn, which is locks.
a common Highland cow's horn, cut off at Does not the tameness of the prefixed sylla- the smaller end, until the aperture be large ble strike you? In the last case, with the enough to admit the stock to be pushed up true furor of genius, you strike at once into through the horn until it be held by the the wiid originality of the air; whereas, in thicker end of the thigh-bone; and lastly, the first insipid method, it is like the grating an oaten reed exactly cut and notched screw of the pins before the fiddle is brought like that which you see every shepherd boy into tune. This is my taste; if I am wrong, have, when the coril-stems are green and I beg pardon of the cognoscenti.
full-grown. The reed is not made fast in “The Caledonian Hunt” is so charming, the bone, but is held by the lips, and plays that it would make any subject in a song go loose in the smaller end of the stock; while down! but pathos is certainly its native the stock, with the horn hanging on its tongue. Scottish bacchanalians we certainly i larger end, is held by the hands in playing.
The stock has six or seven ventiges on the the world through the medium of some upper side, and one back-ventige, like the newspaper; and should these be worth his common flute. This of mine was made by a while, to these Mr. Perry shall be welcome: man from the braes of Athole, and is exactly and all my reward shall be, his treating me what the shepherds are wont to use in that with his paper, which, by the bye, to any country.
body who has the least relish for wit, is a However, either it is not quite properly high treat indeed. With the most grateful bored in the holes, or else we have not the esteem, I am ever, dear Sir,
R. B art of blowing it rightly ; for we can make little of it. If Mr. Allan chooses, I will send him a sight of mine, as I look on myself to be a kind of brother-brush with him. “Pride in poets is nae sin ;” and I will say it, that I look on Mr. Allan and Mr. Burns to be the only genuine and real painters of Scottish
MR. THOMSON TO BURNS. costume in the world.
November 28th, 1794. I ACKNOWLEDGE, my dear Sir, you are not only the most punctual, but the most delectable correspondent I ever met with. To attempt flattering you never entered into my
head; the truth is, I look back with surprise at TO PETER MILLER, JUN., Esq. (202), | my impudence, in so frequently nibbling at
lines and couplets of your incomparable
lyrics, for which, perhaps, if you had served Dumfries, November, 1794.
me right, you would have sent me to the DEAR SIR-Your offer is indeed truly devil. On the contrary, however, you have generous, and most sincerely do I thank you ail along condescended to invite my criticism
but in my present situation, I find with so much courtesy, that it ceases to be that I dare not accept it. You well know wonderful if I have sometimes given myself my political sentiments; and were I an the airs of a reviewer. Your last budget insular individual, unconnected with a wife demands unqualified praise : all the songs and a family of children, with the most are charming, but the duet is a chef fervid enthusiasm I would have volunteered d'oeuvre. “Lumps o' pudding” shall cermy services : I then could and would have tainly make one of my family dishes ; you despised all consequences that might have have cooked it so capitally, that it will ensued.
please all palates. Do give us a few more My prospect in the Excise is something; of this cast when you find yourself in good at least, it is, encumbered as I am with the spirits; these convivial songs are more welfare, the very existence, of near half-a- wanted than those of the amorous kind, of score of helpless individuals--what I dare which we have great choice. Besides, one not sport with.
does not often meet with a singer capable of In the mean time, they are most welcome giving the proper effect to the latter, while to my ode; only, let them insert it as a the former are easily sung, and acceptable to thing they have met with by accident, and every body. I participate in your regret unkuown to me. Nay, if Mr. Perry, whose that the authors of some of our best songs honour, after your character of him, I are unknown; it is provoking to every cannot doubt, if he will give me an address admirer of genius. and channel by which any thing will come I mean to have a picture painted from safe from those spies with which he may be your beautiful ballad The Soldier's Recertain that his correspondence is beset, I turn,” to be engraved for one of my
frontis. will now and then send him any bagatelle pieces. The most interesting point of time that I may write. In the present hurry of appears to me, when she first recognises her Europe, nothing but news and politics will ain dear Willy, “She gaz'd, she redden'd be regarded; but against the days of peace, like a rose.” The three lines immediately which Heaven send soon, my little assis- following are no doubt more impressive on tance may perhaps fill up an idle column of the reader's feelings; but were the painter a newspaper, I have long had it in my to fix on these, then you'll observe the head to try my hand in the way of little animation and anxiety of her countenance is prose essays, which I propose sending into ! gone, and he could only represent her fainting in the soldier's arms. But I submit the in composition, and in a multiplitcity of matter to you, and beg your opinion. efforts in the same style, disappears al
Allan desires me to thank you for your together. For these three thousand years, accurate description of the stock and horn, we poetic folks have been describing the and for the very gratifying compliment you spring, for instance; and as the spring conpay him in considering him worthy of tinues the same, there must soon be a samestanding in a niche by the side of Burns in ness in the imagery, &c., of these said the Scottish Pantheon. He has seen the rhyming folks. rude instrument you describe, so does not A great critic (Aikin) on songs, says that want you to send it; but wishes to know | love and wine are the exclusive themes for whether you believe it to have ever been song-writing. The following is on neither generally used as a musical pipe by the subject, and consequently is no song; but Scottish shepherds, and when, and in what will be allowed, I think, to be two or three part of the country chiefly. I doubt much pretty good prose thoughts inverted into if it was capable of any thing but routing rhyme. and roaring. A friend of mine says he
“For a' that, and a that." remembers to have heard one in his younger days, made of wood instead of your bone,
I do not give you the foregoing song for
your book, but merely by way of vive la and that the sound was abominable. Do not, I beseech vou, return any
bagatelle; for the piece is not really poetry. books.
How will the following do for “ Craigie-burn wood ?"
[Here follows “ Craigie-burn wood." Farewell! God bless you!
BURNS TO MR. THOMSON.
December, 1794. It is, I assure you, the pride of my heart to do any thing to forward or add to the value of your book; and as I agree with you that the Jacobite song in the Museum
MR. THOMSON TO BURNS. to “There'll never be peace till Jamie comes
Edinburgh, January 30, 1795. hame," would not so well consort with Peter Pindar's excellent love-song to that
MY DEAR SIR-I tliank you heartily for air, I have just framed for you the fol
“Nannie's awa," as well as for “ Craigielowing :
bun," which I think a very comely pair.
Your observation on the difficulty of original “My Nannie's awa,” &c.
writing in a number of efforts, in the same How does this please you? As to the points style, strikes me very forcibly; and it has, of time for the expression, in your proposed again and again, excited ny wonder to find print from my “Sodger's Return,” It must you continually surmounting this difficulty, certainly be at—"She gaz’d.” The in- in the many delightful songs you have sent teresting dubiety and suspense taking me. Your vive la bagatelle song, “For a possession of her countenance, and the that,” shall undoubtedly be included in my gushing fondness, with a mixture of roguish list. (203) playfulness in his, strike me as things of which a master will make a great deal. In great haste, but in great truth, yours, R. B.
BURNS TO MR. THOMSON.
Ecclefechan, February 7th, 1795. BURNS TO MR. THOMSON.
MY DEAR THOMSON-You cannot have
any idea of the predicament in which I write January, 1795.
to you. In the course of my duty as superI FEAR for my songs; however, a few visor (in which capacity I have acted of late), may please, yet originality is a coy feature | I came yesternight to this unfortunate,