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THE RIGS O' BARLEY. Burns includes this song among the “rhymes” of his early days, but it must have been at least revised for the Kilmarnock edition (1786), and there is no earlier trace of it. It was suggested by the fragment of an old song which Ramsay also had before him, when he wrote My Patie is a Lover Gay. Various verbal resemblances-accidental or not-to lines in other songs, have been pointed out by Ritter in Quellenstudien zu Robert Burns, Halle 1899. IOI
GREEN GROW THE RASHES, O'. Suggested by an old improper song preserved in The Merry Muses, and published in a fragmentary form in Herd's Collection (1769). Stanza V, 1. 3. “Her prentice hand” &c. This thought, it has been pointed out, appears in Cupid's Whirligig, a comedy, London 1607; but it also appears elsewhere and might occur to any one.
M' PHERSON'S FAREWELL. A re-reading of a broadside on a Highland freebooter, hanged at the Market cross of Banff, roth November 1700. Much of the sentiment and spirit of the old piece is preserved, but the whole is transfigured and glorified by the poet's art. Carlyle, who knew nothing of the original, asks “Who, except Burns, could have given words to such a soul ?” And we may still ask : Who, except Burns could have given a soul to such words?
AY WAUKIN O. Although in quite a different vein from M' Pherson's Lament, this is an equally fine adaptation of an old song, or rather of an old fragment, which is all that is preserved in the Herd MS.
THE SILVER TASSIE. According to Burns, the first half stanza of this song is old; but probably this quatrain, also, was at least retouched by Burns. There is an old tune called The Pier o Leith, which no doubt had its old song. A slight resemblance in Burns's song to Ramsay's Farewell to Lochaber has been pointed out by Ritter; but such resemblances are often accidental and inevitable; and at any rate nothing of Ramsay's bêteness is retained. As for the line, “The trumpets sound, the banners fly," Burns may be credited with ability to imagine this himself.
THERE WAS A LAD. Commemorative of the Bard himself, and published posthumously by Cromek in 1808. The chorus is adapted from the refrain of an old song.
Stanza I, l. 1. "Kyle”:-One of the ancient divisions of Ayrshire. It was in Kyle-Stewart--the northern division of Kylethat Burns was born.
Stanza II, 1. 2. "Five-and-Twenty days begun":-"January 25th 1759, the date of my Bardship’s vital existence” (Note by Burns).
OF A' THE AIRTS. Written at Ellisland, while Mrs Burns was staying at Mauchline during the rebuilding of the farm house. It may contain faint echoes, as Ritter supposes, of English songs, but they are very faint indeed. The reference to the "west” was of course suggested, by the fact that Mauchline lies west-north-west from Ellisland.
MY HEART'S IN THE HIGHLANDS. A reminiscence of his Highland tour. The chorus is partly borrowed from an older song-"The strong Walls of Derry.”
YE FLOWERY BANKS. The second of three sets of what is substantially the same song. What incident it commemorates is unknown, although some have conjectured that it refers to an amour of Miss Peggy Kennedy, a niece of Gavin Hamilton.
JOHN ANDERSON. A transformation of a some-what improper English song of the eighteenth century. Certain resemblances in expression to other songs, pointed out by Ritter, are of a very commonplace order; and the phrases are in fact colloquial : 1. e. "Monie a cantie day,” might be used by any one, and it is because it might be so used, that it is employed by Burns. All the phraseology is in fact of the kind that might be used in conversation. The art of Burns is shown in the selection of it.
O MERRY HAE | BEEN. Suggested by the old song, The Bob O Dunblane, of which a version appeared in Ramsay's Tea Table Miscellany; but both motive and words of the song seem to be entirely Burns' own.
THOU LING'RING STAR. Written by Burns in the autumn of 1789, in memory of his mysterious early sweetheart, Mary Campbell, who died at Greenock in October 1786. The essential artificiality of the piece is evidenced by the fact that both in sentiment and imagery it is strongly reminiscent of Blair's Grave. There are also faint echoes of Shenstone, Pope &c.
WILLIE BREW'D. Written in celebration of a convivial meeting at Moffat with William Nicol and Allan Masterton, masters in the Edinburgh High School. Masterton composed the air for the song.
Stanza II. There are various old burdens, introducing three merry men, three merry boys, or three merry girls.
THE TITHER MORN. Possibly suggested by an old song, but no original has been discovered. 114
THINE AM I. Written for Thomson's Scottish Airs, as English words for the er's Wife. One of the poet's most successful efforts in English. Other songs with phrases about taking lips or eyes away are common; and inevitably so. The "Nancy” of the song was Mrs Maclehose.
WILL YE GO TO THE INDIES. Sent to Thomson by Burns as a substitute for Will ye gang to the Ewe Bughts Marion? Songs beginning in this interro
gative form are very common amongst the older Scottish productions. The song was probably suggested in part by Burns's relations with Mary Campbell although there is no evidence that he proposed to take her with him to the Indies.
AE FOND KISS. Commemorative of the poet's parting with Clarinda, 6th December 1791, before she left Scotland to join her husband in Jamaica. It is mainly of note for the remarkable second stanza, the remainder beeing a little artificial and bombastic.
116 O LEEZE ME ON MY SPINNING-WHEEL.
This delightful picture of rustic content owes nothing except its burden to the Loving Lass and Spinning Wheel of Ramsay's Tea Table Miscellany.
THE DEIL'S AWA. Possibly suggested by a song of Thomas Whitwell, a Northumbrian rhymster, on a dance of the Devil with an exciseman, but wholly Burns's own so far as the tone and spirit of the piece are concerned. 119
DUNCAN GRAY. Founded on an old improper song, wliose spirit is more fully preserved in another version by Burns. There are also analogous English ballads.
MARY MORISON. Though referred to by Burns as one of his "juvenile works," this song can hardly be of earlier date than 1785, and may be later. "The lady was the daughter of Adjutant Morison who took up his residence in Mauchline in 1784. The stave is the French octave with refrain. Some of the commonplace lover situations and sentiments are worked into the piece; e. g. "if not love then pity" &c.; but all is equisitely expressed, and as a poetic whole it is perhaps the finest of his love lyrics.
A RED, RED ROSE.
tenary Burns III, pp. 402-404) which, however, have been retouched and rearranged with marvellous artistic skill.
IT WAS A' FOR OUR RIGHTFU' KING.
A re-reading of certain stanzas of the old ballad of Mally Stewart, which is itself modelled on older ballads (see The Centenary Burns III, 433—436).
123 FLOW GENTLY, SWEET AFTON.
The Afton is a tributary of the Dumfriesshire Nith. Though the general tenor of the thought is of course common to numerous songs on rivers, “Sweet Afton” was most probably suggested by David Garrick's “Thou Soft Flowing Avon” &c., which it closely resembles in rhythmical effect.
COMIN THRO' THE RYE. An amendment of an improper song in The Merry Muses. Some suppose there is a reference to the Rye water, a rivulet in Dalry Parish Ayrshire, but there are older songs of a similar kind, where the reference is clearly to a field of rye.
OPEN THE DOOR TO ME O. There are many old songs and ballads on "Opening the Door;" and possibly Burns' song is a modification of some unknown version.
AULD LANG SYNE. The chorus resembles that of an old blackletter ballad, and there are various traces of other songs on the same theme; but the version is one of the best examples of Burns' power to extract the finest flavour of a popular sentiment, and to give it its final expression. The “Auld Minister's Song,” which Ritter conjectures may have been one of Burns's originals, could not have been known to him. It was first included in Skinner's Poetical Works in 1859. No authority is given for including it, and it is greatly inferior to the average of Skinner's productions.
O MAY, THY MORN. Supposed, like "Ae Fond Kiss,” to commemorate the Poet's parting from Clarinda.