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Tell my friend Allan (for I am sure that we only want the trifling circumstance of being known to one another, to be the best friends on earth) that I much suspect he has, in his plates, mistaken the figure of the stock and horn. I have, at last, gotten one ; but it is a very rude instrument. It is composed of three parts; the stock, which is the hinder thigh-bone of a sheep, such as you see in a muttonham; the horn, which is a common Highland cow's horn, cut off at the smaller end, until the aperture be large enough to admit the stock to be pushed up through the horn, until it be held by the thicker end of the thigh-hone; and lastly, an oaten reed exactly cut and notched like that which you see every shepherd-boy have, when the corn stems are green and full-grown. The reed is not made fast in the bone, but is held by the lips, and plays loose in the smaller end of the stock; while the stock with the horn hanging on its larger end, is held by the hands in playing. The stock has six or seven ventiges on the upper side, and one back-ventige, like the common flute. This of mine was made by a man from the braes of Athole, and is exactly what the shepherds wont to use in that country.
However, either it is not quite properly bored in the holes, or else we have not the art of blowing it rightly; for we can make little of it. If Mr. Allan chuses, I will send him a sight of mine ; as I look VOL. IV.
on myself to be a kind of brother-brush with him. 56 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 costume in the world.
MR. THOMSON TO MR. BURNS.
28th November, 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 my head ; the truth is, I look back with surprise at my impudence, in so frequently nibbling at lines and couplets of your incomparable lyrics, for which perhaps if you had served me right, you would have sent me to the devil. On, the contrary, however, you have all along condescended to invite my criticism with so much cour
tesy, that it ceases to be wonderful, if I have sometimes given myself the airs of a reviewer. Your last budget demands unqualified praise : all the songs are charming, but the duet is a chef d'ouvre. Lumps of pudding, shall certainly, make one of my family dishes: you have cooked it so capitally, that it will please all palates. Do give us a few more of this cast, when you find yourself in good spirits : these convivial songs are more wanted than those of the amorous kind, of which we have great choice. Besides, one does not often meet with a singer capable of giving the proper effect to the latter, while the former are easily sung, and acceptable to every body. I participate in your regret that the authors of some of our best songs are unknown ; it is provoking to every admirer of genius.
I mean to have a picture painted from your beautiful ballad, The Soldier's Return, to be engraved for one of my frontispieces. The most interesting point of time appears to me, when she first recognizes her ain dear Willy, “ She gaz d, she redden'd “ like a rose.” The three lines immediately following are no doubt more impressive on the reader's feelings, but were the painter to fix on these, then you'll observe the animation and anxiety of her countenance is gone, and he could only represent her fainting in the soldier's arms. But I submit the matter to you, and beg your opinion. P 2
Allan desires me to thank you for your accurate description of the stock and horn, and for the very gratifying compliment you pay him, in considering him worthy of standing in a niche by the side of Burns, in the Scottish Pantheon. He has seen the rude instrument you describe, so does not want you to send it; but wishes to know whether you believe it to have ever been generally used as a musical pipe by the Scottish shepherds, and when, and in what part of the country chiefly. I doubt much' if it was capable of any thing but routing and roaring. A friend of mine says he remembers to have heard one in his younger days (made of wood instead of your bone) and that the sound was abominable.
Do not, I beseech you, return any books.
MR. BURNS TO MR. THOMSON.
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, to, There'll never be peace till Jamie comes hame, would not so well consort with Peter Pindar’s excellent love-song to that air, I have just framed for you the following..
MY NANIE'S AWA.
Tune--- THERE'LL NEVER BE PEACE, &c."
Now in her green mantle blythe nature arrays, And listens the lambkins that bleat o'er the braes, While birds warble welcome in ilka green shaw; But to me its delightles--my Nanie's awa.