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or by the charms of peerless damsels, there must be many curious anecdotes relating to them. .
The late Mr. Tytler of Woodhouselec, I believe, knew more of this than any body, for he joined to the pursuits of an antiquary, a taste for
poetry, besides being a man of the world, and possessing an enthusiasm for music beyond inost of his contemporaries. He was quite pleased with this plan of mine, for I may say it has been solely managed by me, and we had several long conversations about it, when it was in embryo. If I could simply mention the name of the heroine of each song, and the incident which occasioned the verses, it would be gratifying. Pray will you send me any information of this sort, as well with regard to your own songs, as the old ones?
To all the favourite songs of the plaintive or pastoral kind, will be joined the delicate accompaniments, &c. of Pleyel. To those of the comic and humorous class, I think accompaniments scarcely necessary; they are chiefly fitted for the conviviality of the festive board, and a tuneful voice, with a proper delivery of the words, renders them perfect. Nevertheless, to these I propose adding bass 'accompaniments, because then they are fitted either for singing, or for instrumental performance, when there happens to be no singer. I mean to employ our right trusty friend Mr. Clarke to set the bass to these,
which he assures me he will do con amore, and with much greater attention than he ever bestowed on any thing of the kind. But for this last class of airs I will not attempt to find more than one set of verses.
That eccentric bard Peter Pindar, has started I know not how many difficulties, about writing for the airs I sent to him, because of the peculiarity of their measure, and the trammels they impose on his flying Pegasus. I subjoin for your perusal the only one I have yet got from him, being for the fine air “ Lord
Gregory," The Scots verses printed with that air, are taken from the middle of an old ballad, called, The Loss of Lochroyan, which I do not admire. I have set down the air therefore as a creditor of yours. Many of the Jacobite songs are replete with wit and humour; might not the best of these be included in our volume of comic songs ?
FROM The Hon. A. ERSKINE.
MR. THOMSON has been so obliging as to give me a perusal of your songs. Highland Mary
is most inchantingly pathetic, and Duncan Gray possesses native genuine humour: “spak o' lowpin o'er a linn," is a line of itself that should make you immortal. I sometimes hear of you from our mutual friend C. who is a most excellent fellow, and possesses above all men I know, the charm of a most obliging disposition. You kindly promised me, about a year ago, a collection of your unpublished productions, religious and amorous; I know from experience how irksome it is to copy. If you will get any trusty person in Dumfries to write them over fair, I will give Peter Hill whatever money he asks for his trouble; and I certainly shall not betray your confidence.
I am your hearty admirer,
MR. BURNS TO MR. THOMSON.
26th January, 1793.
I APPROVE greatly, my dear Sir, of your plans. Dr. Beattie's essay will of itself be a treasure. .
On my part, I mean to draw up an appendix to the Doctor's essay, containing my stock of anecdotes, &c. of our Scots songs. All the late Mr. Tytler's anecdotes, I have by me, taken down in the course of my acquaintance with him from his own mouth. I am such an enthusiast, that in the course of my several peregrinations through Scotland, I made a pilgrimage to the individual spot from which every song took its rise, Lochaber, and the Braes of Ballenden, excepted. So far as the locality, either from the title of the air, or the tenor of the song, could be ascertained, I have paid my devotions at the particular shrine of every
I do not doubt but you might make a very valuable collection of Jacobite songs, but would it give no offence? In the mean time, do not you think that some of them, particularly The sow's tail to Geordie, as an air, with other words, might be well worth a place in your collection of lively songs ?
If it were possible to procure songs of merit, it would be proper to have one set of Scots words to every air, and that the set of words to which the notes ought to be set. There is a naivete, a pastoral simplicity, in a slight intermixture of Scots words and phraseology, which is more in unison (at least to my taste, and I will add to every genuine Caledonian taste) with the simple pathos, or rustic sprightliness
of our native music, than any English verscs what
The very name of Peter Pindar is an acquisition to your work. His Gregory is beautiful. I have tried to give you a set of stanzas in Scots, on the same subject, which are at your service. Not that I intend to enter the lists with Peter : that would be presumption indeed. My song, though much infevior in poetic merit, has I think more of the ballad simplicity in it.
O mirk, mirk is this midnight hour,
And loud the tempest's roar ;
Lord Gregory ope thy door.
An exile frae her father's ha',
And a' for loving thee;
If love it may na be.