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self honestly avow that I think it a superior song * John Anderson my jo--the song to this tune in Johnson's Museum, is my composition, and I think it not my worst : If it suit you, take it and welcome. Your collection of sentimental and pathetic songs, is, in my opinion, very compleat; but not so your comic ones. Where are Tullochgorum, Lumps o puddin, Tibbie Fowler, and several others, which in my humble judgment, are well worthy of preservation. There is also one sentimental song of mine in the Museum, which never was known out of the immediate neighbourhood, until I got it taken down from a country girl's singing. It is called Craigieburn Wood; and in the opinion of Mr. Clarke, is one of our sweetest Scottish songs. He is quite an enthusiast about it; and I would take his taste in Scottish music against the taste of most connoisseurs.
You are quite right in inserting the last five in your list, though they are certainly Irish. Shepherds I have lost my love, is to me a heavenly air-what would you think of a set of Scottish verses to it? I have made one to it a good while ago, which I
that the Bara produced a second stanza of The
* It will be found in the course of this correspondence that the Bard produced a second stanza of The Chevalier's Lamont, (to which he here alludes) worthy of the first.
think * * the oth * * * * * * * * * * but in its original state is not quite a lady's song. I inclose an altered, not amended copy for you, if you chuse to get the tune to it, and let the Irish yerses follow.*
Mr. Erskine's songs are all pretty, but his Lone Vale is divine.
Let me know just how you like these random hints.
* Mr. Thomson, it appears, did not approve of this song, even in its altered state. It does not appear in the correspondence; but it is probably one to be found in his MSS beginning,
“ Yestreen I got a pint of wine,
“A place where body saw na;
“The gowden locks of Anna.”
It is highly characteristic of our Bard, but the strain of sentiment does not correspond with the air, to which he proposes it should be allied.
I REJOICE to find, my dear Sir, that ballad-making continues to be your hobby-horse. Great pity 'twould be,' were it otherwise. "I hope you will amble it away for many a year, and “witch o the world with your horsemanship."
I know there are a good many lively songs of merit that I have not put down in the list sent you ; but I have them all in my eye. My Patie is a lover gay, though a little unequal, is a natural and very pleasing song, and I humbly think we ought not to displace or alter it, except the last stanza.*
* The original letter from Mr. Thomson contains many observations on the Scottish songs, and on the manner of adapting the words to the music, which, at his desire, are suppressed. The subsequent letter of Mr. Burns refers to several of these observations.
MR. BURNS TO MR. THOMSON.
:: I HAVE yours, my dear Sir, this moment. I shall answer it and your former letter, in my desultory way of saying whatever comes uppermost.
The business of many of our tunes wanting at the beginning what fiddlers call, a starting-note, is often a rub to us poor rhymers...
“ There's braw, braw lads on Yarrow braes,
You may alter to
“ Braw, braw lads on Yarrow braes,
· My song, Here awa there awa, as amended by Mr Erskine, I entirely approve of, and return you. *
* The reader has already seen that Burns did not finally adopt all of Mr. Erskine’s alterations.
Give me leave to criticise your taste in the only thing in which it is in my opinion reprehensible. You know I ought to know something of my own trade. Of pathos, sentiment and point, you are a complete judge ; but there is a quality more necessary than either, in a song, and which is the very essence of a ballad, I mean simplicity: now, if I mistake not, this last feature you are a little apt to sacrifice to the foregoing. ii
B. ::. .! volge ns Hus
;? !!! Ramsay, as every other poet, has not been always equally happy in his pieces: 'still I cannot approve of taking such liberties with an author as Mr. W. proposes doing with The last time I came o'er the moor. Let a poet, if he chuses, take up the idea of another, and work it into a piece of his own; but to mangle the works of the poor bard, whose tuneful tongue is now mute for ever, in the dark and narrow house ; by heaven 'twould be sacrilege! I grant that Mr. W's version is an improvement; but, I know Mr. W. well, and esteem him much; let him mend the song, as the Highlander mended his gun: he gave it a new stock, a new lock, and a new barrel.
I do not by this, object to leaving out improper stanzas, where that can be done without spoiling the whole. One stanza in The luss o? Patie's mill, must be left out: the song will be nothing worse for it. I am not sure if we can take the same liberty with