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In mirkest glen, at midnight hour,
I'd rove, and ne'er be eerie 0,
My ain kind dearie O.
And I were ne'er sae wearie 0
My ain kind dearie 0.
* In the copy transmitted to Mr. Thomson, instead of wild, was inserted wet. But in one of the manuscripts, probably written afterwards, wet was changed into wild, evidently a great improvement. The lovers might meet on the lea-rig, “ although the night were ne'er so wild,” that is, although the summer-wind blew, the sky loured, and the thunder murmured : such circumstances might render their meeting still more interesting. But if the night were actually wet, why should they meet on the lea-rig? On a wet night, the imagination cannot contemplate their situation there with any complacency.Tibullus, and after him Hammond, has conceived a happier situation for lovers on a wet night. Probably Burns had in his mind the verse of an old Scottish song, in which wet and weary are naturally enough conjoined.
66 When my ploughman comes hame at ev'n,
“ He's often wet and weary;
" And gae to bed my deary.”
Your observation as to the aptitude of Dr. Percy's ballad to the air, Nanie 0, is just. It is besides, perhaps, the most beautiful ballad in the English language. But let me remark to you, that in the sentiment and stile of our Scottish airs, there is a pastoral simplicity, a something that one may call the Doric style and dialect of vocal music, to which a dash of our native tongue and manners is particularly, nay peculiarly, apposite. For this reason, and, upon my hơnor, for this reason alone, I am of opinion (but, as I told you before, my opinion is yours, freely yours, to approve, or reject, as you please) that my ballad of Nanie O might perhaps do for one set of verses to the tune. Now don't let it enter into your head, that you are under any necessity of taking my verses. I have long ago made up my mind as to my own reputation in the business of authorship; and have nothing to be pleased or offended at, in your adoption or rejection, of my verses. Though you should reject one half of what I give you, I shall be pleased with your adopting the other half, and shall continue to serve you with the same assiduity.
In the printed copy of my Nanie 0, the name of the river is horridly prosaic. I will alter it,
“ Behind yon hills where Lugar flows.”
Girvan is the name of the river that suits the idea of the stanza best, but Lugar is the most agrceable modulation of syllables.
I will soon give you a great many more remarks on this business ; but I have just now an opportunity of conveying you this scrawl, free of postage, an 'expense that it is ill able to pay: so, with my best compliments to honest Allan, Good be wi' ye, &c.
Saturday Morning. As I find I have still an hour to spare this morning before my conveyance goes away, I will give you Nanie O at length. (v. Vol. 111. page 278.)
Your remarks on Ewe-bughts, Marion, are just ; still it has obtained a place among our more classical Scottish songs; and what with many beauties in its composition, and more prejudices in its favor, you will not find it easy to supplant it.
In my very early years, when I was thinking of going to the West-Indies, I took the following farewell of a dear girl. It is quite trifling, and has nothing of the merit of Ewe-bughts ; but it will fill up this page. You must know, that all my earlier lovesongs were the breathings of ardent passion, and though it might have been easy in after-times to have given them a polish, yet that polish, to me, whose
they were, and who perhaps alone cared for them, would have defaced the legend of my heart, which was so faithfully inscribed on them. Their uncouth simplicity was, as they say of wines, their race.
Will ye go to the Indies, my Mary,
And leave auld Scotia's shore ?
Across th' Atlantic's roar ?
O sweet grows the lime and the orange,
And the apple on the pine ;
Can never equal thine.
I hae sworn by the Heavens to my Mary,
I hae sworn by the Heavens to be true;
When I forget my vow !
O plight me your faith, my Mary,
And plight me your lily white hand;
Before I leave Scotia's strand.
We hae plighted our troth, my Mary, .
In mutual affection to join,
The hour, and the moment o'time! *
: Galla Water, and Auld Rob Morris, I think, will most probably be the next subject of my musings. However, even on my verses, speak out your criticisms with equal frankness. My wish is, not to stand aloof, the uncomplying bigot of opiniâtreté, but cordially to join issue with you in the furtherance of the work.
November sth. 1792. IF you mean, my dear Sir, that all the songs in your collection shall be poetry of the first merit, I am afraid you will find more difficulty in the
* This song Mr. Thomson has not adopted in his collection. . It deserves however to be preserved.