She was the flower o' Fairlee lambs,

A famous breed,
Now Robin, greetin, chows the hams

O' Maillie dead.

It were a pity that the Fairlee lambs should lose the honour once intended them.

3. But the chief variations are found in the poems introduced, for the first time, in the edition in two volumes small octavo, published in 1792.

Of the poem Written in Friars-Carse Hermitage, there are several editions, and one of these* has nothing in cominon with the printed poem but the four first lines. The poem that is published, which was bis second effort on the subject, received considerable alterations in printing.

Instead of the six lines beginning

Say man's true genuine estimate,

in manuscript the following are inserted :

Say the criterion of their fate,
Th’ important query of their state,
Is not, art thou bigh or low?
Did thy fortune ebb or flow?
Wert thou cottager, or king?
Prince, or peasant ? no such thing.

4. The Epistle to R. G. of F. Esq. that, is to R: Graham, of Fintra, Esq. also underwent considerable alterations, as may be collected from the volume of correspondence. This stile of poetry was new to our poet, and, though he was fitted to excel in it, it cost him more trouble than his Scottish poetry. On the contrary, Tam o' Shanter seems to have issued perfect from the author's brain. The only considerable alteration-made on reflection, is the omission of four lines, which had

* This is given in the Correspondence.

been inserted after the poem was finished, at the end of the dreadful catalogue of the articles found on the “haly table," and which appeared in the first edition of the poem, printed separately. They came after the second line, page 182,

Which even to name would be unlawfu',

and are as follows:

Three lawyers' tongues turned inside out,
Wi' lies seamed like a beggar's clout,
And priests' hearts, rotten, black as muck,
Lay stinking vile in every neuk.

These lines, which, independent of other objec. tions, interrupt and destroy the emotions of terror which the preceding description had excited, were very properly left out of the printed collection, by the advice of Mr. Frazer Tytler; to which Burns seems to have paid much deference*.

5. The Address to the Shade of Thomson, page 186, began in the first manuscript copy in the following manner:

While cold-eyed spring, a virgin coy,

Unfolds her verdant mantle sweet,
Or pranks the sod in frolic joy,

A carpet for her youthful feet:

with a matron's grace,
Walks stately in the cooling shade,
And oft delighted loves to trace

The progress of the spiky blade :

* These four lines have been inadvertently replaced in the copy of Tam o' Shanter, published in the first volume of the “Poetry Original and Selected," of Brash and Reid, of Glasgow; and to this circumstance is owing their being noticed here. As our poet deliberately rejected them, it is hoped that no future printer will insert them,

While autumn, benefactor kind,

With age's hoary honours clad,
Surveys, with self-approving mind,

Each creature on his bounty fed, &c.

By the alteration in the printed poem,


may be questioned whether the poetry is much improve ed; the poet however has found means to introduce the shades of Dryburgh, the residence of the earl of Buchan, at whose request these verses were written.

These observations might be extended, but what are already offered will satisfy curiosity, and there is nothing of any importance that could be added.


IN the beginning of the year 1787, another work had commenced at Edinburgh, entitled, The Scots Musical Museum, conducted by Mr. James Johnson ; the object of which was to unite the songs and the music of Scotland in one general collection. The first volume of this work appeared in May, 1787, when our poet was in Edinburgh; and in it appeared one of his printed songs, to the tune of, Green grow the rashes, beginning There's nought but care on every band.” He appears also to have furnished from his MSS, the last song in that volume, which was an early production, and not thought by himself worthy of a place in his works. The second volume appeared in the spring of 1788, and contained several original songs of Burns; who also contributed liberally to the third, fourth, and fifth volumes, the last of which did not appear till after his death. In his communications to Mr. Johnson, to which his name was not in general affixed, our bard was less careful than in his compositions for the greater work of Mr. Thomson. Several of them he never intended to acknowledge, and others, printed in the Museum, were found somewhat altered afterwards among his manuscripts. In the selection which follows, attention has been paid to the wishes of the author as far as they are known. The printed songs have been compared with the MSS. and the last corrections have been uniformly inserted. The reader will probably think many of the songs which foliow, among the finest productions of his muse.

« ForrigeFortsett »