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ling of your native tongue, as you elegantly express it; and moreover, we will patiently wait your own time. One thing only I beg, which is, that however gay and sportive the muse may be, she may always be decent. Let her not write what beauty would blush to speak, nor wound that charming delicacy which fornis the most precious dowry of our daughters I do not conceive the song to be the most proper vehicle for witty and brilliant conceits ; sim. plicity, I believe, should be its prominent feature ; but, in some of our songs, the writers have confound. ed simplicity with coarseness and vulgarity; although between the one and the other, as Dr Beattie well observes, there is as great a difference as between a plain suit of clothes and a bundle of rags. The humorous ballad, or pathetic complaint, is best suited to our artless melodies ; and more interesting, indeed, in all songs, than the most pointed wit, dazzling descriptions, and flowry fancies.
With these trite observations, I send you eleven of the songs, for which it is my wish to substitute others of your writing. I shall soon transmit the rest, and, at the same time, a prospectus of the whole collection : and you may believe we will receive any hints that you are so kind as to give for improving the work, with the greatest pleasure and thankful ness.
I remain, dear Sir, &c.
MR BURNS to MR THOMSON,
MY DEAR SIR,
Let me teil you that you are too fastidious in your ideas of songs and ballads. I own that your criticisms are just; the songs you specify in your list have all, but one, the faults you renjark in them; but who shall mend the matter? Who shall rise up apd saysGo tn, I will make a better ? For instance, on reading over the Lea-rig, I immediately set about trying my hand on it, and, after all, I could make nothing more of it than the following, which Heaven knows is poor enough:
WHEN o'er the hill the eastern star,
Tells bughtin time is near my jo;
Return sae dowf and weary 0;
Wi' dew are hanging clear, my jo,
My ain kind dearie 0.
In mirkest glen, at midnight hour, :
I'd rove, and ne'er be eeric 0,
My ain kind dearie 0.
* For 6 scented birks,” in some copies, “ birken buds."
Your observation as to the aptitcde of Dr Fercy'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 style 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 particu. larly, nay peculiarly, apposite. For this reason, and, upon my honour, for this reason alone, I am of
• In the copy transmitted to Mr Thomson, instead of wild, was inserted wct. But in one of the manuscripts, probably written afterwards, wet was changed into wild ; evidently a great improvement. The lorers might meet on the lea-rig. " although the night were ne'er so wild," that is, although the summer-wind blew, the sky lowered, and the thunder murmur. ed: such circumstances might render their meeting still more interesting. But if the night were actually wet, why should they meet on the Ica-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.
" When my ploughman comes hame at ev'n,
And gae to bed, my deary."
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 0, might, perbaps, 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 agreeable 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 expence that it is ill able to pay: so, with my best compliments to honest Allan, Good be wi’ ye, &c. Friday night. :
Saturday morning. As I find I have still an hour to spare this morning before my conveyance goes away, I will give you Nanie Oat length. (v. vol. iii. p. 205.)
Your remarks on Ewe-bughts, Marion, are just :
still it has obtained a place among our more classie cal Scottish Songs; and what, with many beauties in its composition, and more prejudices in its favoury 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 nos thing of the merits 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 mes,whose they were, and whe perhaps alone cared for them, would have defaced the legend of my heart, which was so faithfully inscribed on them. Their uncouth simplin eity 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;