Page images

I shall give you my opinion of your other newly adopted songs my first scribbling fit.



September, 1794. Do you know a blackguard Irish song called Onagh's Water-fall? The air is charming, and I have often regretted the want of decent verses to it.. It is too much, at least for my humble rustic muse, to expect that every effort of her's shall have merit; still I think that it is better to have mediocre verses to a favourite air, than none at all. On this princi. ple I have all along proceeded in the Scots Musical Museum ; and as that publication is at its last volume, I intend the following song to the air abovementioned, for that work.

If it does not suit you as an editor, you may be pleased to have verses to it that you can sing before ladies.


Tune" Onagh's WATER-FALL.”

SAE flaxen were her ringlets,

Her eye-brows of a darker hue,
Bewitchingly o’er-arching

Twa laughing een o' bonnie blue.
Her smiling sae wyling,

Wad make a wretch forget his woe;

What pleasure, what treasure,

Unto these rosy lips to grow : Such was my Chloris' bonnie face,

When first her bonnie face I saw, And ay my Chloris' dearest charm,

She says she lo’es me best of a'.

Like harmony her motion ;

Her pretty ancle is a spy Betraying fair proportion,

Wad make a saint forget the sky. Sae warming, sae charming,

Her faultless form and graceful air; Ilk feature-auld nature

Declared that she could do nae mair : Hers are the willing chains o' love,

By conquering beauty's sovereign law; And ay my Chloris' dearest charm,

She says she lo’es me best of a'.

Let others love the city,

And gaudy shew at sunny noon ; Gie me the lonely valley,

The dewy eve, and rising moon Fair beaming, and streaming,

Her silver light the boughs amang; While falling, recalling,

The amorous thrush concludes his sang : There, dearest Chloris, wilt thou rove

By wimpling burn and leafy shaw, And hear my vows o' truth and love,

And say thou lo’es me best of a'!

............ Not to compare small things with great, my taste in music is like the mighty Frederick of Prussia's taste in painting: we are told that he frequently adınired what the connoisseurs decried, and always without any hypocrisy confessed his admiration. I am sensible that my taste in music must be inelegant and vulgar, because people of undisputed and cultivated taste can find no merit in my favourite tunes. Still, because I am cheaply pleased, is that any reason why I should deny myself that pleasure ? Many of our strathspeys, ancient and modern, give me most exquisite enjoyment, where you and other judges would probably be shewing disgust. For instance, I am just now making verses for Rothiemurche's Rant, an air which puts me in raptures ; and in fact, unless I be pleased with the tune, I never can make verses to it. Here I have Clarke on my side who is a judge that I will pit against any of you. Rothiemurche, he says, is an air both original and beautiful; and on his recommendation I have taken the first part of the tune for a chorus, and the fourth or last part for the song. I am but two stanzas deep in the work, and possibly you may think, and justly, that the poetry is as little worth your attention as the music. *

I have begun anew, Let me in this ae night. Do you think that we ought to retain the old choius? I think we must retain both the old chorus and the

* In the original, follow here two stanzas of a song, beginning “ Lassie wi' the lint-white locks;" which will be found at full length afterwards.

[ocr errors]

first stanza of the old song. I do not altogether like the third line of the first stanza, but cannot alter it to please myself. I am just three stanzas deep in it. Would you have the denouement to be successful or otherwise ? should she 6 let him in," or not?

Did you not once propose. The Sow's Tail to Geordie, as an air for your work? I am quite delighted with it; but I acknowledge that is no mark of its real excellence. I once set about verses for it, which I meant to be in the alternate way of a lover and his mistress chanting together. I have not she pleasure of knowing Mrs Thomson's Christian name, and yours I am afraid is rather burlesque for sentiment, else I had meant to hare made you the hero and heroine of the little piece.

How do you like the following epigram, which I wrote the other day on a lovely young girl's recovery from a ferer? Doctor Marwell was the physician who seemingly sared her from the grave; and to him I address the following.

To Dr Varnell, or Viss Jessy Staig's Revery,

VAXWELL, if merit here you crave,

That merit I denr:
Yox, sare fair Jessy from the grave?

da angel could not die.

Get rape you patience with his stupid epistle!



I perceive the sprightly muse is now attend. ant upon her favourite põet, whose wood-notes wild are beco.ning as enchanting as ever. She says she lo'es me best of a', is one of the pleasantest table-songs I have seen, and henceforth shall be mine when the song is going round. I'll give Cunningham a copy; he can more powerfully proclaim .its merit. I am far from undervaluing your taste for the strathspey music; on the contrary, I think it highly animating and agreeable, and that some of the strathspeys, when graced with such verses as yours, will make very pleasing songs, in the same way that rough Christians are tempered and softened by lovely woman; without who.n, you know, they had been


· I am clear for having the Sow's Tail, particularly as your proposed verses to it are so extremely promising. Geordie, as you observe, is a name only fit for burlesque composition. Mrs Thomson's name (Katharine) is not at all poetical. Retain Jeanie therefore, and make the other Jamie, or any other that sounds agreeably.

Your Ca' the ewes is a precious little morccau. Indeed I am perfectly astonished and charmed with the endless variety of your fancy. Here let me ask you, whether you never seriously turned your thoughts upon dramatic writing? That is a field worthy of your genius, in which it might shine fort)

« PreviousContinue »