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TO THE SECOND VOLUME OF JOHNSON'S MUSEUM.1
WHISTLE AND I'LL COME TO YE, MY LAD.
Он whistle and I'll come to ye, my lad,
Oh whistle and I'll come to ye, my lad.
1 The number of songs sent in Burns's handwriting to Johnson's Scots Musical Museum has been stated at one hundred and eighty; but many of these were old songs, gathered by him from oral tradition; many had only received from him a few improving touches; and only forty-seven were finally decided upon by Dr. Currie as wholly and undoubtedly the production of Burns. The poet himself, through the voluminousness of Johnson's collection seems to have disposed him to regard it as "the text-book and standard of Scottish song and music," felt ashamed of much that he had contributed to it. "Here, once for all," said he in a letter to Mr. Thomson, "let me apologise for the many silly compositions of mine in this work. Many beautiful airs wanted words, and in the hurry of other avocations, if I could string a parcel of rhymes together, anything near tolerable, I was fain to let them pass." On the other hand, a considerable number of his contributions to Johnson were equal to the best of his compositions, and had already attained popularity.
Come down the back stairs when ye come to
Come down the back stairs when ye come to court me,
Come down the back stairs, and let naebody
And come as ye were na coming to me.
TUNE- M'Pherson's Rant.
James Macpherson was a noted Highland freebooter, of uncommon personal strength, and an excellent performer on the violin. After holding the counties of Aberdeen, Banff, and Moray in fear for some years, he was seized by Duff of Braco, ancestor of the Earl of Fife, and tried before the sheriff of Banffshire (November 7, 1700), along with certain gypsies who had been taken in his company. In the prison, while he lay under sentence of death, he composed a song and an appropriate air, the former commencing thus:
"I've spent my time in rioting,
Debauched my health and strength;
I squandered fast as pillage came,
1 Burns afterwards altered and extended this song.
But dantonly, and wantonly,
I'll play a tune, and dance it roun'
When brought to the place of execution, on the Gallows-hill of Banff (Nov. 16), he played the tune on his violin, and then asked if any friend was present who would accept the instrument as a gift at his hands. No one coming forward, he indignantly broke the violin on his knee, and threw away the fragments; after which he submitted to his fate.
The verses of Burns —justly called by Mr. Lockhart "a grand lyric" were designed as an improvement on those of the freebooter, preserving the same air.
FAREWELL, ye dungeons dark and strong,
The wretch's destinie!
Macpherson's time will not be long
Sae rantingly, sae wantonly,
He played a spring, and danced it round,
Oh, what is Death but parting breath?
I've dared his face, and in this place
Untie these bands from off my hands,
And there's no a man in all Scotlánd
I've lived a life of sturt and strife ;
It burns my heart I must depart,
Now farewell light, thou sunshine bright,
May coward shame distain his name,
By my love so ill requited,
STAY, MY CHARMER.
TUNE- An Gille dubh ciar dhubh.
STAY, my charmer, can you leave me?
Well you know how much you grieve me;
The individual here meant is William, fourth Viscount of Strathallan, who fell on the insurgent side at the battle of Culloden, April, 1746. Burns, probably ignorant of his real fate, describes him as having survived the action, and taken refuge from the fury of the government forces in a Highland fastness.
THICKEST night, o'erhang my dwelling!
Still surround my lonely cave! 1
Crystal streamlets gently flowing,
Busy haunts of base mankind,
In the cause of right engagèd,
1 Variation in MS. in possession of Mr. B. Nightingale, Priory Road, London:
"Thickest night, surround my dwelling!
Turbid torrents, wintry swelling,