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“When I was a boy, 'The Beds of Sweet Roses' was a very popular song in Ayrshire. I remember to have heard those fanatics, the Buchanites, sing some of their nonsensical rhymes to this air, which they dignisy with the name of hymns.”
Andrew Innes, who was clever and clear-beaded on all subjects but religion, gives particulars about Jean Gardner, a Buchanite-a young woman of surpassing beauty with whom Burns was acquainted in Irvine. It was Train's opinion that the Poet,
in his first Epistle to Davie (written in the summer of 1784) when
“ You have your Meg, your dearest part,
And I my darling Jean,"
refers to Jean Gardner. Andrew goes on to say :
“When I was sent back from Thornhill for Mr Hunter, Jean Gardner came back with me from Irvine to Closeburn, and when we were in the neighbourhood of Tarbolton she seemed to be in fear, and rather in a discomposed condition. When I enquired the cause, it was lest Burns the Poet should see her, for if he did he would be sure to interrupt her, for they had long been on terms of intimacy. But we proceeded on our journey without meeting with
Innes also declared that Burns wrote a long poem about the sect, beginning :
" The wicked ane frae Glasgow came
In April eighty-three,
The latter part of Train's life was tranquil, and he enjoyed fifteen years of learned leisure to follow his hobbies. Lochvale Cottage was often the resort of eminent men, who came to show their respect for the aged antiquary, to examine the collection of relics, and to discuss their theories with him. James Hannay visited him not long before his death, which took place on 7th December, 1852, in his 74th year, and thus described his visit in Houshold Ilords of 16th July, 1853:
“At my visit I was shown into a little parlour, where the antiquary jined me. He was a tall old man, with an autumnal red in his face, halelooking, and of simple, quaint manners. The room was full of antiquitieshere a rude weapon of the aboriginal Celt, or one of the conquering Roman ; there a baptismal font from Wigtown Monastery, with the fleur-de-lis faintly visible on it, marking its foreign origin. In the corner wss a stately whiteheaded yellow staff, which belonged to John Knox, or at least had a very good pedigree, and one which, as it satisfied Train, satisfied your humble servant. I have never seen a more venerable staff; it was stiff, sober, yet elegant ; all that a Puritan gentleman could require. This staff; thought I, had strength in it to de-troy abbeys, and to make the work of centuries shake. Near the staff was a modern and homely relic—a pair of substantial cloth boots that had been worn by Sir Walter Scott. Having replaced them, he produced a specimen of oaken binding curiously carvel. He was not very talkative ; perhaps—though I little thought so at the time—he felt the cold shadow creeping towards him which was to make him one with his beloved Past. Once or twice, as he stood and gave the brief history of a curiosity, a dreamy look came over him a minute ; he seemed wandering into the period of the objects he was discoursing on. But his eye brightened, and there was a pleasure mingled in his modest disclaimer when I spoke to him of his life-long pursuits, and the interest with which I told him I should speak of my present visit to men whose names he held in regard. He showed me his curious specimens of ancient furniture, part of a bed from Threave Castle -a black oak fabric, curiously carved with morrice-dancers, Runic knobs, and most quaint horses, drawn as children draw them. Also, he had a cabinet of oak which a Gordon of Earlston carved away at, and worked into wondrous forms, during an imprisonment in Blackness Castle. I returned to London soon after this visit, and it was not without a shock that the quiet old house, with its antiquities and their owner, was recalled to me amidst the din of town, when I heard that, one morning in December, after a short illness, he turned himself round in his bed and expired in perfect peace in his seventy-fourth year.”
In Trotter's Galloway Gossip, the author thus speaks of the Trains :
“Joseph Train was an Ayrshireman. I dersay he couldna helpit for he wes a very decent man for a', an' his wife was a very nice buddy too an' a gran’ maker of boretree berry wine. . . . He was supervisor o’ Excise at CastleDouglas an' deet there, an' he was a great collector o' antiquities an' hunted for them a’ ower the country an' bocht awfu’ lots o' rubbish fae folk joost tae get them tae fetch him things yt micht be o' mair use tae him. ... We used tae visit them whenever we gaed tae Castle-Douglas, an' he cam' oor wey whiles too, for the doctor was antiquity mad as well as him”
His last poem, " The Wild Scot of Galloway," was published in 1848 in the Scottish Journal. Train's works are now all out of print, and it would contravene the intention and assigned limits of this article to give extracts. The following lines will show how keen his perceptions were. We feel as we read them that the sights and sounds on that Carsphairn hill-farm come to us in all their freshness :
“ Gin ye wad gang, lassie, to Garryhorn,
Ye micht be happy, I ween,
And a swallow there never was seen.
While cushats coo round the Mill of Glenlee,
And little birds sing on the thorn,
In the wilds of Garryhorn.
'Tis bonnie to see at the Garryhorn
Kids skippin' the highest rock,
The moorman tending his flock.
To gather in standing corn,
In the bughts of Garryhorn.
There are hams on the bauks at Garryhorn
Of braxy, and eke a store
To put aye the winter o’er.
There is aye a clog for the fire at yule,
With a browst for New Year's morn,
In the chamber at Garryhorn. We conclude with the following very fair estimate by a writer in 1873:
“Train was no mere dry-as-dust antiquarian. He was a man of taste and of some poetical ability. Already he had published two successive volumes of poetry before his acquaintance with Scott began. But no sooner did he discover how he could be useful to the greater poet than he abandoned all ambitious aims for himself and turned his efforts to promote the literary projects of his friend ; and that without pay, and apparently without expectation that his name would ever be heard in connection with his work. I doubt whether history can adduce another such instance of a literary man so consecrating himself to be absorbed into the splendour of another.”
R. W. MACFADZEAN.
AULD LANG SYNE.
N view of the strong latter-day tendency to turn the search
light of enquiry into every corner of the life of Burns, to find the origin and to trace the inspiration of every scrap of his verse, it is remarkable that none even of his more recent editors has made use of available material to construct a connected account of the antecedents of “ Auld Lang Syne.” The word "antecedents" is used advisedly in preference to history, for of history, strictly speaking, Burns's song may be found to have none. As in sundry other cases, his own evidence on the subject is worthless. When in September, 1793, he wrote George Thomson with the song, his obvious intention was to mystify his correspondent. “One song more,” he says, “and I have done—' Auld Lang Syne.' The air is but mediocre, but the following song-the old song of the olden times, and which has never been in print, nor even in manuscript, until I took it down from an old man's singing-is enough to recommend any air.” In a similarly cryptic and misleading manner he wrote Mrs Dunlop on 17th December, 1788 :
“Is not the Scotch phrase, “ Auld Lang Syne,' exceedingly expressive ? There is an old song and tune which has often thrilled through my soul.
You know I am an enthusiast in old Scotch songs. I shall give you the verses on the other sheet (where “Auld Lang Syne ” accordingly appears]. Light be the turf on the breast of the Heaven-inspired poet who composed this glorious fragment! There is more of the fire of native genius in it than in half-a-dozen of modern English Bacchanalians !"
Burns, it will be observed, was not greatly burdened with modesty in his harmless deception. When he set himself to blindfold his correspondents he carried it bravely through. In this case, in fact, he overdid it so much as to go perilously near self-exposure. How could we have known that the song had never been in either print or manuscript until he took it down from an old man's singing ? Was any one of the wandering songsters, old or young, who degrade the lyric into a plea for