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The beauty of the air and the happiness of the subject have united in giving popularity to a song which cannot rank high as poetry, and which optrages all superstitious knowledge by a dance of Sylvans and Fairies. Ramsay seems to have admired the air, since he wrote another song in the same measure for the “Gentle Shepherd," in which he has imitated the dramatic form of the earlier words, and imitated them with some success. One of the verses is valuable, since we may suppose it records the poet's favourite songs :
Our Jenny sings saftly the “Cowden-broom knowes,”
ring: But when my dear Peggy sings, with better skill, “ The Boatman,” “ Tweed Side," and “The Lass of the
Mill,” 'Tis many times sweeter and pleasant to me, 1 For though they sing nicely, they cannot like thee.
CORN-RIGGS ARE BONNY.
My Patie is a lover gay,
*7 ***.. His face is fair and ruddy.
He's stately in his walking;
Last night I met him on a bawk,
That set my heart a-glowing.
And loo'd me best of ony;
O corn-riggs are bonny !
Let maidens of a silly mind
Refuse what maist they're wanting,
We chastely should be granting ;
And syne my cockernony
Where corn-riggs are bonny.
Ramsay has been laughed at for the rhyme of the second line of the first verse. It is dangerous to cavil at words : in one of Burns's best songs we have him wishing, in honour of his love, that the flowers
be ever fair, and the waters never “ drumlie;"4a word more objectionable than Ramsay's, since it is used in a pathetic song.
This song belongs to the “ Gentle Shepherd;" the air is old, and there were words of far greater antiquity than Allan's, which wanted some skilful and cunning hand to render them fit for modest company. The following lines formed the chorus; and if I remember right, the chorus of every verse was a variation from its predecessor, of which we have an example in too few songs :
O corn-riggs and barley-riggs,
And corn-riggs are bonnie ;
Gae kiss her kind and cannie.
The London wags who compiled a work called “ Mirth and Wit” abused the sweetness of this fine old air by compelling it to carry the burthen of some very silly verses, written in that kind of singular slang which a citizen uses when he thinks he speaks Scotch.
MERRY MAY THE KEEL ROWE.
As I came down through Cannobie,
Through Cannobie, through Cannobie,
And loud a lass did sing-o:
wishes flow, And merry may the shallop rowe
That my true love sails in-o!
My love has breath like roses sweet,
Like roses sweet, like roses sweet,
To fold a maiden in-o.
Wi' his bauld bands again-o!
My lover wears a bonnet blue,
A bonnet blue, a bonnet blue; A rose so white, a heart so true,
A dimple on his chin-o.
He bears a blade his foes have felt,
Should he ne'er come again-o.
An imperfect copy of this song found its way into Cromek’s Remains of Nithsdale and Galloway Song. It started thus :
As I came down the Cannogate,
The Cannogate, the Cannogate;
I heard a lassie sing-o:
The keel rowe, the reel rowe;
The ship that my love's in-o!
The picture of her love which the heroine draws seems to be that of the Pretender ; at all events, the white rose of the Stuarts marks it for a Jacobite song.