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O Bessie Bell and Mary Gray,
They were twa bonnie lasses,
And theekit it o'er wi' rashes.
These fine verses were recited to me by Sir Walter Scott.
DOWN THE BURN, DAVIE.
When trees did bud, and fields were green,
And broom bloom'd fair to see;
And love laugh'd in her eye;
To speak her mind thus free,
And I will follow thee.
Now Davie did each lad surpass,
That dwelt on this burn-side,
Just meet to be a bride :
Her een were bonny blue;
Her lips like dropping dew.
As down the burn they took their way,
What tender tales they said !
And with her bosom play'd;
To be mair fully blest,
Love only saw the rest.
What pass’d, I guess, was harmless play,
And naething sure unmeet;
They lik'd a walk sae sweet ;
Sic pleasure to renew.
shall follow you.
The air to which this song is written is at least an hundred years old; and it is probable that old words, bearing the same name, accompanied the air. The claim which Burns makes for the air, as the composition of David Maigh, keeper of the blood-hounds to Riddell of Tweeddale, has been doubted by Sir Walter Scott in his review of the works of Burns: if the doubt is expressed because of the antiquity of the air, the answer is, that no era is assigned for the existence of this musical borderer, and that his office was one of great antiquity, and has long since ceased. The heroine of the song has been accused of indelicacy in pointing out a pleasant walk for her lover; and the words which express their happiness and their love have been called overwarm and indiscreet. But no one has successfully moderated the warmth or lessened the indiscretion. It is the composition of Crauford, and was printed in Ramsay's collection, and in every collection since, and so may it continue.
THE LAST TIME I CAME O'ER THE MOOR.
The last time I came o'er the moor,
I left my love behind me.
When soft ideas mind me!
The beaming day ensuing,
In fit retreats for wooing.
Beneath the cooling shade we lay,
Gazing and chastly sporting;
Till night spread her black curtain.
Ev'n kings when she was nigh me;
Which could but ill deny me.
Shou'd I be call'd where cannons roar,
Where mortal steel may wound me;
Where dangers may surround me :
To feast on glowing kisses,
In prospect of such blisses.
In all my soul there's not one place
To let a rival enter :
In her my love shall center.
Their waves the Alps shall cover,
Before I cease to love her.
The next time I go o'er the moor,
She shall a lover find me;
T'ho' I left her behind me;
My heart to her fair bosom,
My love more fresh shall blossom.
Of this song Burns says, « The first lines of The last time I came o'er the moor,' and several other lines in it, are beautiful: but, in my opinion-pardon me,
revered shade of Ramsay-the song is unworthy of the divine air. I shall try to make or mend.” He afterwards said, “The last time I came o'er the moor’I cannot meddle with as to mending it ; and the musical world have been so long accustomed to Ramsay's words, that a different song, though positively superior, would not be so well received.” And when a less gifted versifier altered the song, he interposed and observed, “I cannot approve of taking such liberties with an author as Mr. W. proposes. Let a poet if he chooses take up the idea of another, and work it into a piece of his own, but to mangle the works of the poor bard, whose tuneful tongue is now mute for ever in the dark and narrow house-by heaven, it would be sacrilege! I grant that Mr. W.'s version is an improvement; but let him mend the song as the highlander mended his gun-he gave it a new stock, a new lock, and a new barrel.”
I neither wholly agree with the censure which Burns passes on the song, nor do I concur in the rule which he lays down concerning the songs of others. He took many liberties himself; and we owe to the aid or the inspiration of old verses many of the most exquisite of his own lyrics : he borrowed whole stanzas, and altered others without acknowledgment or apology, and confesses to a friend, that “ The songs marked • Z' in the Museum I have given to the world as old verses to their respective tunes; but in fact, of a good many of them, little more than the chorus is ancient—though there is no reason for telling any body this piece of intelligence.” In a letter to Lord Woodhouselee, inclosing a