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I waited on the lady, who was much delighted with the verset and begged of me to invite the author to take a walk with me to the house at any leisure time. I knew that it would be almost impossible to prevail on Robert to allow himself to be introduced by fair means, so, for once, I made use of the only alternative in my power, by beguiling him thither during our first Saturday's ramble, under the pretence of being obliged to call with some music I had with me for the ladies. This, howcver, could not be effected, till I had promised not to make him known, in case any of the family came to the door ; but how great was his astonishment when Miss forward to invite him into the house by name : I shall never forget the aukwardness with which he accompanied us to the music room. He sat as it were quite petrified, till the ma. gic of the music and the great affability of the ladies, reconciled him to his situation. In a short time Mr.
came in, was introduced to his visitor in due forin, and with that goodness of heart and simplicity of manner, for which he is so deservedly esteemed by all who have the pleasure of knowing him, chatted with his guest till near dinner time, when Robert again became terribly uneasy, as Mr.
insisted on our staying to dine with the family. Many a rueful look was cast to me, and many an excuse was made to get away, but, alas! there was no escaping with a good grace, and finding that I was little inclined to understand his signals, the kind request was at length reluctantly complied with.
after a cheerful glass or two, the restraint he was under gradually wore away, and he became tolerably communicative. I believe that when we left the mansion, the poet entertained very different sentiments from those with which he had entered it. He had formed an opinion that nothing, save distant pride and cold formality, was to be met with from people in the higher walks of life, but on experiencing the very reverse of his imaginings, be was quite delighted, and when Mr.
's name happened be mentioned in his hearing afterwards, it generally called forth expressions of respect and admiration. “ Gloomny winter's now awa," became a very popular song, and was the reigning favourite in Edinburgh for a considerable times
" It has been noticed by a very able critic, that " he seldom tried the pathetic,” yet some fine touches of nature are found in his works. I am sadly mistaken if the following lines will not excite a strong sensation of pity, in every bosom capable of feeling their force.
" This 'kerchief he gave me, a true lover's token,
“ Dear, dear to me was the gift for his sake!
“ Hope died wi' Jamie, and left it to break.
“ Brooding o'er joys that for ever are flown!
“ Flee, to some bosom where grief is unknown !".
“The music published with this song was originally composed for other words, but Tannahill took a fancy to the air, and immediately wrote “ Despairing Mary" for it, which, being the better song. was adopted. The opening of the melody is too like the first part of “ The flowers of the forest,' to lay claim to great originality, but after it was composed, I never could please myself with ariy alteration I attempted to make, so it remains as it was first sketched.
Perhaps the most popular of all his songs was “ Jessie the flower o' Dumblane.” Many a bonnie lass, whose name chanced to be the same with that in the song, has been in ber time the supposititious heroine of it, and got the blame of having " cuist the glamor o'er him," though with little reason, for I do sincerely believe, the poet had no particular fair one in his eye at the time, and that Jessie was quite an imaginary personage.
“ The third stanza of this song was not written till several months after the others were finished, and, in my opinion, it would have been more to the author's credit had such an addition never been made. The language, I think, falls considerably below that of the two first verses. Surely the Promethian fire must have been burning but lownly, when such common place ideas could be coolly written, after the song had been
90 finely wound up with the beautiful apostrophe to the Mavis,
“Sing on, thou sweet mavis, thy hymn to the e'ening."
" When I had composed the music, Jessie was introduced to the world with this clog hanging at her foot, much against my inclination and advice; however, I feel confident that every singer of taste will discard it as a useless appendage.
“ The music to “ Thou bonnie wood of Craigie lee," was composed by " Blythe Jamie Barr frae St. Barchan's town.” It does its author great credit. It is a very pleasing and natural melody, and has become most deservedly a great favourite all
over the West Kintra side. I think this little ballad possesses ** considerable merit, one of its stanzas strikes me as being particularly beautiful
" While winter blaws in sleety showers,
Frae aff the norland hills sae hie,
As laith to harm a flower in thee.
« The little Bacchanalian Rant, you are so anxious to know the history of, was written in commemoration of a very happy evening spent by the poet, with four of his MUSICAL FRIENDS At that meeting he was in high spirits, and his conversation became more than usually animated ; many songs were sung, and we had some glee singing, but neither fiddle nor flute made its appearance in company, nor were any of us “nid, nid, nodding,"-we were “unco happy.” and had just such a “ drappie in our e'e," as enabled us to bid defiance to care for the time being, but the poet thought proper to embellish his song with the old chorus.“ We're a' nodding,” and rather than throw aside a lucky thought, he chose to depict his ain bardship," as blind as an owl," but I assure you this was not the case; his bardship had all his faculties “ sitting lightly on him."-- As the merry rhymes in question were never intended for the public eye, I hope you will not give a copy to any person*.
* We have ventured to disagree on this point with Mr. Smith, inasmuch as the courteous reader will find the song alluded to, printed at full length the AppendixEditor,
Songs possessing great poetical beauty, do not always become favourites with the public.“ Keen blaws the wind o'er the braes of Gleniffer," is perhaps Tannahill's best lyrical effusion, yet it does not appear to be much known, at least, it is but seldom
sung. ---It was written for the old Scotish Melody, « Bonnie Dundee,” but Burns had occupied the same ground before him :-Mr. Ross of Aberdeen, composed a very pretty air for it, yet, to use the phrase of a certain favourite vocal performer, it did not hit. The language and imagery of this song appear to me beautiful and natural. There is an elegant simplicity in the couplet, 6. The wild flowers of summer were spread a' sae bonnie,
“ The mavis sang sweet frae the green birken tree,” And the dreary appearance of the scenery in winter, is strikingly pourtrayed in the second stanza, “ Now naething is heard but the wind whistling dreary ;
“ And naething is seen but the wide-spreading snaw:
Again, « The trees are a' bare, and the birds mute and dowie,
“ They shake the cauld drift frae their wings as they flee, « And chirp out their plaints, seeming wae for my Johnnie,
66 'Tis winter wi' them, and 'tis winter wi' me. The birds shaking " the cauld drift frae their wings,” is an idea not unworthy of Burns.
“ One of Tannahill's most favourite walks, was by the ruins of Stanley Castle, or over the Braes of Gleniffer. There he could recline on the brown heather, or sit on the side of a bracken-fringed rock, listen to the burn murmuring through the glen, and view the wild and varied scene around him with a « Poet's eye,”
" Whene'er you roam by Stanley's mouldering walls,
* He was possessed of a correct ear, and had acquired as much knowledge of music as enabled him to learn any simple melody, if written in an easy key for the German Flute; an old one, cracked in half a dozen places, and bound up with waxed cord, he always kept beside his loom, and latterly he could commit any air to paper which he had caught by ear-an earthern ink bottle usually hung on his loom post, and I believe that the greater number of his songs were composed whilst he was steadily occupied at his business. Unfortunately his celebrity as a song writer led many an idle person, through vanity or curiosity to see him, which was too frequently effected by sending for him to an Inn, and he has often lamented bitterly to me in private his want of fortitude to withstand those intrusions: such deviations from prudence, always produced the most-agonizing reflections, and I fear was one of the causes which accelerated his unhappy fate; that this was the case, is obvious from a letter which he wrote about this time to a friend in Glasgow, in which he says, " That scribbling of rhymes hath positively half ruind me. It has led me into a wide circle of acquaintance, of course into an involuntary habit of being oftener in a public house than can be good for any body--although I go there as seldom as possible, yet how often have I sat till within my last shilling, and unlike some of our friends who are better circumstanced, had to return to my loom sick and feverish This often makes me appear sullen in company, for if I indulge to the extent we have botlı seen in others, I am in for two or three days afterwards.”-Other circumstances combined to depress his mind: Several of his printed poems had been censured pretty severely; he had published too prematurely; of this he was fully sensible, and to retrieve his character as a poet, had prepared for the press a new edition much corrected, in which all his songs were carefully retouched, and many of his former pieces expunged, so that not a line was suffered to remain that could reasonably give offence. How to get it published was now the only remaining difficulty, for the native independence of his spirit could not brook the idea of publishing again by subscription. About this time I had been commissioned by a respectable Bookseller in Greenock to treat with