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COLLECTIONS OF SCOTTISH SONGS.
The early Scottish songs we owe either to tradition or the manascripts of the period, such as Bannatyne's, Maitland's, and Drut. mond's.
At Aberdeen appeared a collection of Scotch and English soon under the name of “ CANTYS, Songs and Fancies to three, four, a five parts. With a brief introduction to Musick, as is taught in the Musick-school of Aberdeen,” 1662, a second edition of which is published in 1665, and a third in 1682. This is a book of little value
James Watson collected and printed in Edinburgh a miscellaneous collection of Scottish Songs, in three parts, (1706-1709-1710.) 'The Blythesome Bridal,' is printed in the early number.
But the first grand sanctuary for Scottish Song was Allan Ramsar's collection. “ The Tea Table Miscellany, or a Collection of Seats Sangs," 1724, of which nine editions appeared in nine years. Ramsay's work contains old songs,-old songs with alterations and additions, and new songs by different authors. Of the former, it is sapposed, there are not many printed as Ramsay found them, and the alterations and additions are considered to be numerous and generally for the worse. Many old words Allan threw aside, and assisted by his “ ingenious young gentlemen," Crawford, Hamilton, and Mallet, commenced what Sir W. Scott calls "his anhappy plan of writing des words to old tunes, without at the same time preserving the ancient verses, the preservation of which would have been much more is. teresting than any thing which has been snbstituted in their stead," [Remarks on Pop. Poetry, prefixed to M. of S. B. vol. i. p, 43.) This is a mere matter of opinion, but on such a subject Scott has a right to be heard. The old verses were no doubt put aside either thro' their indecency or want of merit, always excepting the pathetic story of • Bessie Bell and Mary Gray.'
The Tea Table Miscellany every admirer of Scottish Song should possess.
A collection of Scottish Songs and Airs was published under the Dame of Orpheus Caledonius,' in folio, 1725. This is a work of more value to the musician than the poet. A song or two was contributed by James Thomson.
Yair's Charmer appeared in 1731- Where was printed for the first time Clerk of Pennycuick's clever song
O merry may the maid be. In 1769, was put forth by David Herd what Scott has called, "the first classical collection of Scottish Songs and Ballads." Next to
Ramsay's work, this is the best. Had the volume been got up with better arrangement, a few references and authorities, our debt to David Herd would have been much greater : an enlarged collection was published in 2 vols. 1776, but few songs, (songs described by the Editor as “the poetry and music of the heart,") were added to this edition.
During Burns' residence in Edinburgh, (1787), was published the first part of Johnson's Scots Musical Museum, where English and Scotch productions were indiscriminately mingled. Burns became acquainted with Johnson the publisher, and soon made himself the Editor of the work, entering into the task with both enthusiasm and diligence. The second part shewed none of the faults of its forerunner. Capital old songs were here rescued from oblivion, and the poet's muse tasked to eke out, † amend, and compose. It is difficult to say which one admires most, Burns' emendations, additions, or original songs. “ Mr. Burns,” says Ritson, “as good a poet as Ramsay, is, it must be regretted an equally licentious and unfaithful publisher of the performances of others."-Scottish Songs, lxxx.
A collection of Ballads and Songs was published in 1790, by Laurie and Symington, but this is a mere copy of Herd's work. By his publications about this time, Pinkerton pretended to do much for Scotish Song
In 1794, Ritson put forth his Collection of Scottish Songs. Mother. well speaks of it as “a text book of care and accuracy," and Scott with equal justice as' a genuine but meagre collection.”
* Mr. Chambers tells us very frequently that such and such a song was first published by Herd in 1776, whereas, if he had looked into the earlier edition, he would have found almost all his references wrong.
+ The poet, perhaps, most capable, by verses, lines, even single words, to relieve and heighten the character of ancient poetry, was Robert Burns. In many of the old songs and fragments he recomposed and reprinted for the collection of Johnson and others, his genius contributed that part which was to give life and immortality to the whole.--Scott. Essay on Imitations of the Ancient Ballad, Min. of S. B. 1v. 23. Burns of all poets that ever breathed, possessed the most happy tact of pouring bis genius through all the meander. ings of music, was uprivalled in the skill of brooding over the ruder conceptions of our old poets, and in warming them into grace and life. He could glide like dew into the fading bloom of departing song, and refresh it into beauty and fragrance.-Scottish Songs, I. 66. ALLAN CUNNINGHAM.
In George Thomson's publication, few old songs were preserved; that work owes its fame to the muse of Burns, Sir W. Scott's Border Minstrelsy, is almost equally deficient in what we are looking after.
The late Robert Cromek published in 1810, “ Scottish Songs, with observations by Burns." The Poet's observations are as frequentis trite and uninteresting as they are either antiquarian or original. Burns was the first to enquire after the authors and History of Scottish Song,
Cromek's. collection of Nithsdale and Galloway Song. isie, is a work full of songs by modern hands, with a few stray old verses scattered over its pages.
In 1819 and 1821, James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, edited a co. lection of Jacobitical Ballads and Songs. Had this work been mere sparing of Historical Mustration, and the songs selected with more care, the Jacobite Ballads might have been a standard work of ment often to be reprinted.
As yet there was no complete collection of Scottish Songs-thes were scattered over various volumes, difficult of access, and when gut dressed out most uninvitingly. Ritson had wasted both learning and ingenuity in his researches into the Historical maze of song, and Burns had sought the traditions of Scotland for Anecdotes illustrative of his favourite lyrics. Much was done and yet much remained to be done. In 1825, Allan Cunningham announced a work entitled, “The Songs of Scotland," 4 vol. 8vo., he set out on his task with the determination to spare no research, print whatever was beautifal, and alter what was indecent; he would do, and did, what Ramsay and Burns had done before him. The work was received most kindly by many, and condemned by few. How justly or unjustly let time and chance determine. Antiquaries lost their favourite old spellings, and the lovers of indecency, “the high kilting of the muse." The Editor of this little collection of Songs would applaud Mr. Caß. ningham's undertaking in as many places, as he would condema it. To Mr. Cunningham, though he both altered and added needlessly, Scottish song is greatly indebted.
It is right to notice here that the different collections of Ancient Minstrelsy, edited by Finlay, Motherwell, Kinloch, and Bucban, added little to our treasures of Song. Or Mr. Peter Bachan's Forà, one-half seems the compilation of his own brain, fertile in tares, and sterile of wheat, and much of the other half old and modern balladverse, unworthy of a printer's type.
In 1829, Robert Chambers of Edinburgh put forth a Collection of Scottish Songs, which the admirer of Northern Verse would do well to become acquainted with.
Elliot, Sir Gilbert