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• CHIEFLY IN THE
PRINTED BY JAMES M`KIE.
Entered in Stationer's Hall.
BURNS' POEMS AND SONGS.
(Limited to 600 Copies, being the extent of the Fac-Simile.) PRINTED AT KILMARNOCK, IN 1869, BY
PREF A CE.
W E have had occasion, previously, to remark
on the difficulty experienced by former Editors in selecting what are and what are not the real productions of our Poet, and we have felt forcibly the same difficulty ourselves.
Not a few pieces, as we have elsewhere observed, are given as Burns' which modern criticism demonstrate to be somewhat doubtful, while some are stated to be the production of the Bard, which have been proved as existing before his day,—the latter of these we have, of course, omitted; others, again, have been received as his for such a length of time, that to doubt their genuineness would
If these remarks are true of the Poems, they are equally so regarding the Songs. To decide, arbitrarily, that such and such a song is Burns' is a hard task, and it is made harder by certain circumstances connected with them. Many songs, confessedly his, first appeared anonymously: some were only touched up by him; others were built on an old verse or
two; while another class were, in all likelihood, the production of inferior writers, but launched under the shadow of his name, and thus rescued from oblivion. Among this class we might include Scenes of Woe and Scenes of Pleasure, said to be written by RICHARD GALL, and sent by him to “ Johnson's Museum ” with Burns' name attached.
On another point a word or two may be necessary. Many of the Songs have a great variety of readings: some of them are so different that they may almost be deemed new ones. To enter into the minutiæ of these would extend our remarks unreasonably, and so we forbear. The opinions of different Editors on these readings or renderings are nearly as diverse as the readings themselves, and need not be quoted. In a few cases we have deemed it proper to give double setts of the same song; but the numerous and uncalled for alterations made on several of the songs since the Poet's day, it was not our province to give.
One special instance of an alteration may be quoted. In the song beginning “ When wild War's deadly blast was blawn," the first verse, as we have it given from THOMSON, runs
“When wild War's deadly blast was blawn,
And gentle Peace returning,
That had been bleard with mourning;"
Whereas, in Burns' original MS., sent by him to THOMSON, the third and fourth lines ran
“ Wi' mony a sweet babe fatherless,
And mony a widow mourning;” An exquisitely tender and truthful couplet, worthy of his best moments of inspiration, and which reading has since been universally adopted.
On the other hand, the alteration as in the song, Farewell, thou fair Day, &c., “the bright setting sun ” being substituted in some Editions for “the broad setting sun," as originally written, is bad; but this, and many such changes, are just other reasons for us sincerely wishing that BURNS' Works had been kept, untouched, as he left them.
Without pretending to be critical, we may be allowed to remark that the quality of several of the Songs is so low that we can hardly fancy them written by BURNS: hence, had we been left entirely to the free exercise of our judgment, the present volume would have been smaller ; but as we pledged ourselves, in our Prospectus, to give “ The most complete and perfect Copy of the Poems and Songs of Robert Burns ever issued from any Press," and as even the questionable or doubtful pieces had certainly passed through his hands— been