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Susannes Folksong-Notizen English Notes
Banks o' Doon
Writing to Alexander Cunningham, Edinburgh, on 11th March, 1791, and dating from Ellisland, the poet says: "I have this evening sketched out a song which I have a great mind to send you, though I foresee it will cost you another groat of postage .... My song is intended to sing to a strathspey, or reel, of which I am very fond, called in Cumming's collection of strathspeys Ballandallach's Reel, and in other collections that I have met with it is known by the name of Camdelmore. It takes three stanzas of four lines each to go through the whole tune." Then the [first version is] quoted, but no allusion is made to the Kennedy legend, which fact, by and by, is sufficient to cause doubt with respect to its connection.
Within the same month (the same year) writing to John Ballantine, Ayr, from where, unnamed, but whence, presumably, he had been led in the pursuit of his Excise duties, the poet says: "While here I sit, sad and solitary, by the side of a fire in a little country inn, and drying my wet clothes, in pops a poor fellow of a sodger, and tells me he is going to Ayr. By heavens! says I to myself, with a tide of good spirits which the magic of that word "auld toon o' Ayr" conjured up, I will send my last song to Mr. Ballantine." Then the second version comes forth, which was first printed by Cromek, in the "Reliquies", in 1808 [...]
The differences between the copies so far [...] are slight, but not unimportant, as the alterations are, individually, in excellent taste, and are valuable for the evidence they afford of the poet's painstaking care in bringing his work up to his own high standard of perfection. Some excellent critics are of the opinion, in which I join, that, when Burns came again in 1792 and remoulded the song - this time to suit a different measure - he failed to carry forward into the new form all the simple pathos and unaffected grace that are the never-ceasing charm of the version of '91. He gave more liquidity to the lines, perhaps. He made more nearly perfect the lyrical form; but the gain was made by the sacrifice of a good deal of natural simplicity. Beautiful it is still - touchingly beautiful - but the beauty has changed somewhat. Before, the singer was giving voice to her sorrow only to relieve her own heart. Now - that is, in the version of the song in universal use - she sings to melt the heart of the listener.
In a letter to Mr. George Thomson, dated November, 1794, Burns, in referring his editor to the version of '92, says - "There is an air, The Caledonian Hunt's Delight, to which I wrote a song that you will find in Johnson - Ye Banks and Braes o' Bonnie Doon. This air, I think, might find a place among your hundred, as Lear says of his knights. [History cf. Hovey, below] Again, though no writer on Burns, and no editor of his works, has ever referred to it, there is another version of The Banks o' Doon - an anonymous one. Clearly, it suggested Burns's songs, or his latest version suggested it. This latter is a rude performance, compared with what has passed here; but we know that Burns frequently took the keynote of his song from an earlier singer, and that he only needed a hint in this way to make the most glorious lyric out of what had hitherto been practically of the poorest order. Note, here, that none of the versions of the song written by Burns appear in the original Kilmarnock edition of his poems, nor in the first Edinburgh edition; the second Edinburgh edition, in two volumes, published in 1793; nor in the Falkirk edition, printed by T. Johnston; while the third version only was printed by Currie in his edition of Burns, published in 1800; and in a work entitled "The Musical Repository: A Collection of Favourite Scotch, English and Irish Songs, set to music - Glasgow: printed by Alex. Adam, for A. Carrick, bookseller, Saltmarket, 1799", there is a [...] version of the song, presumably a reprint from a former collection of the same nature. In the "Musical Repository" version the word "Doon" is spelled "Donn", and if we are to assume that this is the earliest of all, then it might be argued that the original scene of the song is as likely to be in Perthshire as in Ayrshire. The baronial castle of "Donn", or "Donne", is surrounded with romantic scenery, and connected with many interesting historical and legendary associations. It was some time the residence of Mary Stuart, the unfortunate Queen of Scotland; Bonnie Prince Charlie made it his headquarters for a time, in 1745, and an earlier bard than this, even, has immortalised it in the moving ballad of The Bonnie Earl of Moray. [...]
Were these verses proved actually to be older than Burns - and, mark me, I do not believe they are - it might yet be said for the master singer that he showed the excellence of his taste in seizing on and touching up just that part of the effusion which is worth preserving - for the second half is much inferior to the first, and is marred, besides, by artificialities that have no place in the first half. That suggests the cobbler. The fact, too, that the song is in measure of Burns's third and final effort, and not that of his first and second is in the master's favour. The diligent but clumsy chapbook editor again, I suspect! (Robert Ford, Song Histories 150ff)
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aktualisiert am 06.04.2010, 08.09.99