Verse 1: 'WHEN Scotia tun'd her rustic lyre, / And bad her sons to fame aspire, / To touch wi' nature's glowan fire, / The harp of Caledonia.' This sheet was published by Carse of 36 Prince's Street, Glasgow.
Early ballads were dramatic or humorous narrative songs derived from folk culture that predated printing. Originally perpetuated by word of mouth, many ballads survive because they were recorded on broadsides. Musical notation was rarely printed, as tunes were usually established favourites. The term 'ballad' eventually applied more broadly to any kind of topical or popular verse.
This ballad is a tribute to Robert Burns (1759-96). It tells a fantastical story of a young girl walking by the 'banks and braes o' bonnie Doon' (one of a number of references to Burns's poems throughout the piece), who gives the bard her harp so that he may better compose tunes to fit his lyrics.