Volume I, song 003, page 3 - 'Peggy, I must love thee' -...
Volume I, song 003, page 3 - 'Peggy, I must love thee' - Scanned from the 1853 edition of the 'Scots Musical Museum', James Johnson and Robert Burns (Edinburgh and London: W. Blackwood & Sons, 1853)
Verse 1: 'As from a rock, past all relief, The shipwreck'd Colin spying, His native soil, o'ercome with grief, Half sunk in waves, and dying, With the next morning sun he spies A ship which gives unhop'd surprise; New life springs up, he lifts his eyes With joy, and waits her motion.'
The 'Scots Musical Museum' is the most important of the numerous eighteenth- and nineteenth-century collections of Scottish song. When the engraver James Johnson started work on the second volume of his collection in 1787, he enlisted Robert Burns as contributor and editor. Burns enthusiastically collected songs from various sources, often expanding or revising them, whilst including much of his own work. The resulting combination of innovation and antiquarianism gives the work a feel of living tradition.
Like many of the pieces in the 'Scots Musical Museum', this is a love song. It is possible that this is an English air. The song begins with Colin, shipwrecked and dying, who finds new hope in the morning when he sees a ship on the horizon. The narrative then changes to the first person, presumably the rescued Colin, who has realised some truths about the women in his life. He scorns the beautiful but false Betty, and resolves to marry Peggy, for her virtue and not for her good looks.