Volume I, song 004, page 4 - 'Bess the Gawkie' - Scanned...
Volume I, song 004, page 4 - 'Bess the Gawkie' - Scanned from the 1853 edition of the 'Scots Musical Museum', James Johnson and Robert Burns (Edinburgh and London: W. Blackwood & Sons, 1853)
Verse 1: 'Blyth young Bess to Jean did say, will ye gang to yon sunny brae; where flocks do feed, and Herds do stray, and sport a while wi' Jamie! Ah na lass, I'll no gang there, nor about Jamie tak' nae care, nor about Jamie tak' nae care, for he's tane up wi' Maggy!' 'Gawkie' is a Scots word meaning a thoughtless and foolish person.
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.
Glen (1900) believes that the tune of this song was composed at the same time as its words because it had never been included in any collection before being published in the 'Museum'. Burns was fond of this song, in his notes on the 'Museum' he says, 'It is a beautiful song, and in the genuine Scots taste. We have very few pastoral compositions, I mean, which are the pastoral of Nature, that are equal to this.'