Volume I, song 026, page 27 - 'Leander on the Bay' -...
Volume I, song 026, page 27 - 'Leander on the Bay' - Scanned from the 1853 edition of the 'Scots Musical Museum', James Johnson and Robert Burns (Edinburgh and London: W. Blackwood & Sons, 1853)
Verse 1: 'Leander on the bay Of Hellespont all naked stood, Impatient of delay, He leap'd into the fatal flood: The raging seas, Whom none can please, 'Gainst him their malice shew, The heavens lour'd, The rain down pour'd, And loud the winds did blow.'
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.
This particular song tells the tragic tale of two lovers from Greek mythology, Leander and Hero. The story goes that night after night Leander would swim across the Hellespont strait from Abydos to be with Hero, a priestess of Aphrodite. One night, however, Leander tragically drowned as he crossed the stormy waters. On seeing his body, a grief-stricken Hero threw herself into the Hellespont to be with her lover.