Volume I, song 027, page 28 - 'The Gentle Swain' - Scanned...
Volume I, song 027, page 28 - 'The Gentle Swain' - Scanned from the 1853 edition of the 'Scots Musical Museum', James Johnson and Robert Burns (Edinburgh and London: W. Blackwood & Sons, 1853)
Verse 1, (to the tune of Johnny's gray Breeks): 'Now Smiling Spring again appears, with all the beauties of her train, Love soon of her arrival hears, And flies to wound the Gentle Swain. How gay does nature now appear, the lambkins frisking o'er the plain, sweet feather'd songsters now we hear, while Jenny seeks her Gentle Swain! How gay does nature now appear, the lambkins frisking o'er the plain, sweet feather'd Songsters now we hear, while Jenny seeks her Gentle Swain!' The Scots version, sung to the same tune, begins 'Jenny's heart was frank and free, And wooers she had mony yet'.
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.
Burns's reaction to this English verse was rather derogatory, 'to sing such a beautiful air to such damned verses is downright sodomy of Common Sense! The Scots verses indeed are tolerable'. Burns became involved in compiling the 'Museum' when the first volume had already gone to press. Whilst a number of English songs had already been included, Burns persuaded Johnson to restrict the selection to Scottish songs and tunes for the remainder.