Volume I, song 030, page 31 - 'Bonny Bessy' - Scanned from...
Volume I, song 030, page 31 - 'Bonny Bessy' - 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 Bessey's Haggies): 'Bessy's beauties shine sae bright, Were her mony virtues fewer, She wad ever gie delight, And in transport make me view her. Bonny Bessy, thee alane Love I, naething else about thee; With they comeliness I'm ta'en, And langer cannot live without thee.'
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 song is attributed to Allan Ramsay (1686-1758) and, according to John Glen (1900), was included in a later edition of Ramsay's 'Tea-Table Miscellany' (1724-7). Glen reports that the tune, 'Bessey's Haggies', was mentioned along with Ramsay's song, confirming its age. Whilst generally considered to be a genuine Scottish tune, the original words have sadly never been recovered.