Volume V, song 461, page 474 - 'The broom blooms bonie' -...
Volume V, song 461, page 474 - 'The broom blooms bonie' - Scanned from the 1853 edition of the 'Scots Musical Museum', James Johnson and Robert Burns (Edinburgh and London: W. Blackwood & Sons, 1853)
Verse 1: 'It's whisper'd in parlour, it's whisper'd in ha', The broom blooms bonie, the broom blooms fair; Lady Marget's wi' child amang our ladies a', And she dare na gae down to the broom nae mair.' Hall has been shortened to 'ha' in this verse and 'bonie' means handsome.
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.
The blooming of the broom reflects the fertility of the lady in the song and the happiness felt by her companions about her pregnancy. This is a lovely window onto society's attitude towards women and children. It is a pity that no date can be given for the song. It is thought to have been fragmentary before Burns recovered it and now it is impossible to know how much work Burns did on it before its publication. It is possible that it was originally a street ballad. There is no other previous occurrence of this song in publication so the origins and background of the piece will no doubt continue to be a mystery.