Volume V, song 499, page 515 - 'Gloomy December' - Scanned from the 1853 edition of the 'Scots Musical Museum', James Johnson and Robert Burns (Edinburgh and London: W. Blackwood & Sons, 1853)
Verse 1: 'Ance mair I hail thee, thou gloomy December! Ance mair I hail thee wi' sorrow and care; sad was the parting thou makes me remember, Parting wi' Nancy, Oh! ne'er to meet mair. Fond lovers parting is sweet painful pleasure, Hope beaming mild on the soft parting hour But the dire feeling, O farewell forever, Anguish unmingl'd and agony pure.'
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.
According to Johnson, 'Gloomy December' was 'written for this work by Robert Burns'. Whilst Johnson's attributions cannot always be relied upon, in this instance it appears to be true. John Glen, in 'Early Scottish Melodies' (1900), commented that 'the melody to which the words are adapted is beautiful, and worthy of being united to them'. He further suggested that Johnson chose this melody, 'seemingly of Highland origin', 'as the verses were intended for the tune of 'Wandering Willie''.