Volume VI, song 503, page 519 - 'Red gleams the sun' -...
Volume VI, song 503, page 519 - 'Red gleams the sun' - Scanned from the 1853 edition of the 'Scots Musical Museum', James Johnson and Robert Burns (Edinburgh and London: W. Blackwood & Sons, 1853)
Verse 1: 'Red gleams the son on yon hill tap the dew sits on the gowan; Deep murmurs thro' her glens the Spey, Around Kinrara rowan. Where art thou fairest, kindest lass! Alas wert thou but near me, Thy gentle soul, thy melting eye would ever ever cheer me.' 'Tap' means 'top' and 'gowan' are buttercups or daisies.
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.
Although little appears to be known about the song itself, the accompanying melody is called 'Niel Gow's Strathspey'. According to John Glen (1900), it was composed by Duncan McIntyre, 'a teacher of Scottish dancing in London, about the end of the last (eighteenth) century'. McIntyre published it in his own 'Collection of Slow Airs, Reels, and Strathspeys'. Glen's final word on the inclusion of McIntyre's melody in the 'Museum' was, 'As a Strathspey the tune is a great favourite, but is not so effective as a setting to the verses.'