Volume VI, song 547 page 566 - 'He's dear dear to me &c' -...
Volume VI, song 547 page 566 - 'He's dear dear to me &c' - Scanned from the 1853 edition of the 'Scots Musical Museum', James Johnson and Robert Burns (Edinburgh and London: W. Blackwood & Sons, 1853)
Verse 1: 'As I was walking by yon river side my heart it was fair and O but I was weary I thought upon the days that are past and gane for he's dear dear to me tho' he's far far frae me.'
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 William Stenhouse (1853), this pastoral song made its first printed appearance in 1796, 'as a single sheet song written by a gentleman'. John Glen (1900) comments that it is hardly surprising that Stenhouse was not able to identify the song's author, since no self-respecting writer would put his name to such a feeble effort. As for the melody, Glen writes that 'it is a poor mongrel tune, not older than the words'.