Volume VI, song 549 pages 568 - 'Colin Clout' - Scanned from the 1853 edition of the 'Scots Musical Museum', James Johnson and Robert Burns (Edinburgh and London: W. Blackwood & Sons, 1853)
Verse 1: 'Chanticleer, wi' noisy whistle bids the housewife rise in haste; Colin Clout begins to hirsle slawly frae his sleepless nest. Love that raises sic a clamour, drivin' lads an lasses mad; Ah waes my heart had coost his glammir o'er poor Colin luckless lad.' A 'chanticleer' is a cockerel, 'hirsle' means to move in a sliding manner, 'coost' means to cast and 'glammir' is a magical spell.
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 song is a fragment of a ballad that was passed on to James Johnson by the poet, Richard Gall (1776-1801). John Glen (1900) writes that the author of the song is unknown. Although Glen says that the melody composed by Stephen Clarke is a pleasing one, he expresses doubts as to its Scottish origins. Despite this uncertainty regarding the ballad's origins, it could be that the song is derived from the work of the English poet, Edmund Spenser (1552-99). 'Colin Clout' is the secret name which Spenser uses as a disguise for himself in the allegorical pastoral, 'Colin Clout's Come Home Again', which represents his return from a visit to meet Sir Walter Raleigh, 'the Shepherd of the Ocean'.