Volume VI, song 555, page 574 - 'May Morning' - Scanned from the 1853 edition of the 'Scots Musical Museum', James Johnson and Robert Burns (Edinburgh and London: W. Blackwood & Sons, 1853)
Verse 1: 'The Nymphs and shepherds are met on the green With garlands to deck the fair brows of their Queen. The rosy Aurora awakes from her bed To illumine the dew drops that Vesper had shed.'
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 name Aurora stems from the Latin for dawn and so was conferred upon the Roman goddess of the dawn. As a result the name carries connotations of purity, freshness and new beginnings. Although a popular classical name it was not used again until the Renaissance and the resurgence in interest in all things classical. According to the later 'Museum' editor, William Stenhouse, the melody was given anonymously to Johnson as a mere trifle. Stenhouse believed it to be an adapted Strathspey, but other commentators have noted resemblance's to the tune, 'My love she's but a lassie yet'.