Volume VI, song 573, page 592 - 'O leave novels &c.' -...
Volume VI, song 573, page 592 - 'O leave novels &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: 'O leave novels, ye Mauchline belles, Ye're saf'er at your spinning wheel; Such witching books, are baited hooks for rakish rooks like Rob Mossgiel. Your fine Tom Jones And Grandisons they make your youthful fancies reel they heat your brains, and fire your veins and then your prey for Rob Mossgiel.'
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.
This is one of Burns's most famous poems and was written in 1784, around the time when Jean Armour had expressed an interest in him. Jean is one the six 'belles' mentioned, the other five being Betty Miller and her sister Helen, Jean Markland, Jean Smith and Christina Morton. These five women were all daughters of business families in Mauchline, and all went on to make good marriages. The lyrics warn of the havoc which Burns would create amongst these good-looking single women. This song was never published by Burns himself, only being included in the 'Museum' seven years after his death.