Volume VI, song 575, page 594 - 'Saw ye the Thane &c.' -...
Volume VI, song 575, page 594 - 'Saw ye the Thane &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: 'Saw ye the Thane o' meikle pride, Red anger in his ee? I saw him nor care he cry'd Red anger frights na me. For I have stood whar honour bade, Tho' death trod on his heel; Mean is the crest that stoops to fear, nae sic may Duncan feel.' Scots 'thanes' were people of rank who held land from the king.
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 lyrics to this folk song were written by the novelist and poet Henry Mackenzie (1745-1831), alledgedly when he was seventeen. MacKenzie wrote the novel 'The Man of Feeling', a sentimental story of an ideal hero's innocence and weakness being exploited to his detriment. It was a huge success and Burns possessed two copies of the work, which he had written out himself. MacKenzie wrote the first critique of Burns's 'Kilmarnock Edition', although he was more interested in Burns's poems written in English. The melody is thought to be lovely but plaintive and is now unfortunately anonymous.