Volume VI, song 576, page 595 - 'Go plaintive sounds' - Scanned from the 1853 edition of the 'Scots Musical Museum', James Johnson and Robert Burns (Edinburgh and London: W. Blackwood & Sons, 1853)
Verse 1: 'Go plaintive sounds! and to the fair My secret wounds impart, Tell all I hope tell all I fear each motion in my heart. But she methinks is listening now to some enchanting strain the smile that triumphs o'er her brow seems not to heed my pain.'
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 original melody of this song, known by the same name, was composed by William Shield (1748-1829). A different and anonymous melody has, however, been used in the 'Museum'. Unfortunately nothing about this tune is known, nor why the original was changed. The lyrics are by William Hamilton of Bangour (1704-54). Better remembered now for his Jacobite sympathies and his poetic celebration of the Battle of Prestonpans, Hamilton was actually a prolific poet and lyric writer, who mixed with the literati of the time.