Volume VI, song 592, page 642 - 'Nelly's Dream' - Scanned from the 1853 edition of the 'Scots Musical Museum', James Johnson and Robert Burns (Edinburgh and London: W. Blackwood & Sons, 1853)
Verse 1: 'Bright moon aboon yon mountain, Upwards tow'ring shed her light, Nothing heard but falling waters, Thro' the shades of silent night. Nelly on her couch reclining fetter'd in the arms of sleep whilst in dreams the wand'ring Fancy sighs for William on the deep.'
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 song was written by John Hamilton, the Edinburgh music-seller and stationer. Hamilton was born in 1761 and eventually set up his business around the North Bridge and Princes Street area of Edinburgh, before passing away in 1814. In the interim he became a songwriter and poet. It is likely that Hamilton wrote the music as well as the words, as he was known as a passable composer. This song had also never been seen in print before.