Songs of Robert Burns/First when Maggie was my care

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Songs of Robert Burns ~ First when Maggie was my care
James C. Dick
No. 209. From "The Songs by Robert Burns". A Study in Tone-Poetry. Published by Henry Frowde. London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and New York 1903. Source: «traditionalmusic»


No. 209. First when Maggie was my care.

Tune : Whistle o'er the lave o't Scots Musical Museum, 1790, No. 249.


* * *

First when Maggie was my care,
Heav'n, I thought, was in her air;
Now we're married, spier nae mair,
    But whistle o'er the lave o't!
Meg was meek, and Meg was mild,
Sweet and harmless as a child—
Wiser men than me's beguiled—
    Whistle o'er the lave o't.

How we live, my Meg and me,
How we love, and how we gree,
I care na by how few may see—
    Whistle o'er the lave o't!
Wha I wish were maggots' meat,
Dish'd up in her winding sheet,
I could write—but Meg maun see't—
    Whistle o'er the lave o't.

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No. 209. First when Maggie was my care. Scots Musical Museum, 1790, No. 249, signed X., entitled Whistle o'er the lave o't. ' Mr. Bnrns's old words' (Law's MS. List). Burns got the title of this from a song of the seventeenth century. The lords of creation in Scotland were no better than their sex elsewhere. They were never so good as to be able to dispense with the discipline of married life. It has not been ascertained to whom Burns referred in this song. In Herd's Scots Songs, 1769, 316, are the two following stanzas for the tune :—

' My mifher sent me to the well,      [' My mither sent me to the sea,
    She had better gane hersell,           For to gather mussels three;
I got the thing I dare nae tell,           A sailor lad fell in wi' me,—
    Whistle o'er the lave o't.                Whistle o'er the lave o't,'

This is styled one of the malignant songs in Scotch Presbyterian Eloquence of the seventeenth century.

The tune Whistle ower the lave o't is in Bremner's Reels, 1759, j6. It varies a little from the copy in the Museum. It is also in the Caledonian Pocket Companion, 1759, xii. jj. C. Kirkpatrick Sharpe incorrectly stated that Dance Katie


Bairdie of the seventeenth century is the same tune. He retails a traditional story of a pedestrian who, crossing Glasgow churchyard one moonshine night, saw the Devil and a male acquaintance who had recently died dancing round the tombstone of the dead man, his majesty playing on the fiddle Whistle o'er the lave o't. Another proof, if any were wanted, that the devil knows and appreciates good music. The tune is said to be in Blaiiie's MS., 1692, which is not improbable. According to Burns, John Bruce, a Highland fiddler who lived in Dumfries, composed the air about the beginning of the eighteenth century. (See Letter to Thomson, Oct. 1794.)

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