Verse 1: 'AULD Scotia now may sigh aloud, / Her tears in torrents fa', / Her sweetest harp now hangs unstrung, / Since WILSON'S ta'en awa'. / He sang o' a' her warlike deeds, / An' sons that gallant were - / Her hoary towers, an' snaw-clad hills, / An maidens sweet an' fair.' The poem is an elegy on 'JOHN WILSON, Esq., the Scottish Vocalist, who died in America, on the 9th July 1849.' The author was William Jamie of Gourdon Schoolhouse, and the poem is dated 7th August 1849.
Neither the subject of this elegy, the singer John Wilson, nor its author William Jamie, are remembered widely in Scotland today. Wilson, born in Edinburgh in 1800, was the compiler of 'The songs of Scotland' published during the early 1840s. He was best known as a tenor, successful in Covent Garden and Drury Lane, London and throughout the eastern seaboard of North America. He may also have been the author of another song of this site 'A new song on the dear times'. The poem suggests that Wilson was a performer of Burns's songs, and also of songs about Scotland's landscape and heroic past. These were themes which had become internationally popular during the early nineteenth century through Sir Walter Scott's novels. Burns's renown also grew during this period, and his influence is obvious in William Jamie's choice of metre and rhyme scheme, which echo Burns's song 'A Red, Red Rose'.
Early ballads were dramatic or humorous narrative songs derived from folk culture that predated printing. Originally perpetuated by word of mouth, many ballads survive because they were recorded on broadsides. Musical notation was rarely printed, as tunes were usually established favourites. The term 'ballad' eventually applied more broadly to any kind of topical or popular verse.
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Date of publication:
1849 shelfmark: RB.m.143(200)
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