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lication received the hearty approval of the Scottish press, and met with such gratifying success otherwise, that it is already out of print; and the success of that earlier volume is regarded as a not unreasonable excuse for this substantial and largely augmented collection.
The present, like the earlier, makes no claim, of course, to being a COLLECTION in the popular acceptation of that elastic term, but is merely a "reel-rall” budget, compris. ing a number of rare and curious “blads” of verse, together with the “pick and wale” of the more popular of the ancient ballads of Scotland. Of these latter, the versions presented will be found to have been chosen for some good
The prefatory notes-studiously made as concise as possible—will be helpful to the uninitiated reader; and the introduction of several ballads, copies of which are not to be found in any previous collection, together with the interesting particulars which it contains of the authors of “Thrummy Cap” and “The Piper of Peebles,” and other pieces, may render the volume not unacceptable to even wrinkled students and connoisseurs in Scottish ballad poetry.
Of a number of the pieces which follow, it may, I am aware, be argued by the literary purist that they do not, strictly speaking, belong to the category of Ballads at all, but are simply narrative poems; and the contention might be backed with much sound reasoning. At the same time, the distinction between a narrative poem and a ballad cannot always be easily made out, the difference being fre. quently as slight as that which distinguishes a ballad from a song. If it is right and proper to term a narrative song a ballad, then there should be no great mistake, one would think, in calling a narrative poem by the same name. But enough here !
Thrumm y Cap. (A LEGEND OF THE CASTLE OF FIDDES.) “Thrummy Cap,” here subjoined, though comparatively few of those even who know the ballad well are aware of the fact, was written by a cousin-german of Robert Burns, the national poet, namely, John Burnes or Burness, son of William Burness, farmer, Bogjordan, Glenbervie, Kincar. dineshire. Robert Burns's father, it is well known, belonged to this same part of the country, and was wont to spell his name Burness. John Burness, the author of "Thrummy Cap," was born at Bogjordan on the 22d of May, 1771. Of his early life little is known, but partly on account of an injudicious marriage, and partly on account of a love of intoxicating liquor, his career was far from being a prosperous one. He was for some time a baker in Brechin, and in other towns in Forfarshire, and entered the Angus Fencibles in 1794. In 1796, whilst stationed with his regiment in Dumfries, he wrote his tale of “Thrummy Cap.” At this time he made the acquaintance of his illustrious relative, Robert Burns, to whom, shortly before his death, the poem was shown. It is alleged that the great poet read and approved of the production of his less-gifted relative, and, apochryphal as the allegation may be, we like to believe it. John, on the disbandment of his regi. ment in 1799, went to Stonehaven and commenced business for himself as a baker, but, being unsuccessful, he entered the Forfarshire Militia, in which he served until his dis. charge in 1815, when he once more returned to Stonehaven, once more attempted the baker business, and was once more unsuccessful.
Subsequently he was engaged as a canvasser by a company of booksellers, which occupation he followed until his death, either in January or March (authorities differ), 1826, when he perished in a snowstorm near the church of Portlethen, Kincardineshire. His body was claimed by a relative in Aberdeen, and buried in Spittal Churchyard in that city. In addition to “ Thrummy Cap,” Burness wrote and published “ Charles Montgomery
-A Tragical Dramatic Tale," Stonehaven, 1800; “ The Northern Laird,” Dublin, 1815; “The Ghaist o' Garron
Ha',” and “ The Recruit,” Montrose, no date. A sort of collated edition of his little works was published in Montrose in 1819, in a volume entitled, “Plays, Poems, Tales, &c.” Most of these had appeared separately at various times, including the ones named above.
IN ancient times far i’ the north,