It’s the birthday of Scotland’s most famous poet, Robert Burns (1759-1796). In his short life, Burns sired twelve offspring, some of them legitimate; and he wrote hundreds of poems and song lyrics, some of them suitable for polite company. When Scottish Television polled its viewers in 2009 on the question of who was the greatest Scot of all time, Robert Burns was the winner (William Wallace was the runner-up).
Scottish folk singer Jean Redpath (1937-2014) and American composer and ethnomusicologist Serge Hovey (1920-1989) teamed up in 1976 to record the complete songs of Robert Burns. Had they completed this rather ambitious project, it would have run to 22 volumes; but Hovey’s death in 1989 meant that only seven volumes were completed. This beautiful little lover’s lament appeared in Volume 4.
O stay, sweet warbling woodlark, stay;
Nor quit for me the trembling spray;
A hapless lover courts thy lay,
Thy soothing, fond complaining.
Again, again that tender part,
That I may catch thy melting art;
Surely that would touch her heart
Wha kills me wi’ disdaining.
Say, was thy little mate unkind,
And heard thee as the careless wind?
Nocht but love and sorrow join’d,
Sic notes o’ woe could wauken!
Thou tells o’ never-ending care,
O’ speechless grief, and dark despair;
For pity’s sake, sweet bird, nae mair!
Or my poor heart is broken.