Songs of Robert Burns/Thickest night, surround my divelling

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Songs of Robert Burns ~ Thickest night, surround my divelling
James C. Dick
No. 297. From "The Songs by Robert Burns". A Study in Tone-Poetry. Published by Henry Frowde. London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and New York 1903. Source «traditionalmusic»

Page 279. viii. JACOBITE

No. 297. How pleasant the banks.

Tune: Strathallan's lament Scots Musical Museum, 1788, No, 132.

* * *

Thickest night, surround my dwelling!
Howling tempests, o'er me rave !
Turbid torrents wintry swelling,
Roaring by my lonely cave!

Crystal streamlets gently flowing,
Busy haunts of base mankind,
Western breezes softly blowing,
Suit not my distracted mind.

In the cause of right engaged,
Wrongs injurious to redress,
Honour's war we strongly waged,
But the heavens deny'd suc cess.

Ruin's wheel has driven o'er us ;
Not a hope that dare attend,
The wide world is all before us,
But a world without a friend!


No. 297. Thickest night, surround my dwelling. Scots Musical Museum, 1788, No. 132, signed ' B': to the Tune, Strathallan's lament. The MS. is in the British Museum. Burns passed through Strathallan on August •28, 1787; shortly afterwards he wrote the song. William Drummond, Viscount Strathallan, was killed at Culloden. His son James, Viscount Strathallan, on whom the song was written, was attainted, and after the disas trous rout of the Chevalier's army fled to the hills, where he hid until he found an opportunity of escaping to France. He joined the Court of Prince Charles, remained abroad, and died an exile. From the Rebellion to the end of the eigh teenth century almost every poet wrote Jacobite songs more or less sympathetic. Burns made the following memorandum on Strathallan s lament: ' This air is the composition of one of the worthiest and best-hearted men living—Allan Masterton, School Master in Edinburgh. As he and I were both sprouts of Jacobitism, we agreed to dedicate the words and air to that cause. To tell the matter of fact, except when my passions were heated by some accidental cause, my Jacobitism was merely by way of vive la bagatelle' (Interleaved Museum). The accidental causes were frequent, and he never wrote anything on the Hanover family to show he had any affection for it.

Another MS. of the song differs from that in the text. The first line is 'Thickest darkness o'erhang my dwelling,' and the first half of the second stanza is as follows:—

' Farewell fleeting, fickle treasure, Between mishap and folly shar'd; Farewell peace and farewell pleasure, Farewell flattering man's regard.'

The melody cannot be mistaken for an old air.