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The Lament of the Border Widow

An old Scotch song. Composed by Jacques Blumenthal.

THIS is truly a lament, the wild beauty of the melody seeming to spring spontaneously from the words, as indeed all such legendary compositions should do, where the object is rather to heighten the effect of the verses than to display the learning of the composer. A wailing melody in G minor, is left but lightly accompanied at the commencement, the bold phrase, in the relative major being admirably contrasted with the opening subject, and the descent of sevenths in the voice-part expressing the passionate phrases with much force. Miss Antoinette Sterling has already created a marked effect in this song at the concerts of the Royal Albert Hall.

The Lament of the Border Widow

MY love he built me a bonny bower,
And clad it a' wi' a lilye flower,
A brawer bower ye ne'er did see,
Than my true love he built for me.

There came a man, by middle day,
He spied his sport and went away,
And brought the king that very night,
Who brake my bower, and slew my knight.

He slew my knight, to me so dear;
He slew my knight, and poined his gear;
My servants all for life did flee,
And left me in extremitie.

I sewed his sheet, making my mane;
I watched the corpse, myself alane;
I watched his body, night and day;
No living creature came that way.

I took his body on my back,
And whiles I gaed, and whiles I sat,
I digged a grave, and laid him in,
And happed him with the sod so green.

But think na ye my heart was sair,
When I laid the moul' on his yellow hair;
Think na ye my heart was wae,
When I turned about, away to gae?

Nae living man I'll love again,
Since that my lovely knight is slain;
W? ae lock of his yellow hair
I'll chain my heart for evermair.

Characteristic Songs and Dances of all Nations
Edited, with Historical Notes and a Bibliography by James Duff Brown, Author of "Biographica Dictionary of Musicians", British Musical Biography", etc. The music arranged for the Pianoforte by Alfred Moffat, Author of "The Minstrelsy of Scotland," "Minstrelsy of Ireland," "Minstrelsy of England," etc. (1901) (pdf)


The patriotic sentiment so strongly characteristic of the Scot, both at home and abroad, has been responsible for the care and comparative completeness with which the national songs have been preserved and elucidated. The same sentiment is also the cause of the enthusiastic love which every Scot bears towards his national songs, and for the assiduity with which he cultivates them. The average Scotchman, in any position of life, can generally name quite a catalogue of good Scotch songs, and is probably able to sing half-a-dozen favourites, and give a satisfactory account of those connected with the history or traditions of his native land. Few other nationalities have treasured or cultivated their folk songs to a similar extent.

One enormous advantage which Scottish national songs possess lies in the merit of the poetry and the intimate setting of the music, which makes so many of them eminently singable. Another feature which further aids their popularity is the immense variety and attractiveness of the tunes, which make them acceptable wherever they are sung. It has been estimated that Scotland possesses at least eight thousand melodies, all marked by a sufficient measure of national character to make them distinguishable. No other nation possesses such a wealth of folk music, and certainly no country can show such a treasury of poetry and music combined. The very latest writer on national musicŚLouis C. Elson, an American, and consequently free from special prejudiceŚremarks, "The character of each nation is indelibly stamped on its folk music, and the folk song of Russia, in its deep pathos and its bacchanalian wildness, speaks of serfdom, and the temporary escape from sadness in intoxication ; the folk songs of Norway and Switzerland resemble each other in the flavour of mountain life which is apparent in them ; the traditional history of England is found in its old folk ballads ; and the most varied, most ancient, and the most beautiful folk music of all, the songs.  In his National Music of America, 1900, NOTES ON NATIONAL MUSIC.of Scotland, speak of every phase of Gaelic and modern Scottish life." That a comparatively small and poor country like Scotland could support and encourage the publication of such large and expensive collections as those of Johnson, Thomson, Urbani, Smith, Dun, and Graham, not to speak of many others, all closely following each other, is eloquent proof of the love which the Scot has for his national music, and a practical and most convincing proof of his good taste. The list given below only represents a few of the more important and trustworthy collections. A complete list of song and dance collections would fill many pages.

Playford. A Collection of Original Scotch Tunes (full of the Highland humours) for the Violin, being the first of this kind yet printed. London, 1700. Second edition,
Thomson (William). Orpheus Caledonius, or a collection of the best Scotch songs set to musick. London, 1725. Second edition, 1733. 2 vols.
Ramsay (Allan). Musick for Allan Ramsay's Collection of Scots Songs. Edinburgh, 1726. Vol. i. all published.
Craig (Adam). A Collection of the Choicest Scots Tunes. Edinburgh, 1730.
Walsh. A Collection of Original Scotch Songs. London (174░).
Oswald (James). Caledonian Pocket Companion. London (1742-64). 12 vols.
M'Gibbon (William). Scots Tunes. Edinburgh, 1742-55.3 vols.
Barsanti (Francis). Collection of Old Scots Tunes.Edinburgh, 1742.
Bremner (Robert). Scots Songs. Edinburgh (1757). 2 vols. Also London, 1762-65.
Johnson (James). Scots Musical Museum. Edinburgh, 1787-1803. 6 vols. New edition, 1839.
Corri (Domenico). New and Complete Collection of the most Favourite Scots Songs. Edinburgh (1788). 2 vols.
Napier (William). Selection of the most Favourite Scots Songs, chiefly pastoral. London, 1790.
Thomson (George). A Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs. London (1793-1841). 6 vols.
Urbani (Peter). A Selection of Scots Songs. Edinburgh, 1794-99. 3 vols-
Fraser (Simon). Airs and Melodies peculiar to the Highlands of Scotland. Edinburgh, 1816. Other editions, 1874 and 1884.
Campbell (Alexander). Albyn's Anthology. Edinburgh, 1816-18. 2 vols.
Smith (R. A.). Scotish Minstrel. Edinburgh (1822-24).6 vols.
Dun (Finlay) and John Thomson. Vocal Melodies of Scotland. Edinburgh (1837, etc. ). 4 vols.
Wilson (John). Songs of Scotland. London, 1842. 3 books.
Graham (G. F.). Songs of Scotland. Edinburgh (1848-49). 3 vols. [New edition, revised by J. Muir Wood, 1884.[Now the property of Messrs. Bayley & Ferguson]
Moffat (Alfred). The Minstrelsy of Scotland. London, 1894.

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