Volume VI, song 516, song 532 - 'The banks of the Dee' -...
Volume VI, song 516, song 532 - 'The banks of the Dee' - Scanned from the 1853 edition of the 'Scots Musical Museum', James Johnson and Robert Burns (Edinburgh and London: W. Blackwood & Sons, 1853)
Verse 1: ''Twas summer and softly the breezes were blowing and sweetly the nightingale sung from the tree at the foot of a rock where the river was flowing I set myself down on the banks of the Dee. Flow on lovely Dee flow on thou sweet river thy banks purest stream shall be dear to me ever for there I first gain'd the affection and favour of Jamie the glory and pride of the Dee.'
The 'Scots Musical Museum' is the most important of the numerous eighteenth- and nineteenth-century collections of Scottish song. When the engraver James Johnson started work on the second volume of his collection in 1787, he enlisted Robert Burns as contributor and editor. Burns enthusiastically collected songs from various sources, often expanding or revising them, whilst including much of his own work. The resulting combination of innovation and antiquarianism gives the work a feel of living tradition.
According to John Glen (1900), 'This fine song was written in 1775 by John Tait, who for some time sat as judge in the Police Court, Edinburgh'. The accompanying melody is known by the title 'Langolee', or rather 'New Langolee', and is not to be confused with a much earlier melody of the same name. Although thought to be of Irish origin, Glen was unable to find the melody in any early Irish song collections. It does, however, appear to have been very popular in Scotland, and was used not only to accompany Tait's verses but also two other songs found in Wilson's 'St Cecilia' (1779).