Songs of Robert Burns/Musing on the roaring ocean

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Songs of Robert Burns ~ Musing on the roaring ocean
James C. Dick
No. 32. From "The Songs by Robert Burns". A Study in Tone-Poetry. Published by Henry Frowde. London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and New York 1903. Source: «traditionalmusic»


No. 32. Musing on the roaring ocean.

Tune: Druimionn Dubh, McDonald's Highland Airs, 1784, No. 89.


* * *

Musing on the roaring ocean,
Which divides my love and me,
Wearying Heav'n in warm devotion
For his weal where'er he be.

Hope and fear's alternate billow
Yielding late to Nature's law,
Whisp'ring spirits round my pillow,
Talk of him that's far awa.

Ye whom sorrow never wounded,
Ye who never shed a tear,
Care-untroubled, joy-surrounded,
Gaudy Day to you is dear.

Gentle Night, do thou befriend me;
Downy Sleep, the curtain draw:
Spirits kind, again attend me,
Talk of him that's far awa!

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No. 32. Musing on the roaring ocean. Scots Musical Museum, 1788, No. 279, signed 'R.' Tune, Druimionn dubh. The MS. of the verses is in the British Museum. Written on account of a Mrs. McLachlan, whose husband was an officer in the East India Company's service, on duty abroad (Reliques, 1808, 254). It may be remarked that, although Burns lived in the view of the sea for many years, its immensity or grandeur does not appear to have Impressed him. This is his only sea-song. Mountains and natural scenery he passed over in the same way. His genius lay in studying and dis­secting human life. • For inorganic matter with the modern pan gloss he cared little or nothing. His diary of the Highland tour contains few or no remarks on the beautiful scenery he passed through. In a fragment in the Herd MS., now first printed below, the same idea occurs as in the third line of Burns. Thus :—

' But he's awa, and very far frae hame,
And sair, sair I fear I'll ne'er see him again;
But I will weary Heav'n to keep him in its care,
For OI he's good—and good men are rare.'

The tune Druimionn dubh, Anglice, The black cow, is in Corri's Scots Songs, 1783, ii. 29, and McDonald's Highland Airs, 1784, No. 89. Sir Samuel Ferguson translated the fragment of an Irish Jacobite lyric of James the Second with the title of the tune. The last stanza is—

  • Welcome home, welcome home, druimion dubh,
O ! Good was your sweet milk for drinking, I trow;
With your face like a rose, and your dewlap of snow,
I'll part from you never, ah, druimion dubh, O !'

Another but different air of the same title is in the Caledonian Pocket Com panion, c. 1756, viii. 12.

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