Earl Douglas's Lament

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EARL DOUGLAS'S LAMENT. Scottish, Slow Air (3/4 time). D Major (Oswald): G Major (Manson). Standard tuning (fiddle). AAB (Manson): AABB (Oswald). The melody is a close variant of the Gaelic air "Daft Robin" or "Robie donna gorrach/Robaidh donn gòrach/Robaidh tha thu gòrach," and a member of the great family of airs that also includes "Todlin' hame," "My Ain Fireside," "Johnny Armstrong," "Carronside," "Maid of Selma," "Days o' Langsyne (The)." In Ireland variants are known as "Lame Yellow Beggar (The)," "Wild Geese (The)," "Bonnie Portmore," "Boys of Kilkenny (The)," "Meeting of the Waters (The)." Highland members of the family are "Laithean a dh' aom (Na)" and "A' Chuairt Shamraidh" [Malcolm MacFarlane, The Celtic Monthly, vol. 2, Feb. 1894, p. 88]. Stenhouse was of the opinion that the progenitor air was "Johnny Armstrong," although John Glen (Early Scottish Melodies, 1900, No. 356) states: "We think it certain that the air of this ballad [i.e. "Johnny Armstrong"], and perhaps the words also, did not exist in the early part of last century, though commemorating an event in 1529."

The melody was used by Robert Burns for his song "Lady Randolph's Complaint," which was printed in John Johnson's Scots Musical Museum, vol. IV [1] (song 343, pp. 352-353). Burns' song is thought to have been based on John Homes (1722-1808) tragedy Douglas (1759). Lady Randolph's first husband had been Lord Douglas, and their son was accused by Lord Randolph of being his wife's lover, a misunderstanding that led to fatal consequences for all.

See also the Scottish "When I hae a sixpence under my thumb" and "Todlen but an' todlen ben."

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Manson (Hamilton's Universal Tune Book, vol. 2), 1853; p. 69. Oswald (Caledonian Pocket Companion, Book 7), 1760; p. 30.

Recorded sources:




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