Last time I came o'er the Moor (The)
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LAST TIME I WENT O'ER THE MOOR. AKA – "The last time I came o'er the Moor." AKA and see "Hither Dear Husband Turn Your Eyes." Scottish, Air (4/4 time). F Major (Thomson): D Major (McGibbon, Oswald): G Major (Thumoth, Wright). Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Thomson, Wright): AABB (Oswald). Kidson (1922) identifies the air as an early Scottish tune. The song to the air was written by poet Allan Ramsay (1686-1758), who, according to poet Robert Burns (1759-1796), quoted in Burns' Reliques, found the first line of this song ("The last time I came o'er the muir") and then composed the rest of the verses to suit the first line. It was printed in his Tea-Table Miscellany (1724-27). William Thompson, the editor of Orpheus Caledonius (1725–1726), credited the melody (without evidence) to Mary Queen of Scot's secretary, Italian courtier David Rizzio (c. 1533-1566). While this attribution is doubtful, the tune does have some antiquity and was considerably older than both Thomson and Ramsay (who knew the tune and title as early as 1692, according to John Glen). Early, though different, versions of the tune were entered into the Blaikie Manuscript (1692) for the lyra viol, and the still-earlier Skene Manuscript (1630), a tablature manuscript for the mandora belonging to Sir John Skene which was, according to Stenhouse, compiled when he was a young man. The Skene tune also gives as title the first lines of the old song, which Ramsay adapted:
Alace! that I came o'er the moor,
And left my love behind me.
There was speculation (by Robert Chambers, for one) that the original song may have had words "unpresentable to delicate ears", and that Ramsay changed the original idea of the title and wrote entirely different words; the pre-Ramsay song has not survived, however. Ramsay's song proved popular enough to be parodied in John Gay's Beggar's Opera of 1729 (Air LI, Act III, scene IV), and it continued to be printed on songsheets and anthologized in collections and songsters throughout the 18th, and into the 19th centuries. The song appears, for example, in Calliope: or, The Musical Miscellany (1788, Song XXIV, pp. 44-45), and in Johnson's Scots Musical Museum, vol. 1 (1787), and instrumental versions can be found in nearly every important collection of the 18th century. The melody was also entered into a few amateur musicians' copybooks of the period. A song setting was composed by Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) [Hob XXXIa,199, JHW. XXXII/3, no. 228, voice and piano] at the behest of Scottish music publisher George Thomson. Ramsay's song begins:
The last time I came o'er the moor,
I left my love behind me,
Ye pow'rs, what pain do I endure,
When soft Ideas mind me!
Soon as the ruddy morn display'd,
The beaming day ensuing,
I met betimes my lovely maid,
In fit retreats for wooing.
The words have not weathered the test of time as well as has the melody (the 'modern' version of which is also credited to Ramsay). Ramsay's lines have been criticized in literary circles as uninspired, and certainly not his best work. Robert Burns himself felt this to be the case, for in one of his letters to publisher Thomson he wrote: "...there are several lines in it which are beautiful, but, in my opinion--pardon me, revered shade of Ramsay! the song is unworthy of the divine air." Despite his misgivings, however, given the chance to revise the words for the Scots Musical Museum, Burns declined.
Source for notated version:
Davidson (Gems/Collection of Scottish Melody), c. 1860; p. 15.
Graham (Songs of Scotland Adapted to their Appropriate Melodies), 1854; pp. 88-89.
Howe (1000 Jigs and Reels), c. 1867; p. 149.
Manson (Hamilton's Universal Tune-Book, vol. 1), 1844; p. 9.
McGibbon (Collection of Scots Tunes, vol. 3), 1762; p. 80.
Mulhollan (Selection of Irish and Scots Tunes), Edinburgh, 1804; p. 5.
Oswald (Caledonian Pocket Companion, vol. 2), 1760; p. 24.
Thumoth (12 Scotch and 12 Irish Airs), 1742; No. 8, pp. 36–37.
Watts (The Musical Miscellany, Vol 1), 1729; pp. 142-144.
David Young (The MacFarlane Manuscript), c. 1740; No. 15, pp. 40-41.
Daniel Wright (Aria di Camera), 1727; No. 16.