MÒRAG. AKA and see "Marion," "Morag." Scottish, "Very Slow" Air. D Minor. Standard tuning (fiddle). ABB. "A very old Gaelic air (Gow)." "It is much to be regretted that, in framing words to this beautiful and admired melody, it appears to have been imperfectly communicated to Burns, or else his muse could not attain to the usual perfection of her efforts; at least the set given by Mr. G. Thomson does not sing with effect to the original Gaelic words, for which reason the editor gives the edition of his progenitor and Culduthel, who are known to be among the first who spread its fame, from their style of singing it" (Fraser).
The melody was used by poet Robert Burns for his songs "Young Highland Rover (The)" and "Oh wat is ye wha lo'es me." Johnson's Scots Musical Museum (1788) contains the former song ("The Young Highland Rover") , No. 143. The tune was much admired by Burns, who wrote to Edinburgh publisher and entrepreneur George Thomson, that his song was not worthy of the air. When sending a copy of the Museum containing the song to Rose of Kilravock and to the Duke of Gordon's librarian, Burns spoke of the melody in enthusiastic terms. Stenhouse, in his notes to the Museum, maintains that: "[Simon] Fraser has corrupted the melody by introducing the sharp seventh of the minor key twice instead of the perfect fifth, and with embellishments quite uncalled for, that are entirely foreign to the spirit of the air." John Glen (Early Scottish Melodies, p. 107) declares the criticism "justly deserved," and thinks Stenhouse was not aware of the 'excellent set' in Dow's Ancient Scots Music. The strains of the tune in the Museum as well as those printed by Aird are reversed from Dow's version.
Source for notated version:
Aird (Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. 5), 1797; p. 52.
Carlin (The Gow Collection), 1986; No. 549.
Dow (Collection of Ancient Scots Music), 1778; p. 46.
Gow (Fourth Collection of Niel Gow's Reels), 2nd ed., (originally) 1800; p. 33.
Fraser (Airs and Melodies), 1816; No. 119, p. 47.