Ye Banks and Braes

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BANKS AND BRAES (O' BONNY DOON). AKA and see “Bonnie Doon,” "Lost is My Quiet," "Caledonian Hunt's Delight (The)." Scottish, Air and Waltz. D Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB. The antiquarian William Chappell claims the tune is English on the strength of its being included in a Collection of English Songs by Dale (who published about 1780-1794) under the title "Lost is my quiet." However, the collector John Glen (1891) relates a delightful story of the tune's origins involving the famous Scots poet, Robert Burns (1759-1796), who wrote to publisher George Thomson in 1794:

Do you known the history of the air? It is curious enough. A good many years ago, Mr. James Miller, writer in your good own (Edinburgh), a gentleman whom, possibly, you know, was in company with our good friend Clarke; and taling of Scottish music, Miller expressed an ardent ambition to be able to compose a Scots air. Mr. Clarke, partly by way of a joke, told him to keep to the black keys of the harpsichord, and preserve some kind of rhythm, and he would infallibly compose a Scots air. Certain it is, that, in a few days, Mr. Miller produced the rudiments of an air which Mr. Clarke, with some touches and corrections, fashioned into the tune in question. Ritson, you know, has the same story of the black keys; but this account which I have just given you, Mr. Clarke informed me of several years ago.

Miller's tune was first published under the title "Caledonian Hunt's Delight (The)" in Gow's 2nd Collection (1788), but Glen concludes that it is more likely that "Lost is my quiet" is a poor adaptation and nothing else. He also notes there is a tune having a supposed resemblance in Playford's Appollo's Banquet (1690) entitled "Scotch Tune (A)" (No. 68), but in the end he believes that "neither Chappell's arguments nor facts are strong enough to deprive Mr. Miller of his claim." "The Caledonian Hunt's Delight" appears also in George Thomson's A Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs for the Voice (Edinburgh, 1793-1797), arranged by Kozeluch. A rondo on the air was composed by Domenico Corri (1746-1825) under the title "Favourite Irish Air" (which, of course, it is not).

Burns wrote verses to the melody in 1791 in a song called "The Banks o Doon"; actually writing three different versions of the lyric. The third begins:

Ye banks and braes O’ Bonnie Doon,
How can ye bloom sae fresh and fair?
How can ye chaunt, ye little birds,
And I’m sae wearyful O’ care?
Ye’ll break my heart ye warbling bird,
That warbles on the flow’ry thorn.
Ye mind me O’ departed joys,
Departed never to return.

Francis O’Neill (Irish Folk Music, p. 56), taking up the Irish banner, reports that George Farquhar Graham, editor of Wood’s Songs of Scotland, states there is an Irish claim to the melody which predates the Burns verses. A jig setting can be found in Kerr (Merry Melodies, vol. 4), p. 28, as “Bonnie Doon.”

In the United States an early printing appears in the Ira Clark Jr. Manuscript (p. 55), from the year 1790. Mr. Clark resided in Simsbury, Connecticut. A variant can be found in the American Veteran Fifer (1905).

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Kerr (Merry Melodies, vol. 1), c. 1880’s; No. 3, p. 25.

Recorded sources:




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