Come O'er the Bourn Bessie to Me

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 Theme code Index    454 27bL4
 Also known as    Come O'er the Bourne Bessy, Over the Broome Bessy, Browne Besse Sweet Besse Come Over to Me
 Composer/Core Source    
 Region    England
 Genre/Style    English
 Meter/Rhythm    Air/Lament/Listening Piece
 Key/Tonic of    G
 Accidental    NONE
 Mode    Mixolydian
 Time signature    3/2
 Structure    AB
 Editor/Compiler    Biography:William Chappell
 Book/Manuscript title    Book:Popular Music of the Olden Times vol. 1
 Tune and/or Page number    p. 121
 Year of publication/Date of MS    1859
 Title of recording    
 Record label/Catalogue nr.    
 Year recorded    
 Score   ()   

COME O'ER THE BOURN, BESSIE TO ME. AKA and see "Over the broome, Bessy," "Browne Besse, sweet Besse, come over to me." Irish, English; Air (3/2 time). G Mixolydian. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB. This melody is claimed as Irish in origin by Grattan Flood (1906), who dates it from the second half of the 16th century (it should be noted that Flood made many claims for Irish provenance of old British Isles tunes). Flood, however, states it was a very popular melody in England. Chappell (1859) dates it earlier than Flood, to the early part of the 16th century, and gives stylistic reasons why this is so: "No melody in the Mixolydian mode which begins, like if in the scale of F, is at all likely to have been composed later than the first quarter of the century." In the British Museum Chappell found a composition written "no later" than 1530 which begins with the first phrase of the tune as it appears in Dorothy Welde's book, and refers to something earlier still, but well-known at the time. Walker (1924) agrees with Chappell regarding the antiquity of the melody, and says it is "very probably of (an) earlier date than (its) first occurrence in Elizabethan collections." It was mentioned by Shakespeare in King Lear (act iii, sc. 6):

Wantest thou eyes at trial, Madam?
Come o'er the bourn, Bessy, to me.

It appears in Dorothy Welde's Lute Book, and the University Library of Cambridge's Lute MSS (Dd. xiii. II). The first verse goes:

Come o'er the bourn, Bessy,
Come o'er the bourne Bessy,
Sweet Bessy come over to me.
And I shall thee take,
And my dear lady make
Before all other that ever I see. (Kines)

Printed sources: Chappell (Popular Music of the Olden Time), vol. 1, 1859; p. 121. Kines (Songs From Shakespeare's Plays and Popular Songs of Shakespeare's Time), 1964; pp. 54-55.

T:Come o'er the bourn, Bessie, to me
S:Chappell - Popular Music of the Olden Time, vol. 1
Z:AK/Fiddler's Companion
A4 AA|A2c2B2|A3A cc|B3A G2|A3BA2|G4||