Blythe Was She
DESCRIPTION: "Phemie was a bonier lass Than braes o' Yarrow ever saw." The singer describes her. "Phemie was the blythest lass That ever trod the dewy green." "Blythe [joyful], blythe and merry was she, Blythe was she but [outside] and ben [inside]"
AUTHOR: Robert Burns
EARLIEST DATE: 1843 (Whitelaw-Song); reportedly composed 1787
KEYWORDS: beauty lyric
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Whitelaw-Song, p. 191, "Blythe Was She" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: James Kinsley, editor, Burns: Complete Poems and Songs (shorter edition, Oxford, 1969) #179, pp. 288-289, "Song -- Composed at Auchtertyre on Miss Euphemia Murray of Lentrose--" (1 text, 1 tune, from 1787)
cf. "Blythe, Blythe and Merry Was She" (possible source, per GreigDuncan4)
cf. "Andro' and his Cutty Gun" (tune, according to Burns, and some lines)
cf. "Greense's Bonny Lass" (chorus lines)
NOTES: Notes to GreigDuncan4 785, quoting Duncan: "Probably the song is the predecessor of Burns's and suggested it." On the other hand, the first lines of "Andro' and his Cutty Gun," which Burns chose for his tune, are "Blyth, blyth, blythe was she, Blyth was she butt and ben" (Herd, Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs, Heroic Ballads, etc.). The same lines begin the chorus of "Greense's Bonny Lass." The same lines are mentioned in broadside, NLScotland L.C.1268, an 1822 "Letter from a Friend on a Journey to the North, to an Inhabitant of Auld Reekie [Edinburgh]; being a Curious and Entertaining Medly of Scotch Songs," which stitches the titles of well-known Scotch songs into a narrative.
Burns wrote his song in 1787, according to Whitelaw. Whitelaw quotes Burns: "The heroine was "Miss Euphemia Murray, commonly and deservedly called The Flower of Strathmore." - BS
Although the tune for this is usually known in tradition as "Andro and his Cutty Gun," Burns (according to Kinsley) listed it as "Andrew an' his cutty gun." - RBW
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