What Can A Young Lassie Do Wi' An Auld Man
DESCRIPTION: Jenny curses the money that caused her mother to sell her to an old man. She cannot please him. She will try to follow her aunt Kittie's plan: "I'll cross him, I'll crack him until I have brak him." "Oh, weary's my life with a crazy old man"
AUTHOR: Robert Burns
EARLIEST DATE: 1792 (see NOTE)
KEYWORDS: age marriage nonballad husband mother wife
FOUND IN: Britain(England(South),Scotland(Aber))
REFERENCES (3 citations):
Whitelaw-Song, pp. 429-430, "What Can a Young Lassie" (1 text)
Williams-Thames, p. 231, "What Can a Young Lassie?" (1 text) (also Wiltshire-WSRO Gl 137)
Jane Turiff, "What Can a Young Lassie Dae Wi' An Auld Man?" (on Voice15)
NOTES: Musical Traditions site Voice of the People suite "Reviews - Volume 15" by Fred McCormick - 27.2.99: "I suspect however that he [Burns] re-created it from a traditional original, and my supposition is supported by the fact that he set it to a pre-existing air, which already bore the title of the present piece" [but Jane Turiff's version on Voice15 uses one of "The False Bride" tunes (for example, "I Loved a Lass" on SCMacCollSeeger01)]. - BS
The dating of this piece is slightly problematic. Ben Schwartz sent in a 1791 EARLIEST DATE based on the Burns Country web site. The Wordsworth Works of Robert Burns (p. 633) also dates it to that year.
The best reference I have, however, is James Kinsley's Burns: Complete Poems & Songs, which dates it 1792. That is, I think, based on its publication in volume IV of the Scots Musical Museum.
My best guess is that the song was written 1791, published 1792 -- but I'm listing the 1792 date just in case. - RBW
Whitelaw-Song: "There is an old song, the burden of which is the same as the opening of the present --
'What can a young lassie do wi' an auld man?'
From this Burns took the hint, and furnished the following expressive ditty for Johnson's Museum in 1790. The tune is very old."
I would go with RBW's dating in spite of Whitelaw-Song. - BS
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