Poem of the Month

The Lazy Mist

1788

Type: Song

 

1.
The lazy mist hangs from the brow of the hill, 
Concealing the course of the dark winding rill. 
How languid the scenes, late so sprightly, appear, 
As Autumn to Winter resigns the pale year! 

 

2.
The forests are leafless, the meadows are brown, 
And all the gay foppery of summer is flown. 
Apart let me wander, apart let me muse, 
How quick Time is flying, how keen Fate pursues! 

 

3.
How long I have liv'd, but how much liv'd in vain! 
How little of life's scanty span may remain! 
What aspects old Time in his progress has worn! 
What ties cruel Fate in my bosom has torn! 

 

4.
How foolish, or worse, till our summit is gain'd! 
And downward, how weaken'd, how darken'd, how pain'd! 
Life is not worth having with all it can give: 
For something beyond it poor man, sure, must live. 

 

 

With Autumn approaching...

This song was first published in the  'Scots Musical Museum.' This is the most important of the numerous eighteenth- and nineteenth-century collections of Scottish song. When the engraver James Johnson started work on the second volume of his collection in 1787, he enlisted Robert Burns as contributor and editor. Burns enthusiastically collected songs from various sources, often expanding or revising them, whilst including much of his own work. The resulting combination of innovation and antiquarianism gives the work a feel of living tradition.

 

Burns wrote a commentary on some of the songs in the 'Museum', on the interleaving pages of his friend Robert Riddell's copy. He wrote a very short note on this piece, 'This song is mine'. He has not recorded any other information on the lyrics. The fact that he has noted this suggests that he did take some pride in this piece of work. Burns worked with the melody which suggests that it has a Scottish origin, as that was his criteria. More recently, however, this has been called into question and an Irish origin for the tune has instead been suggested. 

 

Trevor ,Webmaster

Autumn near River Ayr, Mauchline

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