A Rosebud by My Early Walk

(Robert Burns/David Sillar), recorded on Skeins.

Robert Burns lodged with the Cruikshanks in St James’s Square, Edinburgh, from September, 1787 until February, 1788. 

"This song I composed on Miss Jeany Cruikshank, only child to my worthy friend Mr Wm Cruikshank, of the High Street, Edinr. The air is by David Sillar, quondam [former] Merchant, now Schoolmaster in Irvine. He is the Davie to whom I address my printed poetical epistle in the measure of the Cherry and the Slae." 

Then twelve years old, Janet Cruikshank was an accomplished harpsichordist and singer. She helped Mr. Burns by playing and singing the melodies to which he matched his lyrics. His gratitude to her and her parents is expressed with this intensely beautiful song. David Sillar’s original melody was called “The Rosebud.” Andrew has arranged it in the Dorian mode, familiar from "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme." A "bawk" (“balk,” in English) is an unploughed strip between crop fields. “Corn” meant “grain” in 18th century Scotland, not maize as in the US. 

A rosebud, by my early walk 
Adown a corn-inclosèd bawk, 
Sae gently bent its thorny stalk, 
All on a dewy morning. 
Ere twice the shades o’ dawn are fled, 
In a’ its crimson glory spread, 
And drooping rich the dewy head, 
It scents the early morning. 

Within the bush her covert nest 
A little linnet fondly prest, 
The dew sat chilly on her breast 
So early in the morning. 
She soon shall see her tender brood 
The pride, the pleasure o’ the wood, 
Amang the fresh green leaves bedew’d, 
Awauk the early morning. 

So thou, dear bird, young Jeany fair, 
On trembling string or vocal air, 
Shalt sweetly pay the tender care 
That tents thy early morning. 
So thou, sweet Rose bud, young and gay, 
Shalt beauteous blaze upon the day, 
And bless the Parent’s evening ray 
That watch’d thy early morning.