Sangstories - Stories of Scottish Songs

Tales of Scottish traditional and newer songs sung by Sangschule of Linlithgow

Comin Through The Rye

by Robert Burns   printed 1796
Tune: The Miller’s Wedding

Comin through the rye poor body
Comin through the rye
She’s draigl’t a’ her petticoatie
Comin through the rye

Jenny’s a’ weet poor body
Jenny’s seldom dry
She’s draigl’t a’ her petticoatie
Comin through the rye

Gin a body meet a body
Comin through the rye
Gin a body kiss a body
Need a body cry 

Gin a body meet a body
Comin through the glen
Gin a body kiss a body
Need the warld ken?

Gin a body meet a body
Comin through the grain
Gin a body kiss a body
The thing’s a body’s ain

Words:
Body: person (‘poor body’ – shows sympathy)
Draigl’t: got something wet and muddy, bedraggled
Gin: if
Ken: know
Weet: wet

Gordeanna McCulloch brought Sangschule this song, and while discussing the probability that Jenny’s skirts got wet while going through the fields of rye, she passed on a theory she had heard that the song might apply to the river Rye.

In the course of research for this project, a 19th century collection, The Songs Of Scotland, provided backing for this. In his introduction, the text editor, Colin Brown, says :
“ The Scottish origin of ‘Comin’ Through the Rye’ has been questioned, because it appeared in an English opera at the close of last century; but Burns had previously contributed words for this melody to Johnson’s Museum. His verses were founded upon the burden of an older song, which is still familiarly known in Scotland, and refers to the ford at Dalry, in Ayrshire.” He then quotes our chorus and verse one, while printing ‘Gin a body meet a body (the ‘school’ version) as the first song in the book.

“Comin Through The Rye” was first printed in the Scots Musical Museum in 1796 where Johnson notes that Burns wrote it for that work. However The Canongate Burns (2003) points out that this was not an entirely original song, that it was partly taken from Thomas Mansfield’s folksong collection begun in 1770 and that there was a crude version in The Merry Muses claimed by the editors to be the original of Burns’ song of the same name.

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