Sangstories - Stories of Scottish Songs

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

There Was A Lad

by Robert Burns    
Pub.1787          
Tune: Dainty Davie


There was a lad was born in Kyle
But whatna day o whatna style
I doubt it’s hardly worth the while
To be sae nice wi Robin

Robin was a rovin boy
Rantin, rovin, rantin, rovin
Robin was a rovin boy
Rantin, rovin Robin

Our monarch’s hindmost year but ane
Was five-and-twenty days begun
‘Twas then a blast o Janwar win
Blew hansel in on Robin

The Gossip keekit in his loof
Quo’ scho wha lives will see the proof
This waly boy will be nae coof
I think we’ll ca him Robin

He’ll hae misfortune’s great an sma
But ay a hert aboo them a’
He’ll be a credit tae us a’
We’ll ay be proud o Robin

But sure as three times three mak nine
I see by ilka score an line
This chap will dearly like our kin’
So leeze me on thee, Robin

Guid faith quo’ scho I doubt you Stir
Ye’ll gar the lassies lie aspar
But twenty fauts ye may hae waur –
So blessins on thee, Robin

Words:
Aboon: above
Aspar: with legs apart
Coof: fool
Faut: fault
Gar: make
Gossip: crony; close friend asked to a baptism (English: god-sib, godparent)
Hansel: a first gift for luck for something/one new
Hindmost: last
Ilka: every
Janwar: January
Keeked in his loof: peeped into his hand (to read his palm)
Kin’: kind
Kyle: Parish of Burns’s birth
Leeze me on thee: blessings on thee; I am fond of you
Nice: particular
Quo’ scho: quoth she, said she
Stir: Sir (Scottish form, perhaps from ‘maister’)
Waly: sturdy
Waur: worse
What na : what kind

By the time Burns finished this autobiographical piece, he had already had success with the Kilmarnock Edition of his first collected poems in 1786 and had made his way in Edinburgh in ‘86 –‘87.

It appears in his Second Commonplace Book (his writer’s journal) on April 9th 1787 when he was 28.

According to The Canongate Burns (2003):
“ The chorus is adapted from a traditional song but the versification is the poet’s own celebration of his birthday. The song may have been begun earlier but the lyrics here are from 1787. It is an optimistic autobiographical piece, written with future fame in mind, given the success of his Kilmarnock edition and his success in Edinburgh. It is ironic that this work was probably never sung publicly during the poet’s life as it first appears in print in 1808. After the first Burns Clubs were set up in the early 19th century, it gained a growing popularity and is now one of the most sung Scots songs. The second line of the last stanza still condemns that stanza to a degree of discreet censorship in performance.”

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