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Lot 80
BURNS, ROBERT (1759-1796, Scottish poet) AUTOGRAPH REVISED MANUSCRIPT OF HIS FAMOUS SONG '[MY] NANIE'S AWA', [1791]
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Lot Details
BURNS, ROBERT (1759-1796, Scottish poet)
AUTOGRAPH REVISED MANUSCRIPT OF HIS FAMOUS SONG '[MY] NANIE'S AWA', comprising title and 16 (18 lines including revisions) lines in quatrains, with autograph revisions to three lines preserving reconsidered readings, 1 page, small folio, with arithmetical calculations and trial majuscules by Burns on the verso, professional repairs [1791]

Nanie's awa - Tune, There'll never be peace till Jamie come hame

Now in her green mantle gay Nature arrays,
And listens the lambkins that blent o'er the braes,
And birds warble welcomes in ilka green shaw;
To me its delightless, my Nanie's awa. --

The primrose & daisy our glens may adorn,
And violets bathe in the weet o' the morn;
They torture my bosom, sae sweetly they blaw,
[For sweet is my - deleted] They mind me o' Nanie - & Nanie's awa. --

Thou laverock that springs frae the dews o' the lawn,
[The warmth - changed to] The shepherd to warn of the grey-breaking dawn
And [a ye sweet songsters that towse at her ca, (i.e. call) deleted]
And thou mellow mavis that hails the night fa',
Gie over for pity - my Nanie's awa. --

Come Autumn sae pensive, in yellow & grey [array - inserted above]
And soothe me wi' tydins o' Nature's decay;
The dark, dreary Winter, & wild-driving snaw,
Alane can delight me, now Nanie's awa.--

THIS 'BEAUTIFUL PASTORAL' (Mackay) WAS WRITTEN FOR AGNES McLEHOSE, BURNS'S 'CLARINDA', TO WHOM HE WAS 'SYLVANDER'; she was familiarly known as Nancy (the only woman of that name loved by Burns). Nanie is a pet name for Nancy and Agnes left (went 'awa' from) Scotland and Burns in 1792. Her grandson later claimed that this much-admired and much-sung song was written for 'Clarinda' in the year she departed for the West Indies. She and Burns met for the last time on 6 December 1791. It is perhaps a scholarly error that a letter to George Thomson dated only 9 December has been putatively assigned to '[1794]'; in it Burns stated that he had 'just framed...My Nanie's awa - Tune, There'll never be peace' for Thomson. The letter should more likely be reassigned to three years earlier, which would place the 'framing' of the song just three days after the lovers' final meeting.

Burns's 'Clarinda, mistress of my soul', was Agnes Craig McLehose (1758-1841), who is recognised as the Nancy of 'Ae Fond Kiss', and the recipient of numerous other songs by Burns. She had married John McLehose at the age of eighteen. They separated in 1782 and she and Burns first met on 4 December 1787 after which followed their celebrated 'Sylvander' and 'Clarinda' correspondence. She left Scotland for Jamaica in February 1792 in the hope of a reconciliation with her now-prosperous husband but found that he had a black mistress, Ann Chalon Rivvere. Nancy returned to Scotland in 1829, by which time Burns was dead.

THIS IS THE ONLY KNOWN MANUSCRIPT OF THE POEM IN PRIVATE HANDS. The poem was first published in Select Collection, 1799. This manuscript is not recorded by Margaret Smith, but is referred to by Kinsley, who saw a photocopy supplied by Dr J.W. Egerer. The reading 'springs' in the first line of the third stanza is unique to this manuscript. Otherwise Kinsley records only the Dalhousie manuscript.

REFERENCES: James Mackay, A Biography of Robert Burns, 1992; The Complete Letters, edited by James Mackay, 1990; Index of English Literary Manuscripts, Volume III, Part I, 1986, compiled by Margaret Smith; The Poems and Songs of Robert Burns, edited by James Kinsley, 3 volumes, 1968.
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