Songs of Robert BURNS

Robert Burns

85 Melodies for ‘The Merry Muses of Caledonia’


I have not bothered with asterisks or hyphens other than as required to encode the ABC music notation.
If you are likely to be offended by four-letter words en clair

Here's a flip-book of the first half.

I transcribed, for my own amusement, 85 tunes for most of the lyrics contained in the work generally referred to, but not by Burns, as ‘The Merry Muses Of Caledonia’ [hereafter ‘M.M.C.’], a work ascribed in varying amounts - depending on the editor - to Robert Burns. I arranged these 85 melodies with introduction, indices etc to print on A4 sheets which, when folded in half, can be stapled or sewn together as an A5 booklet.

The poems and tunes follow the sequence in which they appear in ‘M.M.C.’ edited by James Barke and Sydney Goodsir Smith, published by W. H. Allen, London, 1965. While I have used the text from the Barke/Smith edition, James Kinsley (‘Poems and Songs of R.B.’ Clarendon, 1968) is more accurate and usually better, but Kinsley omits many of the songs included in most editions of the M.M.C., including that of Barke/Smith, because they are deemed to contain little or no original Burns. There have been reprints of the Barke/Smith edition including a very poor one from Luath Press so beware! but second-hand copies of the Allen publication are not hard to find.

If you want the whole lot, i.e. all 85 melodies, use the PayPal button below to pay £5 into my Paypal account. On receipt I will post to you a printed copy of all 85 tunes with introduction, list of contents and the indices. Unless requested otherwise, the outside of the front cover will be left blank for you to add whatever title or image you wish. I have a rather obscene image on the front of mine [see flipbook] which may well not be to everyone's taste ! The cover is printed on thicker paper than the rest of the pages.


sewing The booklet can be stapled or sewn together. Being a book-nerd I prefer the latter. In case you don't know how, having folded the collated sheets in half, make a small hole with a needle in the centre fold, about ¾” from the top edge plus another 4 evenly-spaced holes about 1” apart. Then, starting from the centre inside, sew as in the diagram. [Click to enlarge.] Tie A and B together on the inside of the centre-fold to finish. Enjoy !

That Burns should feature on a website largely focussed on my family history is not entirely inappropriate. As a young girl, Alicia Flint [1828-1912], a relation of mine, met Burns' Clarinda, more properly known as Mrs Agnes McLehose, when the latter was “then a very old lady.” For more about that, see Alicia Flint. According to some, Clarinda was lead female in several songs in The Merry Muses e.g. ‘I'll Tell You a Tale of a Wife’. Clarinda was evidently familiar with at least a bowdlerized version of ‘I Rede You Beware O the Ripples Young Man’ which she referred to as ‘The Moor-hen’, urging Burns in a letter dated 6 February 1788 not to publish “for your sake and for mine.” Fortunately her advice seems to have been ignored.

© 2020 Duncan Linklater