Performed by Bill Adair
*This recording has been commissioned to compliment the forthcoming first volume of the new OUP edition of ‘The Works of Robert Burns’: ‘Robert Burns: Commonplace Books, Tour Journals and Miscellaneous Prose’ (Ed. Nigel Leask). As no musical setting is provided in Burns’s prose writings, the musicians have been given licence to perform their own musical interpretations.
‘John Barleycorn’ is believed to be one of Burns’s earliest productions, insofar as it appears in the poet’s First Commonplace Book. In June 1785 the poet writes, ‘I once heard the old song, that goes by this name, sung; & being very fond of it, & remembering only two or three verses of it viz. the 1st, 2↑d↓ & 3↑d↓, with some scraps which I have interwoven here & there in the following piece. –’ The song was first published in the Edinburgh edition of Poems Chiefly in the Scots Dialect (1787).