More about this song
Two forms of this song exist by Burns; the first is an earlier 1788 version given to Johnson's Scots Musical Museum, with a focus not on the braw lads of Galla Water, but rather a lass:
Braw, braw lands of Galla Water
O, braw lads of Galla Water;
I'll kilt my coats aboon my knee,
And follow my love thro' the water
Sae fair her hair, sae brent her brow
Sae bonny blue her een, my dearie;
Sae white her teeth, sae sweet her mou';
The mair I kiss she's aye my dearie.
This version alters the persona a bit, so that the voice becomes a girl admiring the handsome young men of the area, who are second to none.
The slightly dreamy tone reminds one of young love - the voice ruminates on, once again, a love that will transcend the petty demands of society and pocketbook, and concludes with the eminently quotable final two lines.
George Thomson, replying to Burns in January 1790, for the second version of Galla Water given here, neatly summarizes thus: "the happy shepherdess [speaks] from genuine feeling and touches the heart."