More about this song
One of the most fruitful manuscript finds for Burns enthusiasts is the annotated copy of Johnson's Scots Musical Museum that Burns presented to Captain Robert Riddell of Glenriddell - in it, Burns remarked upon the songs therein, providing unparalleled insight to the poet's thoughts about the rendered song and lyric.
The note for There's a Youth in this City in the Riddell copy reads: "This song is claimed by Neil Gow, who calls it a lament for his brother; the first stanza is old; the rest is mine." Dating the stanza relies on the sense of 'buckle' in line 4, which entered into usage with that meaning only in the early 18th century.
The poem follows the movements of a handsome youth, full of admirers in the city, but Burns neatly upends this type of admiration poetry with the final line: 'But the laddie's dear self he loves dearest of all." The tune is unnamed, but is referenced as a 'slowish Gaelic air.'