There's a youth in this city


There's a youth in this city, it were a great pity That he from the lasses should wander awa'; For he's bonie an braw, weel-favor'd with a', An' his hair has a natural buckle an' a'. His coat is the hue o' his bonnet sae blue, His fecket is white as the new-driven snaw, His hose they are blae, and his shoon like the slae, And his clear siller buckles, they dazzle us a'. For beauty and fortune the laddie's been courtin; Weel-featur'd, weel-tocher'd, weel-mounted, an' braw, But chiefly the siller that gars him gang till her - The penny's the jewel that beautifies a'! There's Meg wi' the mailen, that fain wad a haen him. And Susie, wha's daddie was laird of the Ha', There's lang-tocher'd Nancy maist fetters his fancy; But the laddie's dear sel he loes dearest of a'.

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Hannah Gordon

About this work

This is a song by Robert Burns. It was written in 1789 and is read here by Hannah Gordon.

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.'

Lisa Harrison

Themes for this song

love seduction humour

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