Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

Mary Morison

Scottish Song By Robert Burns

Mary Morison is a Scottish song written by Robert Burns in about 1784 and sung to the tune Bide Ye Yet.

Mary Morison or Mary Morrison (1771-1791), may have been the "lovely Mary Morison", whom the poet Robert Burns admired as a girl of sixteen. She was the daughter of Adjutant John Morison of Mauchline.

Mary's tombstone in the Mauchline churchyard, as stated, records that she was the daughter of Adjutant John Morison of the 104th Regiment and that she was Robert Burns's 'bonnie Mary' in his famous song 'Mary Morison'. In 1825 A. N. Carmichael erected the present tombstone in his aunt's memory, many years after her death.

Local tradition however records that she was not an intimate of the poet and may have actually met him only once during tea at a friends house. The Rev Dr Edgar of Mauchline is recorded to have said that Morison's sister thought that identity of the 'Mary' of the poem 'Mary Morison' was indeed her sibling. Most authorities feel that the name was used by Burns for Alison Begbie as he called the song 'one of my juvenile works', which he was unlikely to say about a song written in 1784/5 when the Mary would have been a girl of about fourteen and twelve years younger than Burns himself.

Gilbert, the poet's brother, related that Alison Begbie, Peggy Alison and Mary Morison were, all one and the same person, Alison Begbie. The poet, having had difficult in getting Alison Begbie's name to pair in rhyme had at first used the name 'Peggy Alison'.

'Mary Morison' was the finest of his early songs, written prior to The Kilmarnock Volume, but not included and only sent to George Thomson on 20 March 1793.

Related Scottish Country Dances

Mary Morison

Mary Morison By Robert Burns

O Mary, at thy window be!
It is the wish'd, the trysted hour.
Those smiles and glances let me see,
That make the miser's treasure poor,
How blithely wad I bide the stoure,
A weary slave frae sun to sun;
Could I the rich reward secure,
The lovely Mary Morison.

Yestreen, when to the trembling string
The dance gaed thro, the lighted ha',
To thee my fancy took its wing,
I sat, but neither heard nor saw:
Tho' this was fair, and that was braw,
And yon the toast of a' the town,
I sigh'd and said amang them a',
"Ye are na Mary Morison."

O Mary canst thou wreck his peace
Wha for thy sake wad gladly die?
Or canst thou break that heart of his
Whase only faut is loving thee?
If love for love thou wilt na gie,
At least be pity to me shown;
A thought ungentle canna be
The thought o' Mary Morison.

Mary Morison Song Video

Mary Morison Song - Information Video
Mary Morison Song
Mary Morison Song, Image From Book, c. 1875

The Online Scots Dictionary Translate Scots To English.
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Dance information licensed under this Creative Commons Licence 3.0.
Text from this original Mary Morison article on Wikisource.
Image copyright (cropped) Burns, Robert, 1759-1796; Herdman, Robert, 1829-1888; Paterson, Robert, fl. 1860-1899 [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons.

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