The poem is a re‐casting by Robert Burns (pubd. in final form 1794) of a popular song (probably orig. a folk‐song) then current in various versions. The tune now current is sometimes stated to be by Shield; something like it appeared in his opera Rosina, as a part of the ov. (CG 1783), where it is treated to imitate Scottish bagpipe mus. Sir Alexr. Don's Strathspey (issued possibly a year later than the perf. of Shield's opera) seems to have strong claim to be the orig.; it may have already been known to Shield, who was brought up at Durham, not far from the Scottish border. The air, like many Scots tunes, is based on the pentatonic scale. It has been proposed as the ‘hidden theme’ in Elgar's Enigma Variations, but the composer denied it.