"O Can Ye Labor Lea, Young Man"
The Scots Musical Museum, vol. 4
Edinburgh: Printed & sold by Johnson & Co., 1792
Gift of Charles Ryskamp in memory of Edward S. Bentley, 1975
In Burns's day it was not unusual to pair verses with whatever popular tune provided a good metrical fit. Listen to a bit of this song, for example, and you will recognize a familiar melody. With roots in an old Scottish dance tune, this air was finally paired with the words of "Auld Lang Syne" in 1799. But the tune continued to have a life of its own. In the United States, it served as a popular accompaniment to antislavery poems such as William Lloyd Garrison's "I am an abolitionist! I glory in the name." Katharine Lee Bates's poem "America the Beautiful" was often sung to this tune (and many others) before becoming inextricably linked with a composition by Samuel Ward.