Sounding Childhood

“Flow gently, sweet Afton”

“Flow gently, sweet Afton” is a poem by Scotsman Robert Burns in the folksong-idiom, as he praises the Afton Water (Ayrshire, Scotland), this “murmuring stream” (v. 1), and the idyllic, pastoral life it symbolizes where his Mary sleeps: all is set against his cautioning the river, the blackbird (etc.) to “disturb not her dream.”  Burns was a part of the late-eighteenth-century folksong revival, collecting and writing folksongs, and this was published in 1791 in his Scots Musical Museum.  Jonathan E. Spilman wrote what would become its famous tune, a tune many people may now associate with “Away in the manager,” as recast by Irishman William J. Kirkpatrick for this Christmas carol. 

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