Tune of the Day: Oh Nanny Wilt Thou Gang With Me
The music to this 18th-century song was composed by Thomas Carter (1735–1804), who published it in his first collection of Vauxhall songs in 1773. Carter was born in Dublin, but settled in London around the year 1772, where he found employ as a composer of songs for public gardens, later graduating to composing for the stage. Words to the ballad were by Shropshire-born cleric Thomas Percy, author of Reliques of English Poetry (1765). His wife Nanny (Nancy) was appointed nurse to the infant Prince Edward in London in 1771. Her duties fulfilled, she returned home to her disconsolate husband, who greeted her with his verses. The Gentleman's Magazine of 1780 regarded it as “the most beautiful song in the English language”.
The music was in the Scottish style, and proved popular both in England and Scotland, although poet Robert Burns objected the foisting of Scottish dialect into Percy's version (called “O Nanny, Wilt Thou go with Me?”).
O Nannie, wilt thou gang wi' me,
Nor sigh to leave the flaunting town?
Can silent glens have charms for thee,
The lowly cot, the russet gown?
No longer dress'd in silken sheen,
No longer deck'd wi' jewels rare,
Say can'st thou quit each courtly scene,
Where thou wert fairest of the fair?
The present arrangement for two flutes is taken from Blake's Young Flutist's Magazine, published in Philadelphia in 1833.