Living History & Reenactment Music

Musical Rambles Through History © by Sara L. Johnson

Dainty Davie 

This historic song is one which some individuals might find objectionable or at least indelicate under modern standards. The great Scottish poet and tune collector, Robert Burns, even mentioned the indelicacy of the lyrics to "Dainty Davie". Burns' song book, "Merry Muses of Caledonia" was published in the U.S. only in heavily expurgated versions until the latter half of the 20th Century. With good reason.

Among the tunes Harry R. Stevens of Duke University (Folk Music on the Midwestern Frontier 1788-1825) identified as being commonly known in Cincinnati by 1824, was Dainty Davie. This tune was known to fiddlers, as I also found it in the William Vickers collection of 1772. The words appears in the bawdy song collection by Robert Burns, Merry Muses of Caledonia. (By the way, Burns was a stalwart political radical, siding with Thomas Paine and the French Revolution). Burns collected and improved these bawdy Scots songs, to be sung by the Crochallan Fencibles club in Edinburgh, at their "highly alcoholic meetings". Editions of his collection began to be published beginning around 1800, after his death.

Burns said "The original verses of Dainty Davie and the anecdote which gave rise to them, are still extant, and were their delicacy equal to their humour, they would merit a place in any collection." The incident took place during the Covenanting time, when a Rev. Mr. David Williamson, being pursued by dragoons, took refuge in the house of Lady Cherrytree, who hid him by putting him in bed beside her daughter, "whom he got with child, to the great scandal of the Puritans of that period."

Well, here are some of the verses:

Being pursu'd by the dragoons, Within my bed he was laid down,
And weel I wat he was worth his room, My ain dear dainty Davie.


O Leeze me on his curly pow ( my blessing on his curly head), Bonnie Davie, Dainty Davie,
Leeze me on his curly pow, He was my dainty Davie.

My minnie laid him at my back, I trow he lay na lang at that
But turn'd, and in a verra crack Produc'd a dainty Davie.

But had I goud, or had I land, It should be a' at his command;
I'll ne'er forget what he pat, i' my hand, It was a dainty Davie.

Oh, dear me. No, in the interests of delicacy I can't continue with all the verses.

Here's where you can find the sheet music.