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.  "Flow gently" was not necessarily for children, but educators priority folksongs generally, and this was a popular inclusion as here, in The Most Popular Home Songs: School Edition (selected by Gilbert Clifford Noble, NY, n.d.)

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