The Slave's Lament – Robert Burns (1792)
‘The Slaves Lament’ was published in James Johnson’s Scots Musical Museum in 1792, the year in which 519 petitions for the abolition of the slave trade were presented to the House of Commons.
Video; sung by Jean Redpath; recorded by Barbara Dymock & Christine Kydd, Jean Redpath, and Waterson-Carthy

It was in sweet Senegal that my foes did me enthrall
For the lands of Virginia-ginia O;
Torn from that lovely shore, and must never see it more,
And alas! I am weary, weary O!
Torn from that lovely shore, and must never see it more
And alas! I am weary, weary O!

All on that charming coast is no bitter snow and frost,
Like the lands of Virginia-ginia O;
There streams for ever flow, and there flowers for ever blow,
And alas! I am weary, weary O! There streams …

The burden I must bear, while the cruel scourge I fear,
In the lands of Virginia-ginia O;
And I think on friends most dear with the bitter, bitter tear,
And Alas! I am weary, weary O! And I think …

Martin Carthy commented in the sleeve notes:
I must say that when I heard The Slave's Lament for the first time and was told that it was Robert Burns song I did think, “Oh yeah?” and was quite convinced that it was one of his “improvements”. However, Hamish Henderson of the School of Scottish Studies is adamant that it is, in fact, all Burns's work, and he knows, so there it is. I did hear an America singer called Mary Eagle sing a traditional American song which had fairly solid echoes of it, but all that tells you is how close Burns remained to the music and poetry he grew up with. It's an astonishing song, I think, the kind that can imprint itself on the brain on one hearing, which was what happened to me when I heard Jean Redpath sing it on record a few years ago. I sang it to Eliza who immediately got our collected Burns out, learned it and did this arrangement. Nice to know that people in the late 18th / early 19th centuries found slavery loathsome, and not to have to deal with those 'they were men of their time' thoughts for once.

"This song appeared in the Scots Musical Museum in 1792. The manuscript is in the British Museum. Cecil Sharpe believed it was a make-up from a street ballad entitled The Betrayed Maid, popular in the West of Scotland in the eighteenth century. The original of this is a black letter broadside entitled The Trepan’d Maiden, or The Distressed Damsel, beginning:- ‘Give ear unto a maid, That lately was betrayed, and sent into Virginny O”. Burns gave the tune with the verses. William Stenhouse, the editor of an early 19th century reissue of the Scots Musical Museum, suggested that the tune is of African origin.” More...