MRS. BURNS narrates that the third anniversary of the death of “Highland Mary” was spent by Burns as follows:-
“He spent that day, though labouring under cold, in the usual work of the harvest, and apparently in excellent spirits. But as the twilight deepened he appeared to grow very sad about something, and at length wandered out into the barnyard, to which I, in my anxiety, followed him, entreating him in vain to observe that frost had set in, and to return to the fireside. On being again and again requested to do so, he promised compliance, but still remained where he was, striding up and down slowly and contemplating the sky, which was singularly clear and starry. At last I found him stretched on a mass of straw, with his eyes fixed on a beautiful planet ‘that shone like another moon,’ and prevailed on him to come in. He immediately on entering the house called for his desk, and wrote exactly as they now stand, with all the ease of one copying from memory –
‘Thou ling’ring star, with less’ning ray,
That lov’st to greet the early morn, &c.’ ”
Though this was the version given by “Bonnie Jean” in all good faith, there are, to the students of Burns, weak points in it which have given rise to other and different theories.