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stress on the probability and fitness of every incident which the fancy of the poet may lead him to embellish in the course of a narrative poem, a great proportion of which must necessarily be descriptive. The author of Harold the Dauntless seems to have judged differently from these critics; and in the lightsome rapid strain of poetry which he has chosen, we feel no disposition to quarrel with him on account of the easy and careless manner in which he has arranged his story. In many instances he undoubtedly shows the hand of a master, and has truly studied and seized the essential character of the antique-his attitudes and draperies are unconfined, and varied with demi-tints, possessing much of the lustre, freshness, and spirit of Rembrandt. The airs of his heads have grace, and his distances something of the lightness and keeping of Salvator Rosa. The want of harmony and union in the carnations of his females is a slight objection, and there is likewise a meagre sheetiness in his contrasts of chiaroscuro; but these are all redeemed by the felicity, execution, and master traits distinguishable in his grouping, as in a Murillo or Carraveggio.

But the work has another quality, and though its leading one, we do not know whether to censure or approve it. It is an avowed imitation, and therefore loses part of its value, if viewed as an original production. On the other hand, regarded solely as an imitation, it is one of the closest and most successful, without being either a caricature or a parody, that perhaps ever appeared in any language. Not only is the general

manner of Scott ably maintained throughout, but the very structure of the language, the associations, and the train of thinking, appear to be precisely the same. It was once alleged by some writers, that it was impossible to imitate Mr. Scott's style; but it is now fully proved to the world that there is no style more accessible to imitation; for it will be remarked, (laying parodies aside, which any one may execute), that Mr. Davidson and Miss Halford, as well as Lord Byron and Wordsworth, each in one instance, have all, without we believe intending it, imitated him with considerable closeness. The author of the Poetic Mirror has given us one specimen of his most polished and tender style, and another, still more close, of his rapid and careless manner; but all of them fall greatly short of The Bridal of Triermain, and the poem now before us. We are sure the author will laugh heartily in his sleeve at our silliness and want of perception, when we confess to him that we never could open either of these works, and peruse his pages for two minutes with attention, and at the same time divest our minds of the idea that we were engaged in an early or ex. perimental work of that great master. That they are generally inferior to the works of Mr. Scott in vigour and interest, admits not of dispute; still they have many of his wild and softer beauties; and if they fail to be read and admired, we shall not on that account think the better of the taste of the age."-Blackwood's Magazine, April, 1817.



Introductory Remarks'


Popular Poetry,



THE Introduction originally prefixed to "The Min- | various devices, often more ingenious than elegant, strelsy of the Scottish Border," was rather of a historical than a literary nature; and the remarks which follow have been added, to afford the general reader some information upon the character of Ballad Poetry.

It would be throwing away words to prove, what all must admit, the general taste and propensity of nations in their early state, to cultivate some species of rude poetry. When the organs and faculties of a primitive race have developed themselves, each for its proper and necessary use, there is a natural tendency to employ them in a more refined and regulated manner for purposes of amusement. The savage, after proving the activity of his limbs in the chase or the battle, trains them to more measured movements, to dance at the festivals of his tribe, or to perform obeisance before the altars of his deity. From the same impulse, he is disposed to refine the ordinary speech which forms the vehicle of social communication betwixt him and his brethren, until, by a more ornate diction, modulated by certain rules of rhythm, cadence, assonance of termination, or recurrence of sound or letter, he obtains a dialect more solemn in expression, to record the laws or exploits of his tribe, or more sweet in sound, in which to plead his own cause to his mistress.

that they may establish, if not an absolute claim to originality, at least a visible distinction betwixt themselves and their predecessors. Thus it happens, that early poets almost uniformly display a bold, rude, original cast of genius and expression. They havo walked at free-will, and with unconstrained steps, along the wilds of Parnassus, while their followers move with constrained gestures and forced attitudes, in order to avoid placing their feet where their predecessors have stepped before them. The first bard who compared his hero to a lion, struck a bold and congenial note, though the simile, in a nation of hunters, be a very obvious one; but every subsequent poet who shall use it, must either struggle hard to give his lion, as heralds say, with a difference, or lie under the imputation of being a servile imitator.

It is not probable that, by any researches of modern times, we shall ever reach back to an earlier model of poetry than Homer; but as there lived heroes before Agamemnon, so, unquestionably, poets existed before the immortal Bard who gave the King of kings his fame; and he whom all civilized nations now acknowledge as the Father of Poetry, must have himself looked back to an ancestry of poetical predecessors, and is only held original because we know not from whom he copied. Indeed, though much must be asThis primeval poetry must have one general cha-cribed to the riches of his own individual genius, the racter in all nations, both as to its merits and its imperfections. The earlier poets have the advantage, and it is not a small one, of having the first choice out of the stock of materials which are proper to the art; and thus they compel later authors, if they would avoid slavishly imitating the fathers of verse, into

poetry of Homer argues a degree of perfection in an art which practice had already rendered regular, and concerning which, his frequent mention of the bards, or chanters of poetry, indicates plainly that it was studied by many, and known and admired by all.

It is indeed easily discovered, that the qualities ne

These remarks were first appended to the edition of the doubted that the Iliad and Odyssey were substantially the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border," 1830.—ED.

Sir Walter Scott, as this paragraph intimates, never

works of one and the same individual. He said of the Wolfian hypothesis, that it was the most irreligious one he had heard of, and could never be believed in by any poet.-ED.


ccssary for composing such poems are not the portion of every man in the tribe; that the bard, to reach excellence in his art, must possess something more than a full command of words and phrases, and the knack of arranging them in such form as ancient examples have fixed upon as the recognised structure of national verse. The tribe speedily become sensible, that besides this degree of mechanical facility, which (like making what are called at school nonsense verses) may be attained by dint of memory and practice, much higher qualifications are demanded. A keen and active power of observation, capable of perceiving at a glance the leading circumstances from which the incident described derives its character; quick and powerful feelings, to enable the bard to comprehend and delineate those of the actors in his piece; and a command of language, alternately soft and elevated, and suited to express the conceptions which he had formed in his mind, are all necessary to eminence in the poetical art.

Above all, to attain the highest point of his profession, the poet must have that original power of embodying and detailing circumstances, which can place before the eyes of others a scene which only exists in his own imagination. This last high and creative faculty, namely, that of impressing the mind of the hearers with scenes and sentiments having no existence save through their art, has procured for the bards of Greece the term of IoinTns, which, as it singularly happens, is literally translated by the Scottish epithet for the same class of persons, whom they termed the Makers. The French phrase of Trouveurs, or Troubadours, namely, the Finders, or Inventors, has the same reference to the quality of original conception and invention proper to the poetical art, and without which it can hardly be said to exist to any pleasing or useful purpose.

The mere arrangement of words into poetical rhythm, or combining them according to a technical rule or measure, is so closely connected with the art of music, that an alliance between these two fine arts is very soon closely formed. It is fruitless to enquire which of them has been first invented, since doubtless the precedence is accidental; and it signifies little whether the musician adapts verses to a rude tune, or whether the primitive poet, in reciting his productions, falls naturally into a chant or song. With this additional accomplishment, the poet becomes doidos, or the man of song, and his character is complete when the additional accompaniment of a lute or harp is added to his vocal performance.

Here, therefore, we have the history of early poetry in all nations. But it is evident that, though poetry seems a plant proper to almost all soils, yet not only is it of various kinds, according to the climate and country in which it has its origin, but the poetry of

1 The "Poema del Cid" (of which Mr. Frere has translated rome specimens) is, however, considered by every historian of Spanish litera'ure, as the work of one hand; and is evi

different nations differs still more widely in the degree of excellence which it attains. This must depend in some measure, no doubt, on the temper and manners of the people, or their proximity to those spirit-stirring events which are naturally selected as the subject of poetry, and on the more comprehensive or energetic character of the language spoken by the tribe. But the progress of the art is far more dependent upon the rise of some highly gifted individual, possessing in a pre-eminent and uncommon degree the powers demanded, whose talents influence the taste of a whole nation, and entail on their posterity and language a character almost indelibly sacred. In this respect Homer stands alone and unrivalled, as a light from whose lamp the genius of successive ages, and of distant nations, has caught fire and illumination; and who, though the early poet of a rude age, has purchased for the era he has celebrated, so much reverence, that, not daring to bestow on it the term of barbarous, we distinguish it as the heroic period.

No other poet (sacred and inspired authors excepted) ever did, or ever will, possess the same influence over posterity, in so many distant lands, as has been acquired by the blind old man of Chios; yet we are assured that his works, collected by the pious care of Pisistratus, who caused to be united into their present form those divine poems, would otherwise, if preserved at all, have appeared to succeeding generations in the humble state of a collection of detached ballads, connected only as referring to the same age, the same general subjects, and the same cycle of heroes, like the metrical poems of the Cid in Spain,' or of Robin Hood in England.

In other countries, less favoured, either in language or in picturesque incident, it cannot be supposed that even the genius of Homer could have soared to such exclusive eminence, since he must at once have been deprived of the subjects and themes so well adapted for his muse, and of the lofty, melodious, and flexible language in which he recorded them. Other nations, during the formation of their ancient poetry, wanted the genius of Homer, as well as his picturesque scenery and lofty language. Yet the investigation of the early poetry of every nation, even the rudest, carries with it an object of curiosity and interest. It is a chapter in the history of the childhood of society, and its resemblance to, or dissimilarity from, the popular rhymes of other nations in the same stage, must needs illustrate the ancient history of states; their slower or swifter progress towards civilisation; their gradual or more rapid adoption of manners, sentiments, and religion. The study, therefore, of lays rescued from the gulf of oblivion, must in every case possess considerable interest for the moral philosopher and general historian.

The historian of an individual nation is equally or

dently more ancient than the detached ballads on the Adven tures of the Campeador, which are included in the Cancion. eros.-ED.

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more deeply interested in the researches into popular | Such also is the unvaried account of the rose and the
poetry, since he must not disdain to gather from the brier, which are said to spring out of the grave of the
tradition conveyed in ancient ditties and ballads, the hero and heroine of these metrical legends, with little
information necessary to confirm or correct intelli- effort at a variation of the expressions in which the
gence collected from more certain sources. And incident is prescriptively told. The least acquain-
although the poets were a fabling race from the very tance with the subject will recall a great number of
beginning of time, and so much addicted to exagge- commonplace verses, which each ballad-maker has
ration, that their accounts are seldom to be relied on unceremoniously appropriated to himself; thereby
without corroborative evidence, yet instances fre- greatly facilitating his own task, and at the same
quently occur where the statements of poetical tra- time degrading his art by his slovenly use of over-
dition are unexpectedly confirmed.
scutched phrases. From the same indolence, the
To the lovers and admirers of poetry as an art, it ballad-mongers of most nations have availed them-
cannot be uninteresting to have a glimpse of the selves of every opportunity of prolonging their pieces,
National Muse in her cradle, or to hear her babbling of the same kind, without the labour of actual com-
the earliest attempts at the formation of the tuneful position. If a message is to be delivered, the poet
sounds with which she was afterwards to charm pos- saves himself a little trouble, by using exactly the
terity. And I may venture to add, that among same words in which it was originally couched, to
poetry, which, however rude, was a gift of Nature's secure its being transmitted to the person for whose
first fruits, even a reader of refined taste will find his ear it was intended. The bards of ruder climes, and
patience rewarded, by passages in which the rude less favoured languages, may indeed claim the coun-
minstrel rises into sublimity or melts into pathos. | tenance of Homer for such repetitions; but whilst, in
These were the merits which induced the classical | the Father of Poetry, they give the reader an oppor-
Addison to write an elaborate commentary upon tunity to pause, and look back upon the enchanted
the ballad of Chevy Chase, and which roused, like the ground over which they have travelled, they afford
sound of a trumpet, the heroic blood of Sir Philip nothing to the modern bard, save facilitating the
power of stupifying the audience with stanzas of dull
and tedious iteration.

It is true that passages of this high character seldom occur; for, during the infancy of the art of poetry, the bards have been generally satisfied with a rude and careless expression of their sentiments; and even when a more felicitous expression, or loftier numbers, have been dictated by the enthusiasm of the composition, the advantage came unsought for, and perhaps unnoticed, either by the minstrel or the audience.

Another cause contributed to the tenuity of thought
and poverty of expression, by which old ballads are
too often distinguished. The apparent simplicity of
the ballad stanza carried with it a strong temptation
to loose and trivial composition. The collection of
rhymes, accumulated by the earliest of the craft ap-
pear to have been considered as forming a joint stock
for the common use of the profession; and not mere
rhymes only, but verses and stanzas, have been used
as common property, so as to give an appearance of
sameness and crudity to the whole series of popular
poetry. Such, for instance, is the salutation so often

"Now Heaven thee save, thou brave young knight,
Now Heaven thee save and see."

And such the usual expression for taking counsel

Rede me, rede me, brother dear,
My rede shall rise at thee."

See The Spectator, No. 70 and 74.

2 ❝ 1 never heard the old song of Percie and Douglas, that I found not my heart moved more than with the sound of a trumpet; and yet it is sung but by some blind crowder, with no rougher voice than rude style."-SIDNEY.

Another cause of the flatness and insipidity, which is the great imperfection of ballad poetry, is to be ascribed less to the compositions in their original state, when rehearsed by their authors, than to the ignorance and errors of the reciters or transcribers, by whom they have been transmitted to us. The more popular the composition of an ancient poet, or Maker, became, the greater chance there was of its being corrupted; for a poem transmitted through a number of reciters, like a book reprinted in a multitude of editions, incurs the risk of impertinent interpolations from the conceit of one rehearser, unintelligible blunders from the stupidity of another, and omissions equally to be regretted, from the want of memory in a third. This sort of injury is felt very early, and the reader will find a curious instance in the Introduction to the Romance of Sir Tristrem. Robert de Brunne there complains, that though the Romance of Sir Tristrem was the best which had ever been made, if it could be recited as composed by the author, Thomas of Erceldoune, yet that it was written in such an ornate style of language, and such a difficult strain of versification, as to lose all value in the mouths of ordinary minstrels, who could scarcely repeat one stanza without omitting some part of it, and marring, consequently, both the sense and the rhythm of the passage. This deterioration

3 "That thou may hear in Sir Tristrom:
Over gestes it has the steem,
Over all that is or was,

If men it sayd as made Thomas;

But I hear it no man so say

But of some copple some is away," &o.

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