« AnteriorContinuar »
had spent the best part of her life among flocks and herds, resided in her latter days in the town of Aberdeen. She was possessed of a most tenacious memory, which retained all the songs she had heard from nurses and country-women in that sequestered part of the country. Being maternally fond of my children, when young, she had them much about her, and delighted them with her songs and tales of chivalry. My youngest daughter, Mrs Brown, at Falkland, is blest with a memory as good as her aunt, and has almost the whole of her songs by heart. In conversation, I mentioned them to your father, at whose request my grandson, Mr Scott, wrote down a parcel of them as his aunt sung them. Being then but a mere novice in music, he added, in the copy, such musical notes as, he supposed, might give your father some notion of the airs, or rather lilts, to which they were sung.'
From this curious and valuable collection, the Editor has procured very material assistance. At the same time, it contains many beautiful legendary poems, of which he could not avail himself, as they seemed to be the exclusive property of the bards of Angus and Aberdeenshire. But the
copies of such as were known on the Borders, have furnished him with various readings, and with supplementary stanzas, which he has frequent opportunities to acknowledge. The MSS. are cited under the name of Mrs Brown of Falkland, the ingenious lady, to whose taste and memory the world is indebted for the preservation of the tales which they contain.1 The other
1 [To this lady, Mr Jamieson also acknowledges his obligations for similar assistance, in the following terms:
"For the groundwork of this collection, and for the greater and more valuable part of the popular and romantic tales which it contains, the public are indebted to Mrs Brown of Falkland. Besides the large supply of ballads, taken down from her own recitation many years ago, by Professor Scott of Aberdeen-in 1800, I paid an unexpected visit to Mrs Brown, at Dysart, where she then happened to be for health, and wrote down, from her unpremeditated repetition, about a dozen pieces more, most of which will be found in my work. Several others, which I had not time to take down, were afterwards transmitted to me by Mrs Brown herself, and by her late highly respectable and worthy husband, the Rev. Dr Brown. Every person who peruses the following sheets, will see how much I owe to Mrs Brown, and to her nephew, my much-esteemed friend, Professor Scott; and it rests with me to feel, that I owe them much more for the zeal and spirit which they have manifested, than even for the valuable communications which they have made.
authorities, which occur during the work, are particularly referred to. Much information bas been communicated to the Editor, from various quarters, since the work was first published, of which he has availed himself, to correct and enlarge the subsequent editions.
In publishing both classes of Ancient Ballads, the Editor has excluded those which are to be found in the common collections of this nature,
"As to the authenticity of the pieces themselves, they are as authentic as traditionary poetry can be expected to be; and their being more entire than most other such pieces are found to be, may be easily accounted for, from the circumstance that there are few persons of Mrs Brown's abilities and education, that repeat popular ballads from memory. She learnt most of them before she was twelve years old, from old women and maid-servants: What she once learnt she never forgot; and such were her curiosity and industry, that she was not contented with merely knowing the story, according to one way of telling, but studied to acquire all the varieties of the same tale which she could meet with. In some instances, these different readings may have insensibly mixed with each other, and produced, from various disjointed fragments, a whole, such as reciters, whose memories and judgments are less perfect, can seldom produce: but this must be the case in all poetry, which depends for its authenticity on oral tradition alone."-Preface to Jamieson's Ballads.]
unless in one or two instances, where he conceived it possible to give some novelty, by historical or critical illustration.
It would have been easy for the Editor to have given these songs an appearance of more indisputable antiquity, by adopting the rude orthography of the period to which he is inclined to refer them. But this (unless when MSS. of antiquity can be referred to) seemed too arbitrary an exertion of the privileges of a publisher, and must, besides, have unnecessarily increased the difficulties of many readers. On the other hand, the utmost care has been taken, never to reject a word or phrase, used by a reciter, however uncouth or antiquated. Such barbarisms, which stamp upon the tales their age and their nation, should be respected by an editor, as the hardy emblem of his country was venerated by the Poet of Scotland:
"The rough bur-thistie spreading wide
I turned the weeder-clips aside,
And spared the symbol dear"
The meaning of such obsolete words is usually
given at the bottom of the page. For explanation of the more common peculiarities of the Scottish dialect, the English reader is referred to the excellent glossary annexed to the best editions. of Burns's works.
The Third Class of Ballads are announced to the public, as MODERN IMITATIONS of the Ancient style of composition, in that department of poetry; and they are founded upon such traditions, as we may suppose in the elder times would have employed the harps of the minstrels. This kind of poetry has been supposed capable of uniting the vigorous numbers and wild fiction, which occasionally charm us in the ancient ballad, with a greater equality of versification, and elegance of sentiment, than we can expect to find in the works of a rude age. But upon my ideas of the nature and difficulty of such imitations, I ought in prudence to be silent; lest I resemble the dwarf, who brought with him a standard to measure his own stature. I may, however, hint at the difference, not always attended to, betwixt the legendary poems and real imitations of the old ballad; the reader will find specimens of both in the modern part of this collection. The le