Imágenes de páginas

ancient literature, are the collections of Mr Peter Buchan of Peterhead, a person of indefatigable research in that department, and whose industry has been crowned with the most successful results. This is partly owing to the country where Mr Buchan resides, which, full as it is of minstrel relics, has been but little ransacked by any former collectors; so that, while it is a very rare event south of the Tay, to recover any ballad having a claim to antiquity, which has not been examined and republished in some one or other of our collections of ancient poetry, those of Aberdeenshire have been comparatively little attended to. The present Editor was the first to solicit attention to these northern songs, in consequence of a collection of ballads communicated to him by his late respected friend, Lord Woodhouslee. Mr Jamieson, in his collections of "Songs and Ballads," being himself a native of Morayshire was able to push this enquiry much farther, and at the same time, by doing so, to illustrate his theory of the connexion between the ancient Scottish and Danish ballads, upon which the pub

lication of Mr Buchan throws much light. It is, indeed, the most complete collection of the kind which has yet appeared.1

Of the originality of the ballads in Mr Buchan's collection we do not entertain the slightest doubt. Several (we may instance the curious tale of "The Two Magicians") are translated from the Norse, and Mr Buchan is probably unacquainted with the originals. Others refer to points of history, with which the editor does not seem to be familiar. It is out of no disrespect to this laborious and useful antiquary, that we observe his prose composition is rather florid, and forms, in this respect a strong contrast to the extreme simplicity of the ballads, which gives us the most distinct assurance that he has delivered the latter to the public in the shape in which he found them. Accordingly, we have never seen any collection of Scottish poetry appearing, from internal evidence, so decidedly and indubitably original.

1 [Ancient Ballads and Songs of the North of Scotland, hitherto unpublished; with Explanatory Notes. By P. B 2 vols. 8vo. Edin. 1828.]

It is perhaps a pity that Mr Buchan did not remove some obvious errors and corruptions; but, in truth, though their remaining on record is an injury to the effect of the ballads, in point of composition, it is, in some degree, a proof of their authenticity. Besides, although the exertion of this editorial privilege, of selecting readings, is an advantage to the ballads themselves, we are contented rather to take the whole in their present, though imperfect state, than that the least doubt should be thrown upon them, by amendments or alterations, which might render their authenticity doubtful. The historical poems, we observe, are few and of no remote date. That of the "Bridge of Dee," is among the oldest, and there are others referring to the times of the Covenanters. Some, indeed, are composed on still more recent events; as the marriage of the mother of the late illustrious Byron,1 and a catastrophe of still later occurrence, "The Death of Leith-Hall."

1 [This song is quoted in Moore's Life of Byron, vol. i.-ED.]

As we wish to interest the admirers of ancient minstrel lore in this curious collection, we shall only add, that, on occasion of a new edition, we would recommend to Mr Buchan to leave out a number of songs which he has only inserted because they are varied, sometimes for the worse, from sets which have appeared in other publications. This restriction would make considerable room for such as, old though they be, possess to this age all the grace of novelty.

To these notices of late collections of Scottish Ballads, we ought to add some remarks on the very curious "Ancient Legendary Tales, printed chiefly from Original Sources, edited by the Rev. Charles Henry Hartshorne, M.A. 1829.” The editor of this unostentatious work has done his duty to the public with much labour and care. and made the admirers of this species of poetry acquainted with very many ancient legendary poems, which were hitherto unpublished and very little known. It increases the value of the collection, that many of them are of a comic turn,

a species of composition more rare, and, from its necessary allusion to domestic manners, more curious and interesting, than the serious class of Romances.

We have thus, in a cursory manner, gone through the history of English and Scottish popular poetry, and noticed the principal collections which have been formed from time to time of such compositions, and the principles on which the editors have proceeded. It is manifest that of late, the public attention has been so much turned to the subject by men of research and talent, that we may well hope to retrieve from oblivion as much of our ancient poetry as there is now any possibility of recovering.

Another important part of our task consists in giving some account of the modern imitation of the English Ballad, a species of literary labour

« AnteriorContinuar »