« AnteriorContinuar »
him farther than judgment and discretion, as well as, Judging from these two specmens, we can easily concourtesy, warranted. It is no doubt highly desirable ceive why the Reverend Editor of the “ Reliques" that the text of ancient poetry should be given un- should have declined, by the production of the folio touched and uncorrupted. But this is a point which manu
nuscript, to furnish his severe Aristarch with weadid not occur to the editor of the Reliques in 1765, pons against him, which he was sure would be unwhose object it was to win the favour of the public, at sparingly use l. Yet it is certain, the manuscript cona period when the great difficulty was not how to se- tains much that is really excellent, though mutilated cure the very words of old ballads, but how to arrest and sophisticated. A copy of the fine ballad of “Sir attention upon the subject at all. That great and im- Caulin” is found in a Scottish shape, under the name portant service to national literature would probably of “ King Malcolm and Sir Colvin,” in Buchan's never have been attained without the work of Dr. North Country Ballads, to be presently mentioned. Percy; a work which first fixed the consideration of It is, therefore, unquestionably ancient, though posgeneral readers on ancient poetry, and made it worth sibly retouched, and perhaps with the addition of while to inquire how far its graces were really antique, a second part, of which the Scottish copy has no vesor how far derived from the taste with which the tiges. It would be desirable to know exactly to what publication had been superintended and revised. The extent Dr. Percy had used the license of an editor, in object of Dr. Percy was certainly intimated in several these and other cases; and certainly, at this period, parts of his work, where he ingenuously acknowledges, would be only a degree of justice due to his memory. that certain ballads have received emendations, and On the whole, we may dismiss the “ Reliques of that others are not of pure and unmixed antiquity;! Ancient Poetry” with the praise and censure conferthat the beginning of some and end of others have red on it by a gentleman, himself a valuable labourer been supplied; and upon the whole, that he has, in in the vineyard of antiquities. “ It is the most elegant many instances, decorated the ancient ballads with the compilation of the early poetry that has ever appeared graces of a more refined period.
in any age or country. But it must be frankly added, This system is so distinctly intimated, that if there that so numerous are the alterations and corrections, be any critic still of opinion, like poor Ritson, whose that the severe antiquary, who desires to see the old morbid temperament led him to such a conclusion, English ballads in a genuine state, must consult a that the crime of literary imitation is equal to that of more accurate edition than this celebrated work."") commercial forgery, he ought to recollect that guilt, Of Ritson's own talents as an editor of ancient in the latter case, does not exist without a correspond- poetry, we shall have occasion to speak hereafter. The ing charge of uttering the forged document, or causing first collector who followed the example of Dr. Percy, it to be uttered, as genuine, without which the mere was Mr. T. Evans, bookseller, father of the gentle. imitation is not culpable, at least not criminally so. man we have just quoted. His “ Old Ballads, histoThis quality is totally awanting in the accusation so rical and narrative, with some of modern date," aproughly brought against Dr. Perey, who avowedly in- peared in two volumes, in 1777, and were eminently dulged in such alterations and improvements upon his successful. In 1784, a second edition appeared, exmaterials, as might adapt them to the taste of an age tending the work to four volumes. In this collection, not otherwise disposed to bestow its attention on them. many ballads found acceptance, which Bishop Percy
We have to add, that, in the fourth edition of the had not considered as possessing sufficient merit to Reliques, Mr. Thomas Percy of St. John's College, claim admittance into the Reliques. The 8vo MisOxford, pleading the cause of his uncle with the most cellany of 1723 yielded a great part of the materials. gentlemanlike moderation, and with every respect to The collection of Erans contained several modern Mr. Ritson's science and talents, has combated the pieces of great merit, which are not to be found elsecritic's opinion, without any attempt to retort his in- | where, and which are understood to be the producjurious language.
tions of William Julius Mickle, translator of the It would be now, no doubt, desirable to have had Lusiad, though they were never claimed by him, nor some more distinct account of Dr. Percy's folio ma- received among his works. Amongst them is the nuscript and its contents; and Mr. Thomas Percy, elegiac poem of Cumnor Hall, which suggested the accordingly, gives the original of the Marriage of Sir fictitious narrative entitled Kenilworth. The RedGawain, and collates it with the copy published in a Cross Knight, also by Mickle, which has furnished complete state by his uncle, who has on this occasion words for a beautiful glee, first occurred in the same given entire rein to his own fancy, though the rude collection. As Mickle, with a vein of great facility, origin of most of his ideas is to be found in the old united a power of verbal melody which might have ballad. There is also given a copy of that elegant been envied by bards of much greater renown, he metrical tale, “ The Child of Elle," as it exists in the must be considereil as very successful in these efforts, folio manuscript, which goes far to show it has de. if the ballads be regarded as avowedly modern. If rived all its beauties from Dr. Percy's poetical powers. they are to be judged of as accurate imitations of an
New edition, (1)
Introduction to Evans's Ballads, 1810. Larged, &c.
: See Appendix, Note F.
cient poetry, they have less merit; the deception being perhaps by the success of Mr. Macpherson, he included, only maintained by a huge store of double consonants, within a collection amounting to only twenty-one strewed at random into ordinary words, resembling the tragic ballads, no less than five, of which he afterreal fashion of antiquity as little as the niches, turrets, wards owned himself to have been altogether, or in and tracery of plaster stuck upon a modern front. great part, the author. The most remarkable article In the year 1810, the four volumes of 1784 were re in this Miscellany was, a second part to the noble published by Mr. R. II. Evans, the son of the original ballad of Hardyknute, which has some good verses. editor, with very considerable alterations and addi- It labours, however, under this great defect, that, in tions. In this last edition, the more ordinary mo- order to append his own conclusion to the original dern ballads were judiciously retrenched in number, tale, Mr. Pinkerton found himself under the necessity and large and valuable additions made to the ancient of altering a leading circumstance in the old ballad, part of the collection. Being in some measure a sup- which would have rendered his catastrophe inapp'icplement to the Reliques of Ancient Poetry, this mis- able. With such license, to write continuations and cellany cannot be dispensed with on the shelves of conclusions would be no difficult task. In the second any bibliomaniac who may choose to emulate Captain volume of the Select Ballads, consisting of comic Cox of Coventry, the prototype of all collectors of pieces, a list of fifty-two articles contained nine written popular poetry.
entirely by the editor himself. Of the manner in which While Dr. Percy was setting the example of a clas- these supposititious compositions are executed, it may sical publication of ancient English poetry, the late be briefly stated, that they are the work of a scholar David Herd was, in modest retirement, compiling a much better acquainted with ancient books and manucollection of Scottish Songs, which he has happily de- scripts, than with oral tradition and popular legends. scribed as “the poetry and music of the heart.” The The poetry smells of the lamp; and it may be truly first part of his Miscellany contains heroic and his- said, that if ever a ballad had existed in such quaint torical ballads, of which there is a respectable and language as the author empioys, it could never have well-chosen selection. Mr. llerd,' an accountant, as been so popular as to be preserved by oral tradition. the profession is called in Edinburgh, was known and The glossary displays a much greater acquaintance generally esteemed for his shrewd, manly common with learned lexicons than with the familiar dialect sense and antiquarian science, mixed with much good still spoken by the Lowland Scottish, and it is, of nature and great modesty. His hardy and antique course, full of errors.? Neither was Mr. Pinkerton more mould of countenance, and his venerable grizzled happy in the way of conjectural illustration. He locks, procured him, amongst his acquaintance, the chose to fix on Sir John Bruce of Kinross the patername of Graysteil. His original collection of songs, nity of the ballad of Hardyknute, and of the fine in one volume, appeared in 1769; an enlarged one, in poem called the Vision. The first is due to Mrs. Halket two volumes, came out in 1776. A publication of the of Wardlaw, the second to Allan Ramsay, although, same kind, being Herd's book still more enlarged, it must be owned, it is of a character superior to his was printed for Lawrie and Symington in 1791. Some ordinary poetry. Sir John Bruce was a brave, blunt modern additions occur in this latter work, of which soldier, who made no pretence whatever to literature, by far the most valuable were two fine imitations of the though his daughter, Mrs. Bruce of Arnot, had much Scottish ballad by the gifted author of the “ Man of talent, a circumstance which may perhaps have misFeeling,"—(now, alas! no more,)-called “Duncan" led the antiquary. and “ Kenneth.”
Mr. Pinkerton read a sort of recantation, in a List John Pinkerton, a man of considerable learning, of Scottish Poets, prefixed to a Selection of Poems and some severity as well as acuteness of disposition, from the Maitland Manuscript, vol. i. 1786, in which was now endeavouring to force himself into public he acknowledges, as his own composition, the pieces attention; and his collection of Select Ballads, Lon- of spurious antiquity included in his “Select Ballads," don, 1783, contains sufficient evidence that he under- with a coolness which, when his subsequent invectives stood, in an extensive sense, Horace’s maxim, quidlibet against others who had taken similar liberties is conaudendi. As he was possessed of considerable powers sidered, infers as much audacity as the studied and of poetry, though not equal to what he was willing to laboured defence of obscenity with which he disgraced take credit for, he was resolved to enrich his collection the same pages. with all the novelty and interest which it could derive In the meantime, Joseph Ritson, a man of diligence from a liberal insertion of pieces dressed in the garb and acumen equal to those of Pinkerton, but of the of antiquity, but equipped from the wardrobe of the most laudable accuracy and fidelity as an editor, was editor's imagination. With a boldness, suggested engaged in various publications respecting poetical antiquities, in which he employed profound research. cudgelied hero, Don Quixote excepted, that ever wag A select collection of English Songs was compiled by celebrated in prose or rhyme. Ritson also published him, with great care and considerable taste, and pub- several garlands of North Country songs. lished at London, 1783. A new edition of this has Looking on this eminent antiquary's labours in a appeared since Ritson's death, sanctioned by the name general point of view, we may deprecate the engerof the learned and indefatigable antiquary, Thomas ness and severity of his prejudices, and feel surprise Park, and augmented with many original pieces, and that he should have shown so much irritability of dissome which Ritson had prepared for publication. position on such a topic as a collection of old ballads,
1 David Herd was a native of St. Cyrus, in Kincardineshire, racter, giren him by Pinkerton, of “ an illiterate and injudiand though often termed a writer, he was only a clerk in the cious compiler."- ED. office of Mr. David Russell, acconntant in Edinburgh. He 2 Bansters, for example, a word generally applied to the died, aged 78, in 1810, and left a very curious library, which meu, on a harvest field, who bind the sheaves, is derived was dispersed by anction. Hierd oy no means merited the cha from ban, to curse, and explained to mean, "blustering,
Ritson's Collection of Songs was followed by a cu- which certainly have little in them to affect the pasrious volume, entitled, “ Ancient Songs from the time sions; and we may be sometimes provoked at the perof Henry III. to the Revolution," 1790 ; " Pieces of tinacity with which he has preferred bad readings to Ancient Popular Poetry,” 1792 ; and " A collection good. But while industry, research, and antiquarian of Scottish Songs, with the genuine music,"' London, learning, are recommendations to works of this na1794. This last is a genuine, but rather meagre col- ture, few editors will ever be found so competent to lection of Caledonian popular songs. Next year Mr. the task as Joseph Ritson. It must also be added to Ritson published “ Robin Hood,” 2 vols., 1795, being his praise, that although not willing to yield his opi“ A Collection of all the Ancient Poems, Songs, and nion rashly, yet if he saw reason to believe that he Ballads now extant, relative to that celebrated Out- had been mistaken in any fact or argument, he relaw.” This work is a notable illustration of the ex- | signed his own opinion with a candour equal to the cellencies and defects of Mr. Ritson's system. It is warmth with which he defended himself while contialmost impossible to conceive so much zeal, research, dent he was in the right. Many of his works are now and industry bestowed on a subject of antiquity. There almost out of print, and an edition of them in conscarcely occurs a phrase or word relating to Robin mon orthography, and altering the bizarre spelling Hood, whether in history or poetry, in law books, in and character which his prejudices induced the auancient proverbs, or common parlance, but it is here thor to adopt, would be, to antiquaries, an acceptacollected and explained. At the same time, the ex- ble present. treme fidelity of the editor seems driven to excess, We have now given a hasty account of various colwhen we find him pertinaciously retaining all the nu- lections of popular poetry during the eighteenth cenmerous and gross errors which repeated recitations tury; we have only further to observe, that, in the have introduced into the text, and regarding it as a present century, this species of lore has been sedusacred duty to prefer the worst to the better readings, lously cultivated. The -- Minstrelsy of the Scottish as if their inferiority was a security for their being Border” first appeared in 1802, in two volumes ; and genuine. In short, when Ritson copied from rare what may appear a singular coincidence, it was the books, or ancient manuscripts, there could not be a first work printed by Mr. James Ballantyne, (then more accurate editor ; when taking his authority from residing at Kelso,) as it was the first serious demand oral tradition, and judging between two recited copies, which the present author niade on the patience of the he was apt to consider the worst as most genuine, as public. The Border Minstrelsy, augmented by a third if a poem was not more likely to be deteriorated than volume, came to a second edition in 1803. In 1803, improved by passing through the mouthis of many re- Mr., now Sir John Grahame Dalzell, to whom his citers. In the Ballads of Robin Hood, this supersti- country is obliged for his antiquarian labours, pubtious scrupulosity was especially to be regretted, as it lished " Scottish Poems of the Sixteenth Century," tended to enlarge the collection with a great number which, among other subjects of interest, contains a of doggerel compositions, which are all copies of each curious contemporary ballad of Belrinnes, which has other, turning on the same idea of Bold Robin meet some stanzas of considerable merit.' ing with a shepherd, a tinker, a mendicant, a tan- The year 1806 was distinguished by the appearance ner, &c. &c., by each and all of whom he is soundly of “ Popular Ballads and Songs, from Traditions, thrashed, and all of whom he receives into his band. Manuscripts, and Scarce Editions, with Translations The tradition, which avers that it was the brave out of Similar Pieces from the Ancient Danish Language, law's custom to try a bout at quarter-staff with his and a few Originals by the Editor, Robert Jamieson, young recruits, might indeed have authorized one or A.M., and F. A.S."9 This work, which was not two such tales, but the greater part ought to have greeted by the public with the attention it deserved, been rejected as modern imitations of the most paltry opened a new discovery respecting the original source kind, composed probably about the age of James I. of of the Scottish ballads, Mr. Jamieson’s extensive acEngland. By adopting this spurious trash as part of quaintance with the Scandinavian literature, enabled Robin Hood's history, he is represented as the best him to detect not only a general similarity betwixt
· The first opening of the ballad has much of the martial strain with which a pibroch commences. Properat in medias res-according to the classical admonition.
“MacCallanmore came from the west
With many a bow and brand;
To waste the Rinnes he thought it best,
The Earl of Huntly's land." . After the completion of the Border Minstrelsy, and nearly three years previous to the publication of his own Collection, Mr. Jamieson printed in the Scots Magazine. (October 1803,
these and the Danish ballads preserved in the “ Kiempe trade, of an old Aberdeenshire minstrel, the very last, Viser,” an early collection of heroic ballads in that probably, of the race, who, according to Percy's defi. language, but to demonstrate that, in many cases, the nition of the profession, sung his own compositions, stories and songs were distinctly the same, a circum- and those of others, through the capital of the county, stance which no antiquary had hitherto so much as and other towns in that country of gentlemen. This suspected. Mr. Jamieson's annotations are also very man's name was Charles Leslie, but he was known valuable, and preserve some curious illustrations of more generally by the nickname of Mussel-mou'd the old poets. His imitations, though he is not en- Charlie, from a singular projection of his under lip. tirely free from the affectation of using rather too His death was thus announced in the newspapers for many obsolete words, are generally highly interesting. October, 1792 :-“ Died at Old Rain, in AberdeenThe work fills an important place in the collection of shire, aged one hundred and four years, Charles Lesthose who are addicted to this branch of antiquarian lie, a hawker, or ballad-singer, well known in that study.
country by the name of Mussel-mou'd Charlie. He Mr. John Finlay, a poet whose career was cut short followed his occupation till within a few weeks of his by a premature death,' published a short collection of death.” Charlie was a devoted Jacobite, and so po« Scottish Historical and Romantic Ballads," in 1808. pular in Aberdeen, that he enjoyed in that city a sort The beauty of some imitations of the old Scottish bal- of monopoly of the minstrel calling, no other person lad, with the good sense, learning, and modesty of the being allowed, under any pretence, to chant ballads preliminary dissertations, must make all admirers of on the causeway, or plain-stanes, of " the brave ancient lore regret the early loss of this accomplished burgh.” Like the former collection, most of Musselyoung man.
mou'd Charlie's songs were of a jocose character. Various valuable collections of ancient ballad-poe- But the most extensive and valuable additions try have appeared of late years, some of which are il- which have been of late made to this branch of anlustrated with learning and acuteness, as those of Mr. cient literature, are the collections of Mr. Peter Motherwelland of Mr. Kinloch intimate much taste Buchan of Peterhead, a person of indefatigable reand feeling for this species of literature. Nor is there search in that department, and whose industry has any want of editions of ballads, less designed for pub- been crowned with the most successful results. This lic sale, than to preserve floating pieces of minstrelsy is partly owing to the country where Mr. Buchan rewhich are in immediate danger of perishing. Several sides, which, full as it is of minstrel relics, has been of those, edited, as we have occasion to know, by but little ransacked by any former collectors ; so that, men of distinguished talent, have appeared in a smaller while it is a very rare event south of the Tay, to recover form and more limited edition, and must soon be any ballad having a claim to antiquity, which has not among the introuvables of Scottish typography. We been examined and republished in some one or other would particularize a duodecimo, under the modest of our collections of ancient poetry, those of Abertitle of a “ Ballad Book,” without place or date an- deenshire have been comparatively little attended to. nexed, which indicates, by a few notes only, the capa- The present Editor was the first to solicit attention to city which the editor possesses for supplying the most these northern songs, in consequence of a collection extensive and ingenious illustrations upon antiquarian of ballads communicated to him by his late respected subjects. Most of the ballads are of a comic charac- friend, Lord Woodhouslee. Mr. Jamieson, in his colter, and some of them admirable specimens of Scot- lections of “ Songs and Ballads," being himself a natish dry humour. Another collection, which calls tive of Morayshire, was able to push this inquiry for particular distinction, is in the same size, or nearly much farther, and at the same time, by doing so, to 80, and bears the same title with the preceding one, illustrate his theory of the connexion between the anthe date being, Edinburgh, 1827. But the contents cient Scottish and Danish ballads, upon which the are announced as containing the budget, or stock-in- publication of Mr. Buchan throws much light. It is,
a List of desiderata in Scottish Song. His communication to liberality and good will shown towards me and my undertathe Editor of that work contains the following paragraph : king."-ED. · I am now writing out for the press a Collection of Popular | Mr. Finlay, best known by his “ Wallace, or The Vale of Ballads and Songs from tradition, MSS., and scarce publica- Ellerslie," died in 1810, in his twenty-eighth year. An affections, with a few of modern dato, which have been written tionate and elegant tribute to his memory, from the pen of for, and are exclusively dedicated to my collection. As many Professor Wilson, appeared in Blackwood's Magazine, Noof the pieces were common property, I have heretofore waited vember, 1817.-Ed. for the completion of Mr. Walter Scott's Work, with more 2 Minstrelsy ; Ancient and Modern, with an Historical Inanxiety for the cause in general, than for any particular and troduction and Notes. By William Motherwell. 4to. Glasg. selfish interest of my own; as I was sure of having the satis- 1827. faction of seeing such pieces as that gentleman might choose 3 Ancient Scottish Ballads, recorered from Tradition, and to adopt, appear with every advantage which I, partial as I never before published; with Notes, Historical and Explanawas, could wish them. The most sanguine expectations of tory, and an Appendix, containing the Airs of several of the the public have now been amply gratified; and much curious ballads. 8vo. Edin. 1827. and valuable matter is still left for me by Mr. Scott, to whom • This is Mr. C. K. Sharpe's Work, already alluded to I am much indebted for many acts of friendship, and much Ed.
indeed, the most complete collection of the kind which / which he has only inserted because they are varied, has yet appeared.
sometimes for the worse, froin sets which have ap. Of the originality of the ballads in Mr. Buchan's peared in other publications. This restriction would collection we do not entertain the slightest doubt. make considerable room for such as, old though they Several (we may instance the curious tale of “ The be, possess to this age all the grace of novelty. Two Magicians”) are translated from the Norse, and To these notices of late collections of Scottish Bal. Mr. Buchan is probably unacquainted with the origi- lads, we ought to add some remarks on the very cunals. Others refer to points of history, with which rious “ Ancient Legendary Tales, printed chiefly from the editor does not seem to be familiar. It is out of Original Sources, edited by the Rev. Charles Henry no disrespect to this laborious and useful antiquary, Hartshorne, M.A. 1829.” The editor of this unostenthat we observe his prose composition is rather florid, tatious work has done his duty to the public with and forms, in this respect, a strong contrast to the much labour and care, and made the admirers of this extreme simplicity of the ballads, which gives us the species of poetry acquainted with very many ancient most distinct assurance that he has delivered the lat- legendary poems, which were hitherto unpublished ter to the public in the shape in which he found them. and very little known. It increases the value of the Accordingly, we have never seen any collection of collection, that many of them are of a comic turn, a Scottish poetry appearing, from internal evidence, so species of composition more rare, and, from its pecesdecidedly and indubitably original. It is perhaps a sary allusion to domestic manners, more curious and pity that Mr. Buchan did not remove some obvious interesting, than the serious class of Romances. errors and corruptions ; but, in truth, though their remaining on record 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 read- We have thus, in a cursory manner, gone through ings, is an advantage to the ballads themselves, we the history of English and Scottish popular poetry, are contented rather to take the whole in their pre- and noticed the principal collections which have been sent, though imperfect state, than that the least doubt formed from time to time of such compositions, and should be thrown upon them, by amendments or al- the principles on which the editors have proceeded, terations, which might render their authenticity It is manifest that, of late, the public attention has doubtful. The historical poems, we observe, are few been so much turned to the subject by men of research and of no remote date. That of the “ Bridge of Dee," and talent, that we may well hope to retrieve from is among the oldest, and there are others referring to oblivion as much of our ancient poctry as there is now the times of the Covenanters. Some, indeed, are any possibility of recovering. composed on still more recent events; as the mar- Another important part of our task consists in girriage of the mother of the late illustrious Byron,2 and ing some account of the modern imitation of the Enga catastrophe of still later occurrence, “The Death of lish Ballad, a species of literary labour which the auLeith-hall."
thor has himself pursued with some success. 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 recom
ABBOTSFORD, mend to Mr. Buchan to leave out a number of songs 1st March, 1830.
1 Ancient Ballads and Songs of the North of Scotland, hitherto unpublished; with Explanatory Notes. By P. B. 2 vols. 8vo. Edin. 1828.
2 This song is quoted in Moore's Life of Byron, vol. 1ED.