« AnteriorContinuar »
of the profession. The reverend editor thus translates the closing lines :
4. Ille est carissimus Terræ incolis “ — Neglecting, in literary debate, the courtesies of
Cui Deus addidit Hominum imperium gerendum, ordinary society.”—P. 545.
Quum ille eos (bardos) babeat caros. For example, in quoting a popular song, well known by the
Ita comeantes cum cantilenis feruntur name of Maggie Lauder, the editor of the Reliques had given
Bardi hominum per terras multas; a line of the Dame's address to the merry minstrel, thus :
Simul eos remuneratur ob cantilenas pulchras,
Muneribus immensis, ille qui ante nobiles “Gin ye be Rob, I've heard of you,
Vult judicium suum extollere, dignitatem sustinere, You dwell upon the Border."
Habet ille sub cælo stabilem famam.”—P. 22. Ritson insisted the genuine reading was,
Mr. Coney beare contrasts this "flattering picture” with the
following “ melancholy specimen" of the Minstrel life of later “Come ye frae the Border ?"'
times--contained in some verses by Richard Sheale (the alleged
author of the old Chevy Chase), which are preserved in one of And he expatiates with great keenness on the crime of the
the Ashmolean MSS. Bishop's having sophisticated the text (of which he produces no evidence), to favor his opinion, that the Borders were a “Now for the good cheere that I have had here, favorite abode of the minstrels of both kingdoms. The fact, it I give you hearty thanks with bowing of my shankes, is believed, is undoubted, and the one reading seems to support Desiring you by petition to grant me saeh commissionit as well as the other.—[Joseph Ritson died in 1803.)
Because my name is Sheale, that both for meat and meale,
Both ale, wyne, and beere, as hyt doth now appere,
I perceive without fable ye keepe a good table.
I can be contente, if hyt be out of Lent, “AMERE CROWDER UPON AN UNTUNED FIDDLE."-P. 547.
A piece of beefe to take my honger to aslake,
Both mutton and veale is goode for Rycharde Sheale; In Fletcher's comedy of “Monsieur Thomas," such a fiddler is questioned as to the ballads he is best versed in, and
Though I look so grave, I were a veri knave,
If I wold thinke skorne ether evenynge or more, replies,
Beyng in honger, of fresshe samon or kongar, “Under your mastership’s correction I can sing,
I can fynde in my hearte, with my friendis to take a parte " The Duke of Norfolk,' or the merry ballad
or such as Godde shal sende, and thus I make an ende. Of Divius and Lazarus ;' The Rose of England ;'
Now farewel, good myn Hoste, I thank youe for youre coste • In Crete, where Dedimus first began ;'
Untyl another tyme, and thus do I ende my ryme.”—P. 2 • Jonas his crying out against Coventry.'
Thomas. Excellent !
WILLIAM JULIUS MICKLE.-P. 548.
In evidence of what is stated in the text, the author world With the bloody battle at Mile-end.'”
quote the introductory stanza to a forgotten poem of Mickk, The poor minstrel is described as accompanying the young
originally published under the injudicious and equivocal title
of “ The Concubine," but in subsequent editions called, " Sir rake in his revels. Launcelot describes
Martyn, or The Progress of Dissipation,” “ The gentleman himself, young Monsieur Thomas, Errant with his furious myrmidons ;
" Awake, ye west winds, through the lonely dale,
And, Fancy, to thy faery bower betake;
Even now, with balmy sweetness breathes the gale,
Dimpling with downy wing the stilly lake ; Through the pale willows faltering whispers wake,
And evening comes with locks bedropp'd with dew;
On Desmond's mouldering turrets slowly shake
The wither'd ryegrass, and the harebell blue,
And ever and anon sweet Mulla's plaints renew." MINSTRELS.-P. 547. The “ Song of the Traveller,'' an ancient piece lately dis- Mickle's facility of versification was so great, that, being a covered in the Cathedral Library at Exeter, and published by printer by profession, he frequently put his lines into type the Rev. Mr. Coneybeare, in his Illustrations of Anglo-Saxon without taking the trouble previously to put them into writing; Poetry (1826), furnishes a most curious picture of the life of thus uniting the composition of the author with the mechanical the Northern Scald, or Minstrel, in the high and palmy state operation which typographers call by the same name.
IMITATIONS OF THE ANCIENT BALLAD.'
The invention of printing necessarily occasioned | doned. The monotony of the ancient recitals was, the downfall of the Order of Minstrels, already re- for the same causes, altered and improved upon. duced to contempt by their own bad habits, by The eternal descriptions of battles, and of love dithe disrepute attached to their profession, and by lemmas, which, to satiety, filled the old romances the laws calculated to repress their license. When with trivial repetition, was retrenched. If any the Metrical Romances were very many of them one wishes to compare the two eras of lyrical poein the hands of every one, the occupation of those try, a few verses taken from one of the latest who made their living by reciting them was in minstrel ballads, and one of the earliest that were some degree abolished, and the minstrels either written for the press, will afford him, in some dedisappeared altogether, or sunk into mere musi- gree, the power of doing so. cians, whose utmost acquaintance with poetry was The rude lines from Anthony Now Now, which being able to sing a ballad. Perhaps old Anthony, we have just quoted, may, for example, be comwho acquired, from the song which he accounted pared, as Ritson requests, with the ornamented his masterpiece, the name of Anthony Now Now, commencement of the ballad of Fair Rosamond :was one of the last of this class in the capital; nor does the tenor of his poetry evince whether it was
“When as King Henry ruled this land his own composition or that of some other.?
The second of that name,
Besides his queen he dearly loved But the taste for popular poetry did not decay
A fair and comely dame. with the class of men by whom it had been for some generations practised and preserved. Not
“Most peerless was her beauty found, only did the simple old ballads retain their ground,
Her favor, and her face ;
A sweeter creature in the world, though circulated by the new art of printing, in
Could never prince embrace. stead of being preserved by recitation; but in the Garlands, and similar collections for general sale,
“Her crisped locks, like threads of gold the authors aimed at a more ornamental and regu
Appear'd to each man's sight;
Her sparkling eyes, like orient pearls, lar style of poetry than had been attempted by
Did cast a heavenly light. the old minstrels, whose composition, if not extemporaneous, was seldom committed to writing, and
“ The blood within her crystal cheeks was not, therefore, susceptible of accurate revision.
Did such a color drive, This was the more necessary, as even the popular
As though the lily and the rose
For mastership did strive.''3 poetry was now feeling the effects arising from the advance of knowledge, and the revival of the It may be rash to affirm, that those who lived study of the learned languages, with all the ele- by singing this more refined poetry, were a class gance and refinement which it induced.
of men different from the ancient minstrels; but In short, the general progress of the country led it appears, that both the name of the professors, to an improvement in the department of popular and the character of the Minstrel poetry, had sunk poetry, tending both to soften and melodize the in reputation. language employed, and to ornament the diction The facility of versification, and of poetical dicbeyond that of the rude minstrels, to whom such tion, is decidedly in favor of the moderns, as might ' topics of composition had been originally aban- easonably be expected from the improved taste, and enlarged knowledge, of an age which abound- On comparing this love elegy, or whatever it ed to such a degree in poetry, and of a character may be entitled, with the ordinary, and especially so imaginative as was the Elizabethan era. The the earlier popular poetry, I cannot help thinking poetry addressed to the populace, and enjoyed by that a great difference will be observed in the them alone, was animated by the spirit that was structure of the verse, the character of the sentibreathed around. We may cite Shakspeare's un- ments, the ornaments and refinement of the lanquestionable and decisive evidence in this respect. guage. Neither, indeed, as might be expected In Twelfth Night he describes a popular ballad, from the progress of human affairs, was the change with a beauty and precision which no one but in the popular style of poetry achieved without himself could have affixed to its character; and some disadvantages, which counterbalanced, in a the whole constitutes the strongest appeal in favor certain degree, the superior art and exercise of ! of that species of poetry which is written to suit fancy which had been introduced of late times the taste of the public in general, and is most The expressions of Sir Philip Sidney, an unquesnaturally preserved by oral tradition. But the tionable judge of poetry, flourishing in Elizabeth's remarkable part of the circumstance is, that when golden reign, and drawing around him, like a magthe song is actually sung by Festé the clown, it net, the most distinguished poets of the age, differs in almost all particulars from what we amongst whom we need only name Shakspeare might have been justified in considering as attri- and Spenser, still show something to regret when butes of a popular ballad of that early period. It he compared the highly wrought and richly ornais simple, doubtless, both in structure and phrase- mented poetry of his own time, with the ruder ology, but is rather a love song than a minstrel but more energetic diction of Chevy Chase. His ballad-a love song, also, which, though its imagi- words, often quoted, cannot yet be dispensed with native figures of speech are of a very simple and on the present occasion. They are a chapter in intelligible character, may nevertheless be com- the history of ancient poetry. “Certainly," says pared to any thing rather than the boldness of the the brave knight, “ I must confess my own barpreceding age, and resembles nothing less than the barousness; I never heard the old song of Percy ordinary minstrel ballad. The original, though so and Douglas, that I found not my heart more well known, may be here quoted, for the purpose moved than with a trumpet. And yet it is sung of showing what was, in Shakspeare's time, re- by some blind crowder, with no rougher voice than garded as the poetry of “the old age.” Almost rude style, which being so evil apparelled in the every one has the passage by heart, yet I must dust and cobwebs of that uncivil age, what would quote it, because there seems a marked difference it work, trimmed in the gorgeous eloquence of between the species of poem which is described, Pindar." and that which is sung.
1 This essay was written in April, 1830, and forms a continnation of the “ Remarks on Popular Poetry."-ED.
2 He might be supposed a contemporary of Henry VIII., if the greeting which he pretends to have given to that monarch is of his own composition, and spoken in his own person.
“Good morrow to our noble king, quoth I;
Good morrow, quoth he, to thou: And then he said to Anthony,
O Anthony now now now." 3 PERCY's Reliques, vol. ii. p.
If we inquire more particularly what were the
peculiar charms by which the old minstrel ballad " Mark it, Cesario; it is old and plain :
produced an effect like a trumpet-sound upon the The spinsters and the knitters in the sun,
bosom of a real son of chivalry, we may not be And the free maids, that weave their thread with bones, Do use to chant it ; it is silly sooth,
wrong in ascribing it to the extreme simplicity And dallies with the innocence of love,
with which the narrative moves forward, neglectLike the old age."
ing all the more minute ornaments of speech and The song, thus beautifully prefaced, is as follows: diction, to the grand object of enforcing on the
hearer a striking and affecting catastrophe. The " Come away, come away, death,
author seems too serious in his wish to affect the And in sad cypress let me be laid ;
audience, to allow himself to be drawn aside by Fly away, fly away, breath ; I am slain by a fair cruel maid.
any thing which can, either by its tenor, or the My shroud of white, stuck all with yew,
manner in which it is spoken, have the perverse O, prepare it ;
effect of distracting attention from the catastrophe. My part of death no one so true
Such grand and serious beauties, however, 00Did share it.
curred but rarely to the old minstrels; and in or
der to find them, it became necessary to struggle “Not a flower, not a flower sweet, On my black coffin let there be strown ;
through long passages of monotony, languor, and Not a friend, not a friend greet
inanity. Unfortunately it also happened, that My poor corpse, where my bones shall be thrown:
those who, like Sidney, could ascertain, feel, and A thousand, thousand sighs to save,
do full justice to the beauties of the heroic ballad, Lay me, O where Sad true lover never find my grave,
were few, compared to the numbers who could be To weep there."'1
sensible of the trite verbiage of a bald passage, or
1 Twelfth Night, Act ii. Scene 4th.
2 Sir Philip Sidney's Defence of Poesy.
the ludicrous effect of an absurd rhyme. In Eng- If it be true, as in other cases, that when things land, accordingly, the popular ballad fell into con- are at the worst they must mend, it was certainly tempt during the seventeenth century; and al- | time to expect an amelioration in the department though in remote counties? its inspiration was in which such doggerel passed current. occasionally the source of a few verses, it seems Accordingly, previous to this time, a new speto have become almost entirely obsolete in the cies of poetry seems to have arisen, which, in some capital. Even the Civil Wars, which gave so much cases, endeavored to pass itself as the production occasion for poetry, produced rather song and sa- of genuine antiquity, and, in others, honestly avowtire, than the ballad or popular epic. The curious ed an attempt to emulate the merits and avoid the reader may satisfy himself on this point, should he errors with which the old ballad was encumbered; wish to ascertain the truth of the allegation, by i and in the effort to accomplish this, a species of looking through D'Urfey's large and curious col composition was discovered, which is capable of lection, when he will be aware that the few bal- being subjected to peculiar rules of criticism, and lads which it contains are the most ancient pro- of exhibiting excellences of its own. ductions in the book, and very seldom take their In writing for the use of the general reader, date after the commencement of the seventeenth rather than the poetical antiquary, I shall century.
readily excused from entering into any inquiry reIn Scotland, on the contrary, the old minstrel specting the authors who first showed the way in ballad long continued to preserve its popularity. this peculiar department of modern poetry, which Even the last contests of Jacobitism were recited | I may term the imitation of the old ballad, espewith great vigor in ballads of the time, the authors cially that of the latter or Elizabethan era. One of some of which are known and remembered; of the oldest, according to my recollection, which nor is there a more spirited ballad preserved than pretends to engraft modern refinement upon anthat of Mr. Skirving (father of Skirving the art- cient simplicity, is extremely beautiful, both from ist), upon the battle of Prestonpans, so late as the words, and the simple and affecting melody to 1745. But this was owing to circumstances con- which they are usually sung. The title is, “ Lord nected with the habits of the people in a remote Henry and Fair Catherine.” It begins thus : and rude country, which could not exist in the richer and wealthier provinces of England.
“ In ancient days, in Britain's isle,
Lord Henry well was known ; On the whole, however, the ancient Heroic bal
No knight in all the land more famed, lad, as it was called, seemed to be fast declining
Or more deserved renown. among the more enlightened and literary part of both countries; and if retained by the lower classes
“ His thoughts were all on honor bent,
He ne'er would stoop to love : in Scotland, it had in England ceased to exist, or
No lady in the land bad power degenerated into doggerel of the last degree of
His frozen heart to move." vileness.
Subjects the most interesting were abandoned Early in the eighteenth century, this peculiar to the poorest rhymers, and one would have species of composition became popular. We find thought that, as in an ass-race, the prize had been Tickell, the friend of Addison, who produced the destined to the slowest of those who competed beautiful ballad, “Of Leinster famed for maidfor the prize. The melancholy fate of Miss Ray," ens fair,” Mallet, Goldsmith, Shenstone, Percy, who fell by the hands of a frantic lover, could only and many others, followed an example which had inspire the Grub Street muse with such verses as
much to recommend it, especially as it presentthese,—that is, if I remember them correctly:
ed considerable facilities to those who wished,
at as little exertion of trouble as possible, to at" A Sandwich favorite was this fair,
tain for themselves a certain degree of literary And her he dearly loved ;
reputation. By whom six children had, we hear ;
Before, however, treating of the professed imiThis story fatal proved.
tators of Ancient Ballad Poetry, I ought to say a
word upon those who have written their imita"A clergyman, O wicked one,
tions with the preconceived purpose of passing In Covent Garden shot her ; No time to cry upon her God,
them for ancient. It's hoped He's not forgot her."
There is no small degree of cant in the violent
1 A corious and spirited specimen occurs in Cornwall, as late as the trial of the Bishops before the Revolution. The President of the Royal Society of London (Mr. Davies Gilbert) has not disdained the trouble of preserving it from oblivion.
a Pills to Purge Melancholy.
3 See Hogg's Jacobite Relics, vol. i.-ED.
4 Miss Ray, the beautiful mistress of the Earl of Sandwich, then First Lord of the Admiralty, was assassinated by Mr. Hackman, " in a fit of frantic jealous love," as Boswell expresses it, in 1779. See Croker's Boswell, vol. iv. p. 254.-Ed.
invectives with which impostors of this nature I have only met, in my researches into theee have been assailed. In fact, the case of each is matters, with one poem, which, if it had been pro special, and ought to be separately considered, duced as ancient, could not have been detected on according to its own circumstances. If a young, internal evidence. It is the “War Song upon the perhaps a female author, chooses to circulate a victory at Brunnanburg, translated from the Adbeautiful poem, we will suppose that of Hardy- glo-Saxon into Anglo-Norman,” by the Right Hogknute, under the disguise of antiquity, the public orable John Hookham Frere. See Ellis's Speciis surely more enriched by the contribution than mens of Ancient English Poetry, vol. i. p. 32. The injured by the deception. It is hardly possible, accomplished Editor tells us, that this very singeindeed, without a power of poetical genius, and lar poem was intended as an imitation of the style acquaintance with ancient language and manners and language of the fourteenth century, and was possessed by very few, to succeed in deceiving written during the controversy occasioned by the those who have made this branch of literature poems attributed to Rowley. Mr. Ellis adds, their study. The very desire to unite modern re- “ the reader will probably hear with some surfinement with the verve of the ancient minstrels, prise, that this singular instance of critical ingewill itself betray the masquerade. A minute ac- nuity was the composition of an Eton schoolboy." quaintance with ancient customs, and with ancient The author may be permitted to speak as an history, is also demanded, to sustain a part which, artist on this occasion (disowning, at the same as it must rest on deception, cannot be altogether time, all purpose of imposition), as having written, an honorable one.
at the request of the late Mr. Ritson, one or two Two of the most distinguished authors of this things of this kind; among others, a continuation class have, in this manner, been detected; being of the romance of Thomas of Ercildoune, the only deficient in the knowledge requisite to support one which chances to be preserved. And he their genius in the disguise they meditated. Har- thinks himself entitled to state, that a modem dyknute, for instance, already mentioned, is irrec- poet engaged in such a task, is much in the situaoncilable with all chronology, and a chief with a tion of an architect of the present day, who, if Norwegian name is strangely introduced as the acquainted with his profession, finds no difficulty first of the nobles brought to resist a Norse inva- in copying the external forms of a Gothic castle or sion, at the battle of Largs: the “needlework so abbey; but when it is completed, can hardly, by any rare," introduced by the fair authoress, must have artificial tints or cement, supply the spots, weath: been certainly long posterior to the reign of Alex- er-stains, and hues of different kinds, with which ander III. In Chatterton's ballad of “Sir Charles time alone had invested the venerable fabric which Baudwin," we find an anxious attempt to repre- he desires to imitate. sent the composition as ancient, and some entries Leaving this branch of the subject, in which the in the public accounts of Bristol were appealed to difficulty of passing off what is modern for what i in corroboration. But neither was this ingenious is ancient cannot be matter of regret, we may bebut most unhappy young man, with all his powers stow with advantage some brief consideration on of poetry, and with the antiquarian knowledge the fair trade of manufacturing modern antiques, which he had collected with indiscriminating but not for the purpose of passing them as contrabandi astonishing research, able to impose on that part goods on the skilful antiquary, but in order to of the public qualified to judge of the composi- obtain the credit due to authors as successful imi- i tions, which it had occurred to him to pass off as tators of the ancient simplicity, while their system those of a monk of the 14th century. It was in admits of a considerable infusion of modern refinevain that he in each word doubled the consonants, ment. Two classes of imitation may be referred like the sentinels of an endangered army. The to as belonging to this species of composition, art used to disguise and misspell the words only when they approach each other, there may be overdid what was intended, and afforded sure evi- some difficulty in assigning to individual poems dence that the poems published as antiques had their peculiar character, but in general the differbeen, in fact, tampered with by a modern artist, ence is distinctly marked. The distinction lies beas the newly forged medals of modern days stand twixt the authors of ballads or legendary poems, convicted of imposture from the very touches of who have attempted to imitate the language, the the file, by which there is an attempt to imitate manners, and the sentiments of the ancient poems the cracks and fissures produced by the hammer which were their prototypes; and those, on the upon the original."
contrary, who, without endeavoring to do so, have
1“Hardyknute was ine first poem that I ever learnt-the last that I shall forget."--MS. note of Sir Walter Scott on a leaf of Allan Ramsay's Tea-Table Miscellany.
. See Appendix, Note A.
3 See Sir Tristrem, Scott's Poetical Works, vol. v.; edition 1833.