Book of Old English Ballads

George Wharton Edwards
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George Wharton Edwards
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Title: The Book of Old English Ballads
Author: George Wharton Edwards
Release Date: December, 2005 [EBook #9405]
[Yes, we are more
than one year ahead of schedule]
[This file was first posted on
September 29, 2003]
Edition: 10
Language: English
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Produced by John B. Hare
with an
Accompaniment of Decorative Drawings
George Wharton Edwards
And an Introduction by
Hamilton W. Mabie
Chevy Chace
King Cophetua and the Beggar-Maid
King Leir and his Three Daughters
Fair Rosamond
Phillida and Corydon
Fair Margaret and Sweet William
Annan Water
The Bailiff's Daughter of Islington

Barbara Allen's Cruelty
The Douglas Tragedy
Young Waters
Flodden Field
Helen of Kirkconnell
Robin Hood and Allen-a-Dale
Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne
Robin Hood's Death and Burial
The Twa Corbies
Waly, Waly, Love be Bonny
The Nut-brown Maid
The Fause Lover
The Mermaid
The Battle of Otterburn
The Lament of the Border Widow
The Banks o' Yarrow
Hugh of Lincoln
Sir Patrick Spens
Goethe, who saw so many things with such clearness of vision, brought
out the charm of the popular ballad for readers of a later day in his

remark that the value of these songs of the people is to be found in the
fact that their motives are drawn directly from nature; and he added,
that in the art of saying things compactly, uneducated men have greater
skill than those who are educated. It is certainly true that no kind of
verse is so completely out of the atmosphere of modern writing as the
popular ballad. No other form of verse has, therefore, in so great a
degree, the charm of freshness. In material, treatment, and spirit, these
bat lads are set in sharp contrast with the poetry of the hour. They deal
with historical events or incidents, with local traditions, with personal
adventure or achievement. They are, almost without exception, entirely
objective. Contemporary poetry is, on the other hand, very largely
subjective; and even when it deals with events or incidents it invests
them to such a degree with personal emotion and imagination, it so
modifies and colours them with temperamental effects, that the
resulting poem is much more a study of subjective conditions than a
picture or drama of objective realities. This projection of the inward
upon the outward world, in such a degree that the dividing line between
the two is lost, is strikingly illustrated in
Maeterlinck's plays. Nothing
could be in sharper contrast, for instance, than the famous ballad of
"The Hunting of the Cheviot" and Maeterlinck's "Princess Maleine."
There is no atmosphere, in a strict use of the word, in the spirited and
compact account of the famous contention between the Percies and the
Douglases, of which Sir Philip Sidney said "that I found not my heart
moved more than with a Trumpet." It is a breathless, rushing narrative
of a swift succession of events, told with the most straight-forward

simplicity. In the "Princess Maleine," on the other hand, the narrative is
so charged with subjective feeling, the world in which the action takes
place is so deeply tinged with lights that never rested on any actual
landscape, that all sense of reality is lost. The play depends for its effect
mainly upon atmosphere. Certain very definite impressions are
produced with singular power, but there is no clear, clean stamping of
occurrences on the mind. The imagination is skilfully awakened and
made to do the work of observation.
The note of the popular ballad is its objectivity; it not only takes us out
of doors, but it also takes us out of the individual consciousness. The
manner is entirely subordinated to the matter; the poet, if there was a

poet in the case, obliterates himself. What we get is a definite
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