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The Balladists Famous Scots Series   By: (1848-1937)

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First Page:

THE BALLADISTS

[Illustration:

THE BALLADISTS

BY JOHN GEDDIE

FAMOUS ·SCOTS· ·SERIES·

PUBLISHED BY OLIPHANT ANDERSON & FERRIER · EDINBURGH AND LONDON

]

The designs and ornaments of this volume are by Mr. Joseph Brown, and the printing from the press of Messrs. T. and A. Constable, Edinburgh.

PREFACE

Not much more has been attempted in these pages than to extract the marrow of the Scottish Ballad Minstrelsy. They will have served their purpose if they help to awaken, or to renew, a relish for the contents of the Ballad Book. To know and love these grand old songs is its own exceeding great reward; and it is also, alas! almost the only means now left to us of knowing something concerning their nameless writers.

Questions involving literary or critical controversy as to the age and genuineness of the ballads have been, as far as possible, avoided in this popular presentation of their beauties and their qualities; and in case any challenge may be made of the origin or authenticity of the passages quoted, I may say that, in nearly every case, I have prudently, and of purpose, refrained from giving the authority for my text, and have taken that which best pleases my own ear or has clung most closely to my memory.

J. G.

July 1896.

CONTENTS

PAGE CHAPTER I

BALLAD CHARACTERISTICS 9

CHAPTER II

BALLAD GROWTH AND BALLAD HISTORY 24

CHAPTER III

BALLAD STRUCTURE AND BALLAD STYLE 43

CHAPTER IV

THE MYTHOLOGICAL BALLAD 58

CHAPTER V

THE ROMANTIC BALLAD 83

CHAPTER VI

THE HISTORICAL BALLAD 108

CHAPTER VII

CONCLUSION 128

CHAPTER I

BALLAD CHARACTERISTICS

'Layés that in harping Ben y found of ferli thing; Sum beth of wer, and sum of wo, Sum of joye and mirthe also; And sum of treacherie and gile; Of old aventours that fell while; And sum of bourdes and ribaudy; And many ther beth of faëry, Of all things that men seth; Maist o' love forsoth they beth.'

The Lay of the Ash.

Who would set forth to explore the realm of our Ballad Literature needs not to hamper himself with biographical baggage. Whatever misgivings and misadventures may beset him in his wayfaring, there is no risk of breaking neck or limb over dates or names. For of dates and names and other solid landmarks there are none to guide us in this misty morning land of poetry. The balladist is 'a voice and nothing more' a voice singing in a chorus of others, in which only faintly and uncertainly we sometimes fancy we can make out the note, but rarely anything of the person or history, of the individual singer. In the hierarchy of song, he is a priest after the order of Melchisedec without father or mother, beginning of days or end of life.

The Scottish ballads we may thus love and know by heart, and concerning their preservation, collection, collation, we may gather a large store of facts. But the original ballad writers themselves must remain for us the Great Unknown. Here and there one can lay down vague lines that seem to confine a particular ballad, or group of ballads, within particular bounds of place and of time. Here and there one seems to get a glimpse of the balladist himself, as onlooker or as actor in the scenes of fateful love and deathless grief which he has fixed for ever in the memory of men of his race and blood. There are passages in which, in the light and heat of battle, or in agony of terror or sorrow, we are made to see something of the minstrel as well as his theme... Continue reading book >>




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