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A Collection of Ballads   By: (1844-1912)

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Transcribed by David Price, email

A Collection of Ballads


Sir Patrick Spens Battle Of Otterbourne Tam Lin Thomas The Rhymer "Sir Hugh; Or The Jew's Daughter" Son Davie! Son Davie! The Wife Of Usher's Well The Twa Corbies The Bonnie Earl Moray Clerk Saunders Waly, Waly Love Gregor; Or, The Lass Of Lochroyan The Queen's Marie Kinmont Willie Jamie Telfer The Douglas Tragedy The Bonny Hind Young Bicham The Loving Ballad Of Lord Bateman The Bonnie House O' Airly Rob Roy The Battle Of Killie Crankie Annan Water The Elphin Nourrice Cospatrick Johnnie Armstrang Edom O' Gordon Lady Anne Bothwell's Lament Jock O The Side Lord Thomas And Fair Annet Fair Annie The Dowie Dens Of Yarrow Sir Roland Rose The Red And White Lily The Battle Of Harlaw Evergreen Version Traditionary Version Dickie Macphalion A Lyke Wake Dirge The Laird Of Waristoun May Colven Johnie Faa Hobbie Noble The Twa Sisters Mary Ambree Alison Gross The Heir Of Lynne Gordon Of Brackley Edward, Edward Young Benjie Auld Maitland The Broomfield Hill Willie's Ladye Robin Hood And The Monk Robin Hood And The Potter Robin Hood And The Butcher


When the learned first gave serious attention to popular ballads, from the time of Percy to that of Scott, they laboured under certain disabilities. The Comparative Method was scarcely understood, and was little practised. Editors were content to study the ballads of their own countryside, or, at most, of Great Britain. Teutonic and Northern parallels to our ballads were then adduced, as by Scott and Jamieson. It was later that the ballads of Europe, from the Faroes to Modern Greece, were compared with our own, with European Marchen, or children's tales, and with the popular songs, dances, and traditions of classical and savage peoples. The results of this more recent comparison may be briefly stated. Poetry begins, as Aristotle says, in improvisation. Every man is his own poet, and, in moments of stronge motion, expresses himself in song. A typical example is the Song of Lamech in Genesis

"I have slain a man to my wounding, And a young man to my hurt."

Instances perpetually occur in the Sagas: Grettir, Egil, Skarphedin, are always singing. In Kidnapped, Mr. Stevenson introduces "The Song of the Sword of Alan," a fine example of Celtic practice: words and air are beaten out together, in the heat of victory. In the same way, the women sang improvised dirges, like Helen; lullabies, like the lullaby of Danae in Simonides, and flower songs, as in modern Italy. Every function of life, war, agriculture, the chase, had its appropriate magical and mimetic dance and song, as in Finland, among Red Indians, and among Australian blacks. "The deeds of men" were chanted by heroes, as by Achilles; stories were told in alternate verse and prose; girls, like Homer's Nausicaa, accompanied dance and ball play, priests and medicine men accompanied rites and magical ceremonies by songs.

These practices are world wide, and world old. The thoroughly popular songs, thus evolved, became the rude material of a professional class of minstrels, when these arose, as in the heroic age of Greece. A minstrel might be attached to a Court, or a noble; or he might go wandering with song and harp among the people. In either case, this class of men developed more regular and ample measures. They evolved the hexameter; the laisse of the Chansons de Geste; the strange technicalities of Scandinavian poetry; the metres of Vedic hymns; the choral odes of Greece. The narrative popular chant became in their hands the Epic, or the mediaeval rhymed romance. The metre of improvised verse changed into the artistic lyric. These lyric forms were fixed, in many cases, by the art of writing. But poetry did not remain solely in professional and literary hands. The mediaeval minstrels and jongleurs (who may best be studied in Leon Gautier's Introduction to his Epopees Francaises) sang in Court and Camp... Continue reading book >>

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