A Collection of Ballads

A Collection of Ballads

A COLLECTION OF BALLADS ANDREW LANG Contents: 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 INTRODUCTION 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. The poorer less regular brethren of the art harped and played conjuring tricks in farm and grange or at street corners. The foreign newer metres took the place of the old alliterative English verse. But unprofessional men and women did not cease to make and sing. Some writers have decided among them Mr. Courthope that our traditional ballads are degraded popular survivals of literary poetry. The plots and situations of some ballads are indeed the same as those of some literary mediaeval romances. But these plots and situations in Epic and Romance are themselves the final literary form of marchen myths and inventions originally POPULAR and still in certain cases extant in popular form among races which have not yet evolved or borrowed the ampler and more polished and complex genres of literature. Thus when a literary romance and a ballad have the same theme the ballad may be a popular degradation of the romance; or it may be the original popular shape of it still surviving in tradition. A well-known case in prose is that of the French fairy tales. Perrault in 1697 borrowed these from tradition and gave them literary and courtly shape. But Cendrillon or Chaperon Rouge in the mouth of a French peasant is apt to be the old traditional version uncontaminated by the refinements of Perrault despite Perrault's immense success and circulation. Thus tradition preserves pre-literary forms even though on occasion it may borrow from literature. Peasant poets have been authors of ballads without being for all that professional minstrels. Many such poems survive in our ballad literature. The material of the ballad may be either romantic or historical. The former class is based on one of the primeval invented situations one of the elements of the Marchen in prose. Such tales or myths occur in the stories of savages in the legends of peasants are interwoven later with the plot in Epic or Romance and may also inspire ballads. Popular superstitions the witch metamorphosis the returning ghost the fairy all of them survivals of the earliest thought naturally play a great part. The Historical ballad on the other hand has a basis of resounding fact murder battle or fire-raising but the facts being derived from popular rumour are immediately corrupted and distorted sometimes out of all knowledge. Good examples are the ballads on Darnley's murder and the youth of James VI. In the romantic class we may take Tamlane. Here the idea of fairies stealing children is thoroughly popular; they also steal young men as lovers and again men may win fairy brides by clinging to them through all transformations. A classical example is the seizure of Thetis by Peleus and Child quotes a modern Cretan example. The dipping in milk and water I may add has precedent in ancient Egypt (in The Two Brothers) and in modern Senegambia. The fairy tax tithe or teind paid to Hell is illustrated by old trials for witchcraft in Scotland. {1} Now in literary forms and romance as in Ogier le Danois persons are carried away by the Fairy King or Queen. But here the literary romance borrows from popular superstition; the ballad has no need to borrow a familiar fact from literary romance. On the whole subject the curious may consult "The Secret Commonwealth of Elves Fauns and Fairies" by the Reverend Robert Kirk of Aberfoyle himself according to tradition a victim of the fairies. Thus in Tamlane the whole donnee is popular. But the current version that of Scott is contaminated as Scott knew by incongruous modernisms. Burns's version from tradition already localizes the events at Carterhaugh the junction of Ettrick and Yarrow. But Burns's version does not make the Earl of Murray father of the hero nor the Earl of March father of the heroine. Roxburgh is the hero's father in Burns's variant which is more plausible and the modern verses do not occur. This ballad apparently owes nothing to literary romance. In Mary Hamilton we have a notable instance of the Historical Ballad. No Marie of Mary Stuart's suffered death for child murder. She had no Marie Hamilton no Marie Carmichael among her four Maries though a lady of the latter name was at her court. But early in the reign a Frenchwoman of the queen's was hanged with her paramour an apothecary for slaying her infant. Knox mentions the fact which is also recorded in letters from the English ambassador uncited by Mr. Child. Knox adds that there were ballads against the Maries. Now in March 1719 a Mary Hamilton of Scots descent a maid of honour of Catherine of Russia was hanged for child murder (Child vi. 383). It has therefore been supposed first by Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe long ago later by Professor Child and then by Mr. Courthope that our ballad is of 1719 or later and deals with the Russian not the Scotch tragedy. To this we may reply (1) that we have no example of such a throwing back of a contemporary event in ballads. (2) There is a version (Child viii. 507) in which Mary Hamilton's paramour is a "pottinger" or apothecary as in the real old Scotch affair. (3) The number of variants of a ballad is likely to be proportionate to its antiquity and wide distribution. Now only Sir Patrick Spens has so many widely different variants as Mary Hamilton. These could hardly have been evolved between 1719 and 1790 when Burns quotes the poem as an old ballad. (4) We have no example of a poem so much in the old ballad manner for perhaps a hundred and fifty years before 1719. The style first degraded and then expired: compare Rob Roy and Killiecrankie in this collection also the ballads of Loudoun Hill The Battle of Philiphaugh and others much earlier than 1719. New styles of popular poetry on contemporary events as Sherriffmuir and Tranent Brae had arisen. (5) The extreme historic inaccuracy of Mary Hamilton is paralleled by that of all the ballads on real events. The mention of the Pottinger is a trace of real history which has no parallel in the Russian affair and there is no room says Professor Child for the supposition that it was voluntarily inserted by reciter or copyist to tally with the narrative in Knox's History. On the other side we have the name of Mary Hamilton occurring in a tragic event of 1719 but then the name does not uniformly appear in the variants of the ballad. The lady is there spoken of generally as Mary Hamilton but also as Mary Myle Lady Maisry as daughter of the Duke of York (Stuart) as Marie Mild and so forth. Though she bids sailors carry the tale of her doom she is not abroad but in Edinburgh town. Nothing can be less probable than that a Scots popular ballad-maker in 1719 telling the tale of a yesterday's tragedy in Russia should throw the time back by a hundred and fifty years should change the scene to Scotland (the heart of the sorrow would be Mary's exile) and above all should compose a ballad in a style long obsolete. This is not the method of the popular poet and such imitations of the old ballad as Hardyknute show that literary poets of 1719 had not knowledge or skill enough to mimic the antique manner with any success. We may therefore even in face of Professor Child regard Mary Hamilton as an old example of popular perversion of history in ballad not as "one of the very latest" and also "one of the very best" of Scottish popular ballads. Rob Roy shows the same power of perversion. It was not Rob Roy but his sons Robin Oig (who shot Maclaren at the plough-tail) and James Mohr (alternately the spy the Jacobite and the Hanoverian spy once more) who carried off the heiress of Edenbelly. Indeed a kind of added epilogue in a different measure proves that a poet was aware of the facts and wished to correct his predecessor. Such then are ballads in relation to legend and history. They are on the whole with exceptions absolutely popular in origin composed by men of the people for the people and then diffused among and altered by popular reciters. In England they soon won their way into printed stall copies and were grievously handled and moralized by the hack editors. No ballad has a stranger history than The Loving Ballad of Lord Bateman illustrated by the pencils of Cruikshank and Thackeray. Their form is a ludicrous cockney perversion but it retains the essence. Bateman a captive of "this Turk" is beloved by the Turk's daughter (a staple incident of old French romance) and by her released. The lady after seven years rejoins Lord Bateman: he has just married a local bride but "orders another marriage" and sends home his bride "in a coach and three." This incident is stereotyped in the ballads and occurs in an example in the Romaic. {2} Now Lord Bateman is Young Bekie in the Scotch ballads who becomes Young Beichan Young Bichem and so forth and has adventures identical with those of Lord Bateman though the proud porter in the Scots version is scarcely so prominent and illustrious. As Motherwell saw Bekie (Beichan Buchan Bateman) is really Becket Gilbert Becket father of Thomas of Canterbury. Every one has heard how HIS Saracen bride sought him in London. (Robert of Gloucester's Life and Martyrdom of Thomas Becket Percy Society. See Child's Introduction IV. i. 1861 and Motherwell's Minstrelsy p. xv. 1827.) The legend of the dissolved marriage is from the common stock of ballad lore Motherwell found an example in the state of Cantefable alternate prose and verse like Aucassin and Nicolette. Thus the cockney rhyme descends from the twelfth century. Such are a few of the curiosities of the ballad. The examples selected are chiefly chosen for their romantic charm and for the spirit of the Border raids which they record. A few notes are added in an appendix. The text is chosen from among the many variants in Child's learned but still unfinished collection and an effort has been made to choose the copies which contain most poetry with most signs of uncontaminated originality. In a few cases Sir Walter Scott's versions though confessedly "made up" are preferred. Perhaps the editor may be allowed to say that he does not merely plough with Professor Child's heifer but has made a study of ballads from his boyhood. This fact may exempt him even in the eyes of too patriotic American critics from "the common blame of a plagiary." Indeed as Professor Child has not yet published his general theory of the Ballad the editor does not know whether he agrees with the ideas here set forth. So far the Editor had written when news came of Professor Child's regretted death. He had lived to finish it is said the vast collection of all known traditional Scottish and English Ballads with all accessible variants a work of great labour and research and a distinguished honour to American scholarship. We are not told however that he had written a general study of the topic with his conclusions as to the evolution and diffusion of the Ballads: as to the influences which directed the selection of certain themes of Marchen for poetic treatment and the processes by which identical ballads were distributed throughout Europe. No one it is to be feared is left in Europe at least whose knowledge of the subject is so wide and scientific as that of Professor Child. It is to be hoped that some pupil of his may complete the task in his sense if indeed he has left it unfinished. Ballad: Sir Patrick Spens (Border Minstrelsy.) The king sits in Dunfermline town Drinking the blude-red wine o: "O whare will I get a skeely skipper To sail this new ship of mine o?" O up and spake an eldern-knight Sat at the king's right knee: "Sir Patrick Spens is the best sailor That ever saild the sea." Our king has written a braid letter And seald it with his hand And sent it to Sir Patrick Spens Was walking on the strand. "To Noroway to Noroway To Noroway oer the faem; The king's daughter of Noroway 'Tis thou maun bring her hame." The first word that Sir Patrick read Sae loud loud laughed he; The neist word that Sir Patrick read The tear blinded his ee. "O wha is this has done this deed And tauld the king o me To send us out at this time of the year To sail upon the sea?" "Be it wind be it weet be it hall be it sleet Our ship must sail the faem; The king's daughter of Noroway 'Tis we must fetch her hame." They hoysed their sails on Monenday morn Wi' a' the speed they may; They hae landed in Noroway Upon a Wodensday. They hadna been a week a week In Noroway but twae When that the lords o Noroway Began aloud to say: "Ye Scottishmen spend a' our king's goud And a' our queenis fee." "Ye lie ye lie ye liars loud! Fu' loud I hear ye lie! "For I brought as much white monie As gane my men and me And I brought a half-fou' o' gude red goud Out o'er the sea wi' me. "Make ready make ready my merry-men a'! Our gude ship sails the morn." "Now ever alake my master dear I fear a deadly storm! I saw the new moon late yestreen Wi' the auld moon in her arm; And if we gang to sea master I fear we'll come to harm." They hadna sail'd a league a league A league but barely three When the lift grew dark and the wind blew loud And gurly grew the sea. The ankers brak and the top-masts lap It was sic a deadly storm; And the waves cam o'er the broken ship Till a' her sides were torn. "O where will I get a gude sailor To take my helm in hand Till I get up to the tall top-mast; To see if I can spy land?" "O here am I a sailor gude To take the helm in hand Till you go up to the tall top-mast But I fear you'll ne'er spy land." He hadna gane a step a step A step but barely ane When a bout flew out of our goodly ship And the salt sea it came in. "Gae fetch a web o' the silken claith Another o' the twine And wap them into our ship's side And let na the sea come in." They fetchd a web o the silken claith Another o the twine And they wapped them roun that gude ship's side But still the sea came in. O laith laith were our gude Scots lords To weet their cork-heel'd shoon! But lang or a the play was play'd They wat their hats aboon And mony was the feather-bed That fluttered on the faem And mony was the gude lord's son That never mair cam hame. The ladyes wrang their fingers white The maidens tore their hair A' for the sake of their true loves For them they'll see na mair. O lang lang may the ladyes sit Wi' their fans into their hand Before they see Sir Patrick Spens ...