Ancient Poems, Ballads and Songs of England

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Ancient Poems, Ballads and Songs of England
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  A free download from manybooks.netThe Project Gutenberg EBook of Ancient Poems, Ballads and Songs of Englandby Robert BellCopyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyrightlaws for your country before downloading or redistributing this or any otherProject Gutenberg eBook.This header should be the first thing seen when viewing this Project Gutenbergfile. Please do not remove it. Do not change or edit the header without writtenpermission.Please read the legal small print, and other information about the eBook andProject Gutenberg at the bottom of this file. Included is important informationabout your specific rights and restrictions in how the file may be used. You canalso find out about how to make a donation to Project Gutenberg, and how to getinvolved.**Welcome To The World of Free Plain Vanilla Electronic Texts****eBooks Readable By Both Humans and By Computers, Since 1971*******These eBooks Were Prepared By Thousands of Volunteers!*****Title: Ancient Poems, Ballads and Songs of EnglandAuthor: Robert BellRelease Date: September, 1996 [EBook #649][This file was first posted on September 17, 1996][Most recently updated: September 2, 2002]Edition: 10Language: EnglishCharacter set encoding: ASCII 1  START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK, ANCIENT POEMSOF ENGLAND *** ã Transcribed from the 1857 John W. Parker and Son edition by David Price,email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk  ANCIENT POEMS, BALLADS AND SONGS OF THE PEASANTRY OFENGLAND. TAKEN DOWN FROM ORAL RECITATION ANDTRANSCRIBED FROM PRIVATE MANUSCRIPTS, RAREBROADSIDES AND SCARCE PUBLICATIONS.INTRODUCTION. In 1846, the Percy Society issued to its members a volume entitled AncientPoems, Ballads, and Songs of the Peasantry of England, edited by Mr. JamesHenry Dixon. The sources drawn upon by Mr. Dixon are intimated in thefollowing extract from his preface:-He who, in travelling through the rural districts of England, has made theroad-side inn his resting-place, who has visited the lowly dwellings of thevillagers and yeomanry, and been present at their feasts and festivals, must haveobserved that there are certain old poems, ballads, and songs, which arefavourites with the masses, and have been said and sung from generation togeneration.This traditional, and, for the most part, unprinted literature,-- cherished in remotevillages, resisting everywhere the invasion of modern namby-pamby verse and jaunty melody, and possessing, in an historical point of view, especial value as afaithful record of the feeling, usages, and modes of life of the rural population,--had been almost wholly passed over amongst the antiquarian revivals whichconstitute one of the distinguishing features of the present age. While attentionwas successfully drawn to other forms of our early poetry, this peasantminstrelsy was scarcely touched, and might be considered unexplored ground.There was great difficulty in collecting materials which lay scattered so widely,and which could be procured in their genuine simplicity only from the peopleamongst whom they srcinated, and with whom they are as 'familiar ashousehold words.' It was even still more difficult to find an editor who combinedgenial literary taste with the local knowledge of character, customs, and dialect, 2  indispensable to the collation of such reliques; and thus, although their nationalinterest was universally recognised, they were silently permitted to fall intocomparative oblivion. To supply this manifest desideratum, Mr. Dixon compiledhis volume for the Percy Society; and its pages, embracing only a selection fromthe rich stores he had gathered, abundantly exemplified that gentleman'sremarkable qualifications for the labour he had undertaken. After stating in hispreface that contributions from various quarters had accumulated so largely onhis hands as to compel him to omit many pieces he was desirous of preserving,he thus describes generally the contents of the work:-In what we have retained will be found every variety,'From grave to gay, from lively to severe,'from the moral poem and the religious dialogue, -'The scrolls that teach us to live and to die,' -to the legendary, the historical, or the domestic ballad; from the strains thatenliven the harvest-home and festival, to the loveditties which the country lasswarbles, or the comic song withwhich the rustic sets the village hostel in a roar. In our collection are severalpieces exceedingly scarce, and hitherto to be met with only in broadsides andchap-books of the utmost rarity; in addition to which we have given severalothers never before in print, and obtained by the editor and his friends, eitherfrom the oral recitation of the peasantry, or from manuscripts in the possessionof private individuals.The novelty of the matter, and the copious resources disclosed by the editor,acquired for the volume a popularity extending far beyond the limited circle towhich it was addressed; and although the edition was necessarily restricted to themembers of the Percy Society, the book was quoted not only by English writers,but by some of the most distinguished archaeologists on the continent.It had always been my intention to form a collection of local songs, illustrativeof popular festivals, customs, manners, and dialects. As the merit of havinganticipated, and, in a great measure, accomplished this project belongsexclusively to Mr. Dixon, so to that gentleman I have now the pleasure of  3  tendering my acknowledgments for the means of enriching the AnnotatedEdition of the English Poets with a volume which, in some respects, is the mostcurious and interesting of the series.Subsequently to the publication of his collection by the Percy Society, Mr.Dixon had amassed additional materials of great value; and, conscious that thework admitted of considerable improvement, both in the way of omission andaugmentation, he resolved upon the preparation of a new edition. His reasons forrejecting certain portions of the former volume are stated in the following extractfrom a communication with which he has obliged me, and which may beconsidered as his own introduction to the ensuing pages.The editor had passed his earliest years in a romantic mountaindistrict in theNorth of England, where old customs and manners,and old songs and ballads still linger. Under the influence of these associations,he imbibed a passionate love for peasant rhymes; having little notion at that timethat the simpleminstrelsy which afforded him so much delight could yield hardly less pleasureto those who cultivated more artificial modes of poetry, and who knew little of the life of the peasantry. His collection was not issued without diffidence; but theresult dissipated all apprehension as to the estimate in which these essentiallypopular productions are held. The reception of the book, indeed, far exceeded itsmerits; for he is bound in candour to say that it was neither so complete nor so judiciously selected as it might have been. Like almost all books issued bysocieties, it was got up in haste, and hurried through the press. Itcontained some things which were out of place in such a work, but which wereinserted upon solicitations that could not have been very easily refused; and evenwhere the matter was unexceptionable, it sometimes happened that it was printedfrom comparatively modern broadsides, for want of time to consult earliereditions. In the interval which has since elapsed, all these defects andshortcomings have been remedied. Several pieces, which had nolegitimate claims to the places they occupied, have been removed; others havebeen collated with more ancient copies than the editor had had access topreviously; and the whole work has beenconsiderably enlarged. In its present form it is strictly what its title-pageimplies--a collection of poems, ballads, and songs preserved by tradition, and inactual circulation, amongst the peasantry. 4
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