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THE CHILDREN IN THE WOOD.
The Children in the Wood is perhaps the most popular of all English ballads. Its merit is attested by the favor it has enjoyed with so many generations, and was vindicated to a cold and artificial age by the kindly pen of Addison. The editor of the Retiques* thought that the subject was taken from an old play, published in 1601, "of a young child murthered in a wood by two ruffins, with the consent of his unkle," but Ritson discovered that the ballad was entered in the Stationers' Registers in 1595. The plot of the play was undoubtedly derived from the Italian, and the author of the ballad may have taken a hint from the same source.
Percy's edition, (Reliques, ill. 218,) which we have adopted, was printed from two old copies, one of them in black-letter, in the Pepys collection. The full title is, The Children in the Wood, or, The Norfolk Gentleman's Last Witt and Testament. To the Tune of Rogero, &o. Copies slightly varying from Percy's may be seen in A Collection of Old Ballads, (1723,) i. 221; Ritson's Ancient Songs, ii. 150 ; The Book of British Ballads, p. 13 ; and Moore's Pictorial Book of Ancient Ballad Poetry, p. 263.