Child's, The English And Scottish Ballads

Volume 5 of 8 from 1860 edition - online book

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INTRODUCTION.
XXXV
legends; and the " legends," we speak of, if they are to bear that name, have no claim to antiquity at all. They do not go beyond the ballads. They are palpably of subsequent and comparatively re­cent origin. It was absolutely impossible that they should arise while Robin Hood was a living reality to the people. The archer of Sherwood who could barely stand King Edward's buffet, and was felled by the Potter, was no man to be playing with rocking stones. This trick of naming must have begun in the decline of his fame, for there was a time when his popularity drooped, and his existence was just not doubted; not elaborately maintained by learned historians, and antiquarians deeply read in the Public Records. And what do these names prove ? The vulgar passion for bestowing them is notorious and universal. We Americans are too young to be well provided with heroes that might serve this purpose. We have no imaginative peasantry to invent legends, no ignorant peasantry to believe them. But we have the good fortune to possess the Devil in common with the rest of the world ; and we take it upon us to say, that there is not a mountain district in the land, which has been opened to summer travellers, where a " Devil's Bridge," a " Devil's Punch­bowl," or some object with the like designation, will not be pointed out.1
1 See some sensible remarks in the Gentleman's Magazine for March, 1793, by D. H., that is, says the courteous Eitson, by







E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III