The Oxford Book of Ballads - online book

A Selection Of The Best English Lyric Ballads Chosen & Edited by Arthur Quiller-Couch

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them 'a '"turn" for such things' (the claim is implicit in my attempt), these two men were poets, and could dare more boldly than I to rewrite a faulty stanza or to supply a missing one. Of this ticklish license I have been extremely chary, and have used it with the double precaution (i) of employing, so far as might be, words and phrases found elsewhere in the text of the ballad, and (2) of printing these experiments in square brackets,1 that the reader may not be misled. Maybe I should have resisted the temptation altogether but for the necessity—in a work intended for all sorts of readers, young and old—of removing or reducing here and there in these eight hundred and sixty-rive pages a coarse or a brutal phrase. To those who deny the necessity I will only answer that while no literature in the world exercises a stronger or on the whole a saner fascination upon imaginative youth than do these ballads, it seems to me wiser to omit a stanza from Glasgerion, for example, or to modify a line in Young Hunting, than to withhold these beautiful things altogether from boy or maid.
Before leaving this subject of texts and their handling, I must express my thanks for the permission given me to make free use of the text of the Percy Folio MS., edited by Professors Hales and Furnivall some forty years ago. This was of course indispensable. In the history of our
1 This does not hold of small transpositions, elisions of superfluous words, or corrections of spelling. In these matters I have allowed myself a free hand.
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