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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Mr. Pecksniff demanded of Mrs. Todgers her Notion of a Wooden Leg, Professor Ker has my answer prepared :
In spite of Socrates and his logic we may venture to say, in answer to the question ' What is a ballad ?' 1 A Ballad is The Milldams of Binnorie and Sir Patrick Spens and The Douglas Tragedy and Lord Randal and Childe Maurice, and things of that sort.'
There the reader has it, without need of the definition or of the historical account which this Preface must not attempt. Its author, no doubt, is destined to consign, some day, and ' come to dust' with more learned editors: but meanwhile, if one ask ' What is a Ballad ?'I answer, It is these things ; and it is
About the dead hour o' the night
She heard the bridles ring.                      (Tam Lin)
But this ladye is gone to her chamber,
Her maydens following bright.          (Sir Catuline)
It is
' O we were sisters, sisters seven ;
We were the fairest under heaven.'           (Cospatrick)
' I see no harm by you, Margaret, Nor you see none by me.'
(Fair Margaret and Sweet William)
In somer, when the shawes be sheyne, And leves be large and long.
(Robin Hood and the Monk) xiii
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