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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PREFACE
Rise up, rise up, brother Dives,
And go with us to see A dismal place, prepared in hell,
To sit on a serpent's knee. [Dives and Lazarus)
or, merely flat and pedestrian:
There was slayne upon the English part
For sooth as I you say, Of nine thousand English men
Five hundred came away.                   {Otterburri)
But it is always unmistakable and like no other thing in poetry ; in proof of which let me offer one simple, practical test. If any man ever steeped himself in balladry, that man was Scott, and once or twice, as in Proud Mais'ie and Br'ignall Banks, he came near to distil the essence. If any man, taking the Ballad for his model, has ever sublimated its feeling and language in a poem
seraphically free From taint of personality,
that man was Coleridge and that poem his Ancient Mariner. If any poet now alive can be called a ballad-writer of genius, it is the author of Danny Deever and East and West. But let the reader suppose a fascicule of such poems bound up with the present collection, and he will perceive that I could have gone no straighter way to destroy the singu­larity of the book.
In claiming this singularity for the Ballad I do not seek to exalt it above any other lyrical form. Rather I am ready to admit, out of some experience in anthologizing,
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