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These appropriations, however, of their neighbours* goods, admitted in full, both Ireland and (still more) Scotland have good cause for rejoicing in their lyrical wealth. To the perfection of a song the words and the notes must contribute in an equal degree; and these must be not merely excellent in themselves, but accordant with each other. The conditions of a song's existence are only thoroughly fulfilled where
"------music and sweet poesy agree,
As needs they must—the sister and the brother."
In the songs of no people is this agreement more perfect than, or so frequent as, in the Scottish. The contributions of Burns alone to the minstrelsy of his country would entitle Scotland to a high—perhaps to the highest—place among song-making peoples. And even Burns, though of unequalled altitude, is but as the highest peak in the mountain-chain which leads up to it, guards and buttresses it, on all sides. He is facile princeps, no doubt, but his compeers are royal and many.
In comparison with Scottish, Irish minstrelsy appears, of necessity, under great disadvantages—to us. The native poet-musicians of Ireland are unintelligible to the great mass by whom the English language and its varieties are spoken. And, within the memories of men living, no Anglo-Irish poet had taken a place for a moment to be compared with that of Burns, in connexion with the melodies of his own country. The condition of Wales has been precisely similar, and from the same cause. Her vocal melodies have been long before the world, in considerable numbers, but of necessity also divorced from the words to which they were originally allied. Indeed, before the very recent publication of Mr. Thomas's work,* nothing like a collection of Welsh Melodies, interpreted and adorned by the addition of English words, of appropriate character, had been attempted. The courtesy of Mr. Thomas's publishers has enabled
* Welsh Melodies, with Welsh and English Poetry. By John Jones, Esq. (Talhaiarn) and Thomas Oliphant, Esq. ; arranged by John Thomas (Pencerdd Gwalia). London : Addison & Co.