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78 ENGLISH AND SCOTTISH BALLADS.
is a flavor or an atmosphere of meaning which pervades it and adds to the effect.
There is a touch of the plaintiveness of natural sounds which no literary art could give in the opening of The Queen of Elphan's Nourrice: —
I heard a cow low, a bonnie cow low, An' a cow low down in yon fauld.
Long, long will my young son greet Or his mother take him from cauld.
Even when the burden is still more arbitrary, and without any direct reflection of the meaning whatever, it is never felt to be incongruous or artificial, and has a mystic and intensifying effect, as in the painful ballad of The Sheath and Knife: —
He has made a grave that was long and deep, The broom blooms bonnie, and says it is fair,
And he's buried his sister, with her babe at her feet, And they '11 never gang down to the broom any mair.
And even when the refrain might be called simply a meaningless chant, it makes a part of the ballad which could not be taken away without a loss of the quality which gives it a living voice, as in the chorus, which sings of itself to The Elfin Knight:
My plaid awa, my plaid awa,
And o'er the hills and far awa, And far awa to Norowa.
My plaid shall not be blawn awa.