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86 ENGLISH AND SCOTTISH BALLADS.
And they rode on and farther on,
And they waded the river above the knee,
And they saw neither sun nor moon, But they heard the roaring of the sea.
How the strength of a lover's thought is illuminated by the touch of nature itself in Willie and Alison: —
When he was in his saddle set,
And slowly ridin' on his way, He had more mind o' Alison
Than he had o' the light o' day.
These touches of the power of nature upon human action, and revealing human thought, are scattered throughout the ballads, and have the effect of perfect naturalness and simplicity, as though the heart and not the mind spoke in them.
A specimen of the ancient ballad in its most perfect strength, absolute and concise in its construction, without wandering into irrelevancies and incongruities, as many of them do, and in which the appalling tragedy strikes with a sudden blow upon the heart at its close, is Edward. It has all the characteristic features of the ballads, in the vivid colors of nature illuminating and intensifying his dramatic dialogue, while it has the mist of blood in the witchlike questions of its opening, and the passion of hatred and despair in its close.