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ENGLISH AND SCOTTISH BALLADS. 91
Oh, oh, if my young babe was born, And set upon the nurse's knee ;
And I mysell were dead and gone, For a maid again I '11 never be.
The burden of this lament, its simple passion appealing to the popular heart and its melody holding the ear, has been perpetuated through the generations since it was first sung. It has been printed in all forms and variations in the broadsides and penny song books, as well as in the critical collections of poetry, solaced the sentimental feeling of the dairy maid as well as haunted the vision of Charles Lamb, and its refrain may be heard to-day in the burlesque choruses of the negro minstrel stage. A very interesting example is given by Professor Child of the way in which an old ballad of perfect form and construction may be made incoherent and shapeless in a broadside copy, mere matter of " silly sooth " for old age or primitive ignorance, without losing the fine flower of pathos and feeling, or the grace of expression, in its disconnected and ejaculatory stanzas. It is also interesting as an example, of which many others could be given, of the effect of oral tradition passing from minds of native strength, if without education, down to and through those of a lower order of intelligence, from whom now only the debris of the ancient songs and ballads can be obtained.