A PEPYSIAN GARLAND - online book

Black-letter Broadside Ballads Of The years 1595-1639

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and is likely to remain so until a trustworthy printed catalogue is published. Such a catalogue I hope to make some day. Meanwhile, this Garland reprints the most interesting seventeenth century ballads in Pepys's first volume, none of a later date than 1639, and to them adds from other sources six or seven early ballads in which Pepys himself would have revelled.
Undeniably the golden age of the ballad, like the golden age of the theatre, ended with the outbreak of the Great Re­bellion. During the Commonwealth period (1649—1659) ballad-singing was prohibited by law, and offending street singers were flogged out of the trade. To be sure, ballads continued to be printed, but in not so large numbers as in the years before 1642 and after 1660. For this decay re­pressive laws were but partly to blame: more important is the fact that the chief writers turned from ballads to chap-books and news-pamphlets. Martin Parker, the greatest of them all, is known to have written many pamphlets but only five or six ballads after 1642, and with his death in 1652 the best part of balladry came to an end. Laurence Price, almost the last of the distinguished line of ballad-writers that began in 1559 with William Elderton (or in 1512 with John Skelton), wrote for only a brief time after the Restoration. In authorship, in typography, and in subject-matter, Restoration ballads can seldom compare in interest with those of the reigns of the Tudors and early Stuarts.
It may be well to explain the use of the word ballad. Modern critics very often think of a ballad only as a traditional song that, like "Sir Patrick Spens," "Barbara Allen," or "Johnny Armstrong," has decided merits as poetry. This unhistoric restriction of the term to the Eng­lish and Scottish "popular" ballads is a development of the nineteenth century. To quarrel with it would be out of place; but at least readers may be reminded that to Shakespeare, Jonson, Beaumont, Fletcher, Dryden, and Pepys the word ballad had in general one meaning only: namely, a song (usually written by a hack-poet) that was
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