A PEPYSIAN GARLAND - online book

Black-letter Broadside Ballads Of The years 1595-1639

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printed on a broadside and sold in the streets by pro­fessional singers. If "Johnny Armstrong," "Chevy Chase," or Sir Edward Dyer's "My Mind to Me a King­dom Is" got into the hands of the John Trundles of London, it, too, became a ballad. Elizabethans and Jacobeans recognized no difference whatever in type be­tween what are now called traditional (or popular) ballads and broadside (or stall) ballads: some of them no doubt thought "Chevy Chase" a better ballad than, say, "The Famous Rat-catcher" (No. 10). But, if so, they were judg­ing each by its manner and matter, not discriminating between traditional and stall songs. In this book the word ballad^ when otherwise unqualified, refers to the printed broadside type only.
To judge the ballad as poetry is altogether unfair. A few ballads, to be sure, do appear in TotteVs Miscellany, the Paradise of Dainty Devises, and the Gorgeous Gallery of Gallant Inventions without reeking of their humble origin; while the Handfull of Pleasant Delights (1584), which con­tains nothing but ballads, has been absurdly overpraised by critics (who, apparently, do not know that all of its songs had before collection been printed as broadside ballads) as "a work of considerable merit, containing some notable songs," or as "one of the most prized of the poetical book gems of the Elizabethan period," or as "lyric poems1." If such criticism of the Handfull were sound, an editor need have no fear in introducing the eighty ballads in this book as a very notable collection indeed of Elizabethan and Stuart lyrics. But sound it is not.
Ballads worthy to be called real poetry can almost be counted on the fingers of both hands. Among them might be placed the old ballad of "Love Will Find Out the Way," which Palgrave included in his Golden Treasury and which Thomas Hardy and Alfred Noyes quote with
1 See a discussion of A Handfull of Pleasant Delights by the present writer in the Journal of English and Germanic Philology > January, 1919.
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