A PEPYSIAN GARLAND - online book

Black-letter Broadside Ballads Of The years 1595-1639

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evident gusto; or "A Farewell to Love," from Thomas Deloney's Garland of Good Will^ that is also included in the Passionate Pilgrim as the work of Shakespeare; or "Mary Ambree," a stirring song beloved by literary men from Ben Jonson to George Meredith; or, possibly, "The Babes in the Woods," so highly praised in Wordsworth's preface to the Lyrical Ballads.
From the point of view of sheer melody and rhythm, ballads often answer more than fairly to the test. It is a fact too often forgotten that, whatever their subject, ballads were written to be sung to certain definite and well-known tunes. Hence it often happens that the most doleful subject-matter is embodied in a measure that is decidedly musical and attractive. Cases in point are the refrains to the lugubrious ditty of Mrs Francis (No. 52) and the history of Jonah (No. 11). The matter and the diction of ballads are often contemptible while the measure is very good indeed. For this reason, or simply from the fact that a naive news-story is told, ballads may at times pardonably be described as "remarkable" or "splendid" or even "delicious."
Ballads were not written for poetry. They were, in the main, the equivalent of modern newspapers, and it cannot well be denied that customarily they performed their func­tion as creditably in verse as the average newspaper does in prose. Journalistic ballads outnumbered all other types. Others were sermons, or romances, or ditties of love and jealousy, of tricks and "jests," comparable to the ragtime, or music hall, songs of the present time. As such they may be beyond praise, however woefully lacking in high seriousness and criticism of life. The ballad has interest and value quite independent of its defects or its merits as poetry; and many of the most delightful and most valuable ballads are those which as poetry are worthless or even contemptible. Written for the common people by pro­fessional rhymesters—journalists of the earth earthy— ballads made no claims to poetry and art. They have always interested educated men, not as poems but as
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