A PEPYSIAN GARLAND - online book

Black-letter Broadside Ballads Of The years 1595-1639

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popular songs or as mirrors held up to the life of the people. In them are clearly reflected the lives and thoughts, the hopes and fears, the beliefs and amusements, of six­teenth and seventeenth century Englishmen. In them history becomes animated.
Shakespeare knew dozens of ballads by heart: he and his fellow-dramatists quote from ballads in nearly every play; and if occasionally they quote in ridicule, then their ridicule applies also to "John Dory," "George Aloe," "Little Musgrave," and "Mussleborough Field,"— traditional ballads now enshrined in Professor Child's English and Scottish Popular Ballads. The great Eliza­bethans did not dream of judging ballads as poetry— though indisputably they enjoyed reading and singing them—and lost no opportunity of denouncing their authors. Ben Jonson, for example, flatly declared that "a poet should detest a ballad-maker," echoing Thomas Nashe's grave remark that if a man would "love good poets he must not countenance ballad-makers." The Parkers and Prices of balladry were butts of never-ceasing ridicule: their very names were odious to poets, though many of their ballads rang pleasingly on the ear, sounded trippingly on the tongue. Nothing else brings one so close to the mass of people for whom Shakespeare wrote as do these songs of the street. Produced solely for the common people, in them are presented topics often of real value and interest. It is doubtful if a more remarkable group of ballads has ever been brought together in one volume than those here reprinted; but he would be a bold man who should characterize them as poetry.
The Pepysian Garland contains eighty ballads. Seventy-three of them come from the Pepys collection, six from the Wood and Rawlinson collections at the Bodleian Library, and one from the Manchester Free Reference Library. The earliest is dated 1595, the latest (except for No. 26, which is included only to illustrate another ballad) 1639. For obvious reasons a chronological arrangement has been adopted, with the result that great variety of subjects
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