A PEPYSIAN GARLAND - online book

Black-letter Broadside Ballads Of The years 1595-1639

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greets the eye of a reader as he turns through the pages, —a variety characteristic of the wares offered daily in the streets of seventeenth century London. A ballad-monger, said Thomas Middleton, never lacked "a subject to write of: one hangs himself today, another drowns him­self tomorrow, a sergeant stabbed next day; here a petti­fogger a' the pillory; a bawd in the cart's nose, and a pander in the tail; hie mulier, haec vir, fashions, fictions, felonies, fooleries;—a hundred havens has the ballad-monger to traffic at, and new ones still daily discovered1." Middleton's comment reads like a description of the Pepysian Garland\
Among the eighty ballads are historical accounts, more or less trustworthy,—a few derived from news-books, others from actual observation,—of the assassination of Henry IV of France, the execution of Sir Walter Raleigh, the activities of three Northamptonshire witches against the Earl of Rutland, the fall of Oldenbarneveldt and of Sir Francis Michell, prodigies above Cork and the burning of that city in 1622, the Amboyna Massacre, the murder of Dr John Lamb, and a battle between the Dutch and Spanish fleets in 1639. Journalistic, too, are the "hanging ballads" and doleful "good-nights" of criminals who atoned for their crimes at the stake or on the gallows— illustrating a curiosity for news, often mistakenly called morbid, that is quite as eager torday as then. As journalism some of these ballads are admirable.
Sermonizing ballads full of dire warnings and moraliz­ing also have a place, and we are asked to shudder at a "passing bell" that tolled from heaven in 1582, at Caleb Shillock's prophecies for the year 1607, and at a prophecy of the Judgment Day found in France in 1618. In a curiously modern tone "The Goodfellow's Complaint" and "The Back's Complaint" present the woes attendant on drunkenness and plead for total abstinence; while for the edification of the unread other ballads paraphrase the Biblical account of Solomon's judgment and of Jonah.
1 The World Tost at Tennis, 1620 {Works, ed. A. H. Bullen, vn, r 54).
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