The Oxford Book of Ballads - online book

A Selection Of The Best English Lyric Ballads Chosen & Edited by Arthur Quiller-Couch

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ballad-literature the Reliques themselves are, if something more of a landmark, much less of a trophy than the three famous volumes so romantically achieved by Professor Child and their two editors, whose labour has been scarcely more honourable than their liberality which has ever laid its results open to men's benefit. Mr. Child died in 1896 ; Mr. Furnivall a few months ago. To Mr. Hales, sur­vivor of the famous three, I owe the permission given with a courtesy which set a fresh value on what was al­ready beyond value. I must also thank the Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould for leave to include The Brown Girl and other ballads from his Songs of the West and A Garland of Country Song (Methuen). It were idle to quote all the scholars—Ritson, Herd, Scott, Jamieson and the rest— to whose labours every ballad-editor must be indebted : but among younger men I wish to thank Mr. F. Sidgwick, whose method in his two volumes of Ballads (Bullen) I can admire the more unreservedly because it differs from mine.
I hope, at any rate, that in presenting each ballad as one, and reconstructing it sometimes from many versions, I have kept pretty constantly to the idea, of which Pro­fessor Kerl says—' The truth is that the Ballad is an Idea, a Poetical Form, which can take up any matter, and does not leave that matter as it was before.' If the reader interrogate me concerning this Idea of the Ballad, as
1 On the History of the Ballads, iioo-ijoo, by W. P. Ker, Proceedings of the British Academy, vol. iv.
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