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84 ENGLISH AND SCOTTISH BALLADS.
I knocked at my lord's chamber door, But never a word wad he speak to me.
The King looked over his left shoulder,
And a grim look looked he, Earl Martial an' 't were na for my oath
Or hanged thou shouldst be.
(Queen Elinor's Confession.)
The look cast over the shoulder is a very familiar action in the ballads, as is also that where an angry man strikes the table with his hand and "keps " it with his knee. Every one who receives the letter is described as first smiling and then having his eyes filled with tears, as in Sir Patrick Spence, and almost in an exact repetition of the language, and there are numerous actions and phases which are the common stock of the ballad poets. The idea of the exclusive rights to poetical property and of the sin of plagiarism does not seem to have occurred to them, and they took a striking image or an effective phrase wherever they found it as a part of the common stock of poetry. These familiar and striking phrases doubtless added to the effect, being recognized as old friends by the audience, and, like the repetitions of words and action by a number of persons in the same ballad, such as by the members of a ■ family in succession denying the prayer of an un-