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source, and are constrained, however reluctantly, to drag on till they die in harness. There may be cases in which old ministers fondly think they preach as well and as attractively as when in their vigor and prime—or even better. Such might be hard to be convinced even by their empty chapels, that the tiine was come for their retirement, as long as a snug parsonage and a sufficient endowment met all their wants. But surely, even in such cases, efforts should be made by neighbouring churches, or the body of Dissenters at large, to induce such good but mistaken men to receive assistance, or give up their pulpits to others, even though it should be necessary for them to retain the emoluments for the few remaining years of their
life. There is no subje.. connected with the interests of the Dissenting denominations that more urgently demands attention at the present moment, and no greater boon could be conferred upon the cause of Christ, in connexion with the Dissenters, than the establishment of some system of support for aged ministers, which should secure to them a competency equal to that they might relinquish, for the sake of reviving those churches to which at present they cleave for a support. Were measures to be adopted, either by the Home Missionary Societies, or any one formed for the purpose, which should provide efficient assistance for the pulpit during two or three years, many such congregations might be revived sufficiently both to support a young minister, and leave the old one in the undisturbed enjoyment of his present income. Could such assistance be secured, we cannot but think many an aged and faithful servant of Christ might be persuaded to give place to a younger one, and have his last days cheered by witnessing a revival of the cause of God in the place where he had spent his best years, instead of remaining at his post till his chapel was deserted, his work a burden, and his old age friendless and desolate. We trust we shall be pardoned this digression. We were led into it by our admiration of Mr. Griffin's conduct, and our recollection of two or three similar instances, in which the divine blessing has evidently attended the measure, thereby rendering the last days of some of our venerable ministers peculiarly cheerful and happy. The subject, however, demands more attention than it has yet received, and we trust that among the multifarious projects for extending the cause of Christ, by which the present age is distinguished, this will speedily be taken up as it ought to be. A few public spirited individuals might soon place it before the churches in such a light as to command attention. We are aware that it is a delicate subject, and that the parties contemplated ought to be treated with the greatest respect and tenderness. And for these reasons we could wish that the most venerable and experienced
men should take the lead. We observe that the subject has been broached by several letters in the Patriot newspaper, and we trust it will not much longer be allowed to sleep.
But to return to the memoir. It only remains for us to say that Mr. Griffin's last days were all that the tenderest and most attached friends could desire, for an eminent saint and devoted pastor. The appearance of the memoir, though deferred till almost seven years since his decease, has lost nothing of its interest. The memory of the good man is, we trust, yet fresh enough to secure for the work an extensive sale. Its perusal will, we are confident, prove both interesting and edifying to all who admire excellence, love piety, and delight to see eminent talents employed and honored in the best of causes. The thanks of the churches generally, and of the ministry in particular, are due to the sons of Mr. Griffin, who have executed the filial and delicate duty of embodying and perpetuating their father's character and example, in a manner as gratifying to his friends as it is honorable to him and creditable to themselves.
Art. III. 1. Reliques of Ancient English Poetry. By Thomas PERCY,
D.D., Bishop of Dromore. Templeman: 1840. 2. The Political Songs of England. Edited by THOMAS WRIGHT.
(Camden Society.) 3. Reliquiæ Antiquo, Scraps from Ancient MSS., illustrating chiefly
early English Literature. Edited by Thomas Wright and J. O.
HALLIWELL. Nos. I. to VI. Pickering. THERE are few persons, we think, who have made our early
literature, or our antiquities, their study, but have been led to it in the first instance by the attractions of those fragments of old verse, those snatches of wild and pleasant, though rude, song, which still may be found in our remoter districts, or which meet us in our popular collections of ancient poetry. Nor is this surprising: ballad literature is emphatically the literature of the people. It must appeal, and appeal strongly, to our common feelings, or uneducated, unsophisticated men would not have treasured it up to repeat to their children's children; and it must be true to the general character of the people, or amid the changes of our social system, and the progress of successive generations, it would have been wholly cast aside, like the out-of-date garment, or the disused weapon. But, then, while the passages which appeal
to our common feelings still remain, much that is absolutely obsolete, by the very process of oral transmission, is lost; and the ancient ballad' is after all but a modernized version of some older original.
Now this, which to the antiquary is the insuperable defect of ballad literature, becomes to the young reader its chief advantage. Unacquainted, or at most but superficially acquainted with the character of the middle ages, that character appears to him less strange, less startling in the modified form of the ballad, than it would do in the more genuine manuscript remains; thus he obtains a less abrupt introduction to the peculiarities of that period, and ballad literature has thus done the same good service to our early poets as that 'pretty toy,' Strawberry Hill, did to Gothic architecture. That amusing, and yet almost picturesque jumble of lancet windows, Tudor doorways, and battlements copied from the stern keep of some Norman castle frowning upon oriel and cloister, attracted the public eye, and conciliated the public taste, until at length an admiration for the pure Gothic in all its beautiful gradations arose.
What Horace Walpole did for Gothic architecture, Dr. Percy did for early English literature; and we feel that no common praise is due to that scholar, who brought up in the very straightest sect' of the classical school, could yet appreciate the simple beauty of genuine old English poetry; and who, in the very teeth of the prosaic dulness of the middle of the last century, could boldly challenge. public attention to these reliques of an age past by. The honor which is due to the discoverer, too, belongs emphatically to Dr. Percy, for he was the precursor
of all those who have labored so abundantly in the same field, and the collections of Ellis, Ritson, Weber, and many others, as well as the two interesting works before us, may be traced to the impulse given to the literary world by the publication of these ballads.
The chief defects of this popular collection are its very miscellaneous character, and its introduction in too many instances of absolutely modernized versions, instead of the rude originals. Both these defects, we are well aware, have contributed to its popularity among that large class of readers who, with but limited historical knowledge, were wholly unacquainted with our early literature; but though rendered by these defects à pleasant book to them, it has become to the literary antiquary of the present day, a work of very slight value. Nor are the dissertations on minstrelsy, or on the early metrical romances, worth the waste of type and paper. Had the worthy and learned writer possessed the opportunities we enjoy in the present day of becoming acquainted with those stores of English mediæval literature which have been for so many centuries buried amid
the dust and cobwebs of our public libraries, we doubt not but he would have produced essays upon each of these subjects which might have rivalled that masterly dissertation of the late Mr. Price, prefixed to the later editions of Warton. But, as we have before remarked, Dr. Percy was the precursor in this path; and while we cannot but smile at his bringing forward as his authorities such writers as Mallet and Warburton, and 'the ingenious professor of belles lettres in the University of • Edinburgh, Dr. Blair,' (!) it is but just to remember that these were the best, though bad enough, authorities he could obtain. Still, if the publisher of this new edition, instead of giving a mere reprint, had selected only those ballads and songs which profess to be antecedent to the seventeenth century, and had either substituted other introductory essays, or, as in the edition of Warton, provided supplementary notes, a very interesting volume would have been the result. As it is, we can only say, that all which the essays teach, the reader, if desirous of correct information, must have to unlearn; while instead of being obliged to consult · Harleian MSS.', No. 2252,' for one ancient metrical romance, and the 'Bodleian, C. 39,' for another, and • Caius College, Cambridge,' for a third, he has only to go to any respectable bookseller, and inquire for the collections of Ritson, Ellis, Weber, and Haslewood, and he will find them all in print.
Ballads, by which we would be understood to mean short stories intended to be sung, do not form a very numerous class in our literature if compared with those of the northern nations; nor, in despite of the eulogies pronounced on many of them by no less a judge than Sir Walter Scott himself, can we assign them a high poetical rank. Indeed, at a feast of the poets, we should place the ballad composer, on account of his merits, very nearly in the same chair, or (to speak more in character with the time) on the same bench, on which, in consequence of his low station in society, our forefathers would have placed him, not merely below the salt,' but among the grooms and falconers at the lower end of the table. It is not, however, astonishing, that an age which considered civilization as not having commenced until the restoration of Charles the Second, and that writers who characterized even the days of James the First—that era that witnessed alike the last and finest efforts of Shakespere, and the first buddings of the genius of Milton, as 'an age of little poetic refinement,' should have smiled approvingly upon the homely ballad. The spirited English metrical romances were unknown to them ;
Gower was only recognized as a rhymester who had written a ponderous volume of unreadable verse; Chaucer, only known through the medium of coarse translations of some of his Canterbury
Tales, in which, while every sin against taste and delicacy was carefully preserved, all those bursts of sweet poetry, all that power of painting a vivid scene in a few words, which places him in the foremost ranks of our poets, were passed over, while the graceful productions of the Anglo-Norman trouvères, those poet-fathers of England, were reposing in oblivion undisturbed even by the most curious antiquary, in the presses of the Harleian, the Cotton, and the Bodleian libraries.
It is to the lays and “romans' of these last that the reader must turn for the source of nearly all our popular ballads which involve supernatural machinery.' Without going further than the volume before us, the story of 'Syr Cauline' meeting the Eldritch knight, and vanquishing him, is a close transcription of the chief incident in the · Lai de l'Epine,' published by M. Rocquefort in his “Poesies de Marie de France,' and assigned by him, together with the lay of Gruélan,' to her. The story of the marriage of Sir Gawayne, too, has not only been told by Gower in his tale of Florent,' and by Chaucer in his wife of Bath's tale, who expressly assigns its origin to these old gentil • Bretons,' but it will be found in the fabliaux lately published in France. The Boy and the Mantel,' which we should consider one of the most ancient of these reliques, in like manner is derived from an Anglo-Norman source, and by the trouvére himself, unquestionably either from Armorica or Wales, those two great birthplaces (if indeed they had not a common one) of romantic literature. The ballad of the Boy and the Mantle' is worthy of notice, inasmuch as it affords a specimen of the different way in which the rude versifier told his story, to that in which the more polished trouvére said or sung his.
'On the third day of May,' a young page bearing a mantle enclosed in two nutshells, came to King Arthur, then keeping high court at Carlisle, and prayed that he might present it to that lady who had never done amiss either in deed or word. Queen Guenever attempts to wear it, but it shrivels up, and she flies to her chamber overwhelmed with shame. Another and another tries this magic dress, but with the same result; at length Sir Cradock calls his lady
· And bade her come in,
With little dinne ;
And it shall be thine,
Since thou wast mine.' Thus sings the rude versifier ; but the same tale had already been told in the fabliau of 'Court-mantel,' to the high and