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The reader is here presented with select | liar manners and customs of former ages, or remains of our ancient English Bards and throw light on our earlier classical poets. Minstrels, an order of men, who were once They are here distributed into volumes, greatly respected by our ancestors, and con- each of which contains an independent series tributed to soften the roughness of a martial of poems, arranged chiefly according to the and unlettered people by their songs and by order of time, and showing the gradual imtheir music.
provements of the English language and poetThe greater part of them are extracted ry from the earliest ages down to the prefrom an ancient folio manuscript, in the Edi- sent. Each volume, or series, is divided into tor's possession, wbich contains near two hun- three books, to afford so many pauses, or dred Poems, Songs, and Metrical Romances. resting places to the reader, and to assist him This MS. was written about the middle of in distinguishing between the productions the last century; but contains compositions of the earlier, the middle, and the latter of all times and dates, from the ages prior to times. Chaucer, to the conclusion of the reign of In a polished age, like the present, I am Charles I.*
sensible that many of these reliques of anThis manuscript was shown to several tiquity will require great allowances to be learned and ingenious friends, who thought made for them. Yet have they, for the most the contents too curious to be consigned to part, a pleasing simplicity, and many artless oblivion, and importuned the possessor to se graces, which in the opinion of no mean lect some of them and give them to the press. critics* have been thought to compensate for As most of them are of great simplicity, and the want of higher beauties, and if they do seem to have been merely written for the peo- not dazzle the imagination, are frequently ple, he was long in doubt, whether, in the found to interest the heart. present state of improved literature, they To atone for the rudeness of the more obcould be deemed worthy the attention of the solete poems, each volume concludes with a public. At length the importunity of his few modern attempts in the same kind of wrifriends prevajled, and he could refuse nothing ting: and, to take off from the tediousness of to such judges as the Author of the Rambler the longer narratives, they are everywhere and the late Mr. Shenstone.
intermingled with little elegant pieces of the Accordingly such specimens of ancient lyric kind. Select ballads in the old Scottish poetry have been selected, as either show the dialect, most of them of the first rate merit, gradation of our language, exhibit the pro- are also interspersed among those of our angress of popular opinions, display the pecu
* Mr. Addison, Mr. Dryden, and the witty Lord Dorset, * Chaucer quotes the old Romance of “ Libius Disconius,” | &c. See the Spectator, No. 70. To these might be added and some others, which are found in this Ms. It also con many eminent judges now alive.--The learned Selden tains several Songs relating to the Civil War in the last appears also to have been fond of collecting these old things century, but not one that alludes to the Restoration.
cient English Minstrels ; and the artless pro- ( political poems in large folio volumes, digestductions of these old rhapsodists are occa- ed under the several reigns of Henry VIII., sionally confronted with specimens of the com- Edward VI., Mary, Elizabeth, James I., &c. position of contemporary poets of a higher In the British Museum is preserved a large class; of those who had all the advantages treasure of ancient English poems in MS., of learning in the times in which they lived, besides one folio volume of printed ballads. and who wrote for fame and for posterity. From all these some of the best pieces were Yet perhaps the palm will be frequently due selected; and from many private collections, to the old strolling Minstrels, who composed as well printed as manuscript, particularly their rhymes to be sung to their harps, and from one large folio volume which was lent who looked no further than for present ap- by a lady. plause, and present subsistence.
The reader will find this class of men oc AMID such a fund of materials, the Editor casionally described in the following vo- is afraid he has been sometimes led to make lumes, and some particulars relating to their too great a parade of his authorities. The history in an Essay subjoined to this preface. desire of being accurate has perhaps seduced
him into too minute and trifling an exactness; It will be proper here to give a short ac- and in pursuit of information he may have count of the other collections that were con- been drawn into many a petty and frivolous sulted, and to make my acknowledgments to research. It was however necessary to give those gentlemen who were so kind as to im- some account of the old copies; though often, part extracts from them; for, while this se- for the sake of brevity, one or two of these lection was making, a great number of inge- only are mentioned, where yet assistance was nious friends took a share in the work and received from several. Where anything was explored many large repositories in its favour. altered that deserved particular notice, the
The first of these that deserved notice was passage is generally distinguished by two the Pepysian library at Magdalen College, inverted commas'. And the Editor has enCambridge. Its founder, Sam. Perys,* Esq., deavoured to be as faithful as the imperfect Secretary of the Admiralty in the reigns of state of his materials would admit. For Charles II. and James II., had made a large these old popular rhymes being many of them collection of ancient English ballads, near copied only from illiterate transcripts, or the two thousand in number, which he has left imperfect recitation of itinerant ballad-singpasted in five volumes in folio; besides Gar-ers, have, as might be expected, been handed lands and other smaller miscellanies. This down to us with less care than any other collection, he tells us, was " begun by Mr. writings in the world. And the old copies, Selden ; improved by the addition of many whether MS. or printed, were often so depieces elder thereto in time; and the whole fective or corrupted, that a scrupulous adhecontinued down to the year 1700 ; when the rence to their wretched readings would only form peculiar till then thereto, viz. of the have exhibited unintelligible nonsense, or black letter with pictures, seems (for cheap- such poor meagre stuff as neither came from ness sake) wholly laid aside for that of the the Bard nor was worthy the press; when, white letter without pictures.”
by a few slight corrections or additions, a In the Ashmole Library at Oxford is a most beautiful or interesting sense hath small collection of Ballads made by Anthony started forth, and this so naturally and easily, Wood in the year 1676, containing somewhat that the Editor could seldom prevail on himmore than two hundred. Many ancient po- self to indulge the vanity of making a formal pular poems are also preserved in the Bodle- claim to the improvement; but must plead yan Library.
guilty to the charge of concealing his own The archives of the Antiquarian Society share in the amendments under some such at London contain a multitude of curious general title as a “Modern Copy,” or the like.
Yet it has been his design to give sufficient * A Life of our curious collector, Mr. Pepys, may be seen intimation where any considerable liberties* in the “* The Continuation of Mr. Collier's Supplement to his Great Dictionary, 1715, at the end of vol. iii. folio. Art. Such liberties have been taken with all those pieces
which have three asterisks subjoined, thus ***
were taken with the old copies, and to have ed friends at Cambridge deserve the Editor's retained either in the text or margin any warmest acknowledgments: to Mr. Blakeword or phrase which was antique, obsolete, way, late fellow of Magdalen College, he owes unusual, or peculiar, so that these might be all the assistance received from the Pepysian safely quoted as of genuine and undoubted library: and Mr. Farmer, fellow of Emanuel, antiquity. His object was to please both the often exerted, in favour of this little work, judicious antiquary and the reader of taste; that extensive knowledge of ancient English and he hath endeavoured to gratify both with literature for which he is so distinguished.* out offending either.
Many extracts from ancient MSS. in the
British Museum, and other repositories, were Tue plan of the work was settled in con- owing to the kind services of Thomas Astle, cert with the late elegant Mr. Shenstone, who Esq., to whom the public is indebted for the was to have borne a joint share in it had not curious Preface and Index annexed to the death unhappily prevented him.* Most of Harleyan Catalogue.$ The worthy Librarian the modern pieces were of his selection and of the Society of Antiquarians, Mr. Norris, arrangement, and the Editor hopes to be par- deserves acknowledgment for the obliging doned if he has retained some things out of manner in which he gave the Editor access partiality to the judgment of his friend. to the volumes under his care. In Mr. GarThe old folio MS. above mentioned was a pre- rick's curious collection of old plays are sent from Humphrey Pitt, Esq., of Prior's-lee, many scarce pieces of ancient poetry, with in Shropshire, † to whom this public acknow- the free use of which he indulged the Editor ledgment is due for that, and many other in the politest manner. To the Rev. Dr. obliging favours. To Sir David Dalrymple, Birch he is indebted for the use of several Bart., of IIales, near Edinburgh, the editor ancient and valuable tracts. To the friendis indebted for most of the beautiful Scottish ship of Dr. Samuel Johnson he owes many poems with which this little miscellany is enriched, and for many curious and elegant * To the same learned and ingenious friend, since Master remarks with which they are illustrated. of Emanuel College, the Editor is obligod for many correo
tions and improvements in his second and subscquent Some obliging communications of the same
editions; as also to the Rev. Mr. Bowle, of Idmistone, near kind were received from John Mac Gowan, Salisbury, Editor of the curious edition of Don Quixote, Esq., of Edinburgh; and
with Annotations, in Spanish, in six vols. 4to.; to the Rev. nations of Scottish words in the glossaries
Mr. Cole, formerly of Blecheley, near Fenny-Stratford,
Bucks; to the Rev. Mr. Lambe, of Noreham, in Northfrom John Davidson, Esq., of Edinburgh, and umberland, author of a learned “ History of Chess," 1764, from the Rev. Mr. Hutchinson of Kimbolton. / 8vo., and Editor of a curious « Poem on the Battle of Flodden Mr. Warton, who has twice done so much Field,” with learned Notes, 1774, 8vo.; and to G. Paton,
Esq., of Edinburgh. He is particularly indebted to two honour to the Poetry Professor's chair at friends, to whom the public, as well as himself
, are under Oxford, and Mr. Hest of Worcester College, the greatest obligations; to the Ilonourable Daines Barringcontributed some curious pieces from the
ton, for his very learned and curious “ Observations on the Osford libraries. Two ingenious and learn- Statutes,” 4to.; and to Thomas Tyrwhitt, Esq., whose most
correct and elegant edition of Chaucer's “Canterbury
Tales," 5 vols. 8vo., is a standard book, and shows how an That the Editor hath not here underrated the assist ancient English classic should be published. The Editor apce he received from his friend, will appear from Mr. was also favoured with many valuable remarks and correcShenstone's own letter to the Rev. Mr. Graven, dated March tions from the Rev. Geo. Ashby, late fellow of St. John's 1. 1761. See his works, vol. iii. letter ciii. It is doubtless College, in Cambridge, which are not particularly pointed 8 great loss to this work, that Mr. Shenstone never saw out because they occur so often. He was no less obliged more than about a third of one of these volumes, as pre to Thomas Butler, Esq., F.A.S., agent to the Duke of Northpared for the press.
umberland, and Clerk of the Peace for the county of Mid† Who informed the Editor that this MS. had been pur. dlesex; whose extensive knowledge of ancient writings, cbased in a library of old books, which was thought to records, and history, has been of great use to the Editor have belonged to Thomas Blount, author of the "Jocular in his attempts to illustrate the literature or manners of Tenures, 1679,” 4to., and of many other publications enu our ancestors. Some valuable remarks were procured by merated in Wood's Athenae, ii. 73; the earliest of which is Samuel Pegge, Esq., author of that curious work the “ The Art of Making Devises, 1616,” 4to., wherein Le is “Curialia,” 4to. ; but this impression was too far advanced described to be "of the Inner Temple." If the collection to profit by them all; which hath also been the case with was made by this lawyer (who also published the “Law a series of learned and ingenious annotations inserted in Dictionary, 1671,” folio), it should seem, from the errors the Gentleman's Magazine for August, 1793, April, June, and defects with which the MS. abounds, that he had July, and October, 1794, and which, it is hoped, will be employed his clerk in writing the transcripts, who was continued. often weary of his task.
† Since Keeper of the Records in the Tower.
valuable hints for the conduct of the work. I amusement of now and then a Facant hour And, if the Glossaries are more exact and amid the leisure and retirement of rural life, curious than might be expected in so slight and hath only served as a relaxation from a publication, it is to be ascribed to the su- graver studies. It has been taken up at difpervisal of a friend, who stands at this time ferent times, and often thrown aside for the first in the world for Northern literature, many months, during an interval of four or and whose learning is better known and re- five years. This has occasioned some inconspected in foreign nations than in his own sistencies and repetitions, which the candid country. It is perhaps needless to name the reader will pardon. As great care has been Rev. Mr. Lye, Editor of Junius's Etymologi- taken to admit nothing immoral and indecent, cum, and of the Gothic Gospels.
the Editor hopes he need not be ashamed of
having bestowed some of his idle hours on The names of so many men of learning the ancient literature of our own country, or and character the Editor hopes will serve as in rescuing from oblivion some pieces (though an amulet, to guard him from every unfa- but the amusements of our ancestors) which vourable censure for having bestowed any tend to place in a striking light their taste, attention on a parcel of Old Ballads. It genius, sentiments, or manners. was at the request of many of these gentlemen, and of others eminent for their genius Except in one paragraph, and in the Notes and taste, that this little work was undertaken. subjoined, this Preface is given with little To prepare it for the press has been the variation from the first edition in MDCCLXV.
BOOK THE THIRD.
Illustration of the Names in the foregoing 7 Dowsabell, by Drayton
4 Sir Caulino
64 9 Ulysses and the Syren, by 8. Daniel 159
7 Sir Patrick Spence. A Scottish Ballad 76 12 Gilderoy. A Scottish Ballad
9 An Elegy on Henry, Fourth Earl of North 14 The Witch of Wokey
10 The Tower of Doctrine, by Stephen Hawes 86 by Dr. Grainger
12 Edom (Adam) o'Gordon. A Scottish Ballad 90 from the Spanish .
6 King Cophetua and the Beggar-maid 117 5 For the Victory at Agincourt
12 The Passionate Shepherd to his Love, by 11 On Thomas Lord Cromwell
The Nymph's Reply, by Sir W. Raleigh 129 13 Robin and Makyne. An ancient Scottish
17 The Frolicksome Duke, or the Tinker's 16 As yo came from the Holy Land