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What a picture of social without sensual indulgence! But I confess myself better pleased with the more substantial enumeration of Herrick, “the most rural of our poets, who passed his life, like a bird, in singing and making love." Hear him!
“ Ye shall see first the large and cheefe
Foundation of your feast, fat beefe:
And here all-tempting frumentie." And, to conclude the subject of country tastes, let me now quote the amorous Cuddy from Gray's first pastoral.
“ In good roast-beef my landlord sticks his knise,
The capon fat delights his dainty wife;
But white-pot thick is my Buxoma's fare." Proofs of the importance of the “jus divin” might be cited neverendingly; but my observations have turned rather upon solid than liquid delights. I shall only then allude to the great Czar Vladimir, who, when about to change the idolatrous worship of his country, balanced awhile in his choice of a new religion. He was ravished (says Gibbon) with the voluptuous delights of Mahometanism, but rejected the Koran, exclaiming“ Wine is the joy of the Russians: no, no, we cannot live without wine!"
Fill me a bumper then, I say, to the memory of the Czar Vladimir ! a tribute to his good fellowship, but not a homage to excess. I am far froin being the apologist of drunkenness or gluttony-and I say again, that moderate and honest indulgence is as distinct from that selfish enormity, as is the wholesome delight with which a hungry sportsman attacks a leg of mutton from the hellish voraciousness of Count Ugolino, in Dante's Inferno, feeding on the skull of the Archbishop Ruggieri.
Gluttony-one of the worst of solitary vices is the bane of table pleasures. It concentrates all that is gross in nature with all that is unamiable in feeling, and unfits its victims for the real enjoyment of a feast. I would not preach forbearance to a starving man, for I know that
un ventre affamé
N'a point des oreilles :" but I believe that
“ If all the world
Th’ All-giver would be unthanked." Yes! I do believe that the Dispenser of all good placed us here with feelings to enjoy, and surrounded us with the good things of life for our enjoyment; that He gave us palates to be gratified, not tantalized ; and that the best way to shew our gratitude is to take the goods which He provides us. Give me, then, the pleasures of the table, in their moral and physical meanings together. I care not whether it be in the cottage of a peasant, or a stately palace, set out like that of Comus, " with all manner of deliciousness." But, best of any, let me have, in my own humble mansion, the blessings of the table--my friends around me-plenty of cheer-thankfulness to the Giver-a happy mind -a clean cloth-and, crowning all, let “good digestion wait on appetite, and health on both!"
ON THE DEATH OF HELEN.
BY B. BARTON.
THERE seems no need of bitter tears for such an one as thou,
dear girl! with whom were pass'd thy childhood's fleeting hours,
ENGLISH BALLAD-SINGERS. The minstrels were once a great and flourishing body in England. But their dignity, being interwoven with the illusory splendours of feudal institutions, declined in proportion to the advance of moral cultivation: they became in time vulgar mountebanks and jugglers, and in the reign of Elizabeth—the reign of robust intellect-they were absolutely suppressed as rogues and vagabonds. Banished from the streets and high ways, they fled to alehouses, and followed the trades of fiddlers and pipers : minstrelsy was no longer known in England. The instruments so long in use by this order of musicians would now astonish by their number and the rudeness of their plan and fabric. There has not been for an age any trace of this peculiar order, if we except the instance of a man well-known in Derbyshire, who appeared at the close of the last century in the streets of the metropolis with the canister and string*, singing the fine old ballad of Lord Thomas and fair Eleanour. From the earliest times songs were chanted in our streets; but before the reign of Elizabeth, they were invariably accompanied by the sound of some musical instrument. The suppression of the minstrel order was followed by the rise of the ballad-singers, a race that relied for success exclusively on the merits of their voices. This revolution, though a curious part of knowledge, is scarcely distinguished, or not alleged with sufficient stress, in most of our histories of literature. The subjects of many of the songs handed down by the minstrels, were still held in honour by the ballad-singers. The feats of Clym of the Clough, Randle of Chester, and Sir Topaz, grown faded under the keeping of the minstrels, were now refreshed and brought more boldly before the sense in the new version. Robin Hood had his honours enlarged under the new dynasty-more maidens, more heroes than ever, wept at and were inspired by the history of his fortunes. Drayton's allusion to the propagation of Robin's fame may give an idea of the diffusion of the ballad-singers.
“ “ In this our spacious isle I think there is not one
But he hath heard some talk of him and little John ;
Of Scarlock, George-a-Green, and Muck the Miller's son.” The new race-the ballad-singers-started with a full tide of popularity: they had the glory of being opposed by, and triumphing over the unanimous hostility of the votaries of the Muses from the highest to the least worthy. The poets of the first rank confessed their uneasiness at the success of the innovators. Of this fact we have abundant evidence in Spenser's Tears of the Muses--and even the supreme Shakspeare himself would, bring their calling into contempt. It is
* This was one of the instruments in use among the ancient minstrels—Dr. Percy gives a curious list of them.
+ Dr. Percy makes no distinction between the minstrels and the ballad-singers. He gives an extract from Puttenham, an author of Henry VIIIth's time, with a view to elucidate the state of ballad-singing, and this very passage is cited by Mr. Ritson as a picture of the English minstrel of the days of tliat author. (Puttenham.)
One of the poets of the day (Munday) is represented by another as complaining of the progress made by the ballad-singers. “When I was looked upon," says he, “ there was no thought of that idle upstart generation of ballad-singers : ballads are abusively chanted in every street, and from London overspread Essex and the . adjoining counties.”—(Vide Warton's account of Munday, 3d vol.)
worth while to attend to the grounds of difference between the minstrels and their more simple successors. The former were the creatures of feudal vanity, and followed the fate of some very wicked notions of government both domestic and politic—the ballad-singers addressed themselves to the people. They courted no obligation from the richthey wore no livery of the great-they moved in independence—the members of a pure democratic institution. The times had passed away when the wonted phrase of subserviency at the beginning of
“ Fair lordynges and ladies all, &c.” was to be heard.* But the ballad-singers did not enjoy alone empty popularity, as may be understood from the perseverance of the old singers, and the number of candidates that yearly sought refuge in the profession from the risks of a more uncertain state of life. One of the most popular singers of this early time was a boy, who, from the character of his voice and manner, is distinguished by the name of Outroaring Dick; an epithet as honestly bestowed as any descriptive compound on any hero in Greek or Latin story. He was bred to a mechanical employment; but he had a voice, the possession of which would teach a less enterprising spirit to aspire above all the gross toils of handicraft. His success was as permanent in the end as it was steady in its growth. He first renounced the mechanical life; in time his prosperity enabled him to confine his journeys of business to the adjacent counties-the home circuit-and the decline of his life was spent in the dignified repose of an amateur. His earnings, according to Mr. Warton, amounted to about 10s. a day: he was well-known throughout Essex, and was not missed for many years from the great fair of Braintree. But Cheeke, for such was his real name, was haunted in the midst of his glory by a rival. Will Wimbars had a voice quite of as much compass and flexibility, but not of as much pathos as Dick. Dick was the more popular man of the two; he consulted times and tastes, and had a greater variety of songs ; Wimbars had a select list from which he never departed. Cheeke was free and easy, and had a turn for the humorous; his rival was all for doleful tragedies. The former was sought as a companion ; the latter pleased best in the public exercise of his talents.t But the most universally esteemed ballad-singer of his age was Mat Nash, a man from the “ North Countrie,” the officina of ballad-singers, as it had been formerly of the minstrels. Nash had a masculine vehement style: all the Border ballads he had nearly made his own by the force and enthusiasm of his manner of singing them. His “ Hunts up," a song which obtained for the author so much favour in a former reign, was one of his most celebrated efforts. But undoubtedly his forte was the famous old ballad of Chevy Chace, then called the Hunting of Cheviot. This was the song which; Sir Philip Sidney declared, moved his heart more than a trumpet. If instead of
There is no better criterion of the rising importance of the people in these days than this —that the great Secretary Cecil made a collection of vulgar ballads in order to ascertain the temper of the people. Selden said that more solid things do not shew the complexion of the times so well as ballads and libels; and Fletcher of Saltoun used to say, that if he could make the ballads of a nation, he cared little who made the religion of it.
+ Mr. Warton, in a pote in the 3d vol. of his History of English Poetry, confirms some of the particulars here stated.
the “blind Crowder, with no rougher voice than rude style,” to whom he alludes, he had heard Nash accompany the words with the liveliest dramatic acțion-had he seen him fall suddenly on his knees and move about cutting and thrusting on all sides, as if to realize the description of Witherington fighting on his stumps—it is easy to suppose what would have been the result in favour of Nash. However, it so happened that the date of Nash's fortune was fixed at a later period ; for the great Secretary Cecil was once so captivated with his singing, that he soon enabled him to retire from the profession. The accident that led to this fortunate rencontre is not impertinent to our subject :-in the time of a dearth which was severely felt in the city, the famous balladmaker Delone composed a song reflecting on her Majesty. The balladsinger and the publisher were both committed to the Compter ; but the poet defied the government from his retreat. In a letter to the Lord Mayor he avowed the ballad, justified his satire, and concluded with these lines from the Mirror of Magistrates, descriptive of the duties of a true poet. They were composed by one Collingbourne, put to death in the reign of Richard III. for “ making a foolish rhyme.'
“ Things that import he must be quick to pen,
Reproving vices sharply now and then,
To gallop thence, to keep his carcase safe.” Nash, in the mean time, in an interview with the secretary, fully estab lished his innocence, and laid the foundation of his future prosperity.
It is impossible to quit the reign of Elizabeth without for a moment delaying on the names of Elderton and Delone, the two illustrious þallad-makers of the time. The former was full of enthusiasm-a hearty bard:
“ He was a care-defying blade
As ever Bacchus listed.” He was highly charged with all the frailties that accompany in many cases the social bias; as the sitiens Eldertou of his epitaph, and the uncharitable lampoon of Bishop Hall, record. Delone had more of judgment. But they were both men of great genius : they were envied, and variously and powerfully assailed: they both shewed a courage worthy of their inspiration. The time was now come, when this remarkable duumvirate, having lived to a good old age in the enjoyment of a degree of popular favour to which they saw so many highly-gifted spirits pretend in vain, were to begin to prepare their account with posterity. They saw that their verses would form the traditions of every village still it was necessary to the dignity of their fame that they should call in their scattered labours, and leave behind them an authenticated version of their songs. The collections of these two bards were published under the titles of Garlands, with various fanciful additions. During their days of singleness and liberty, the ballads were called penny merriments.
The Gipsies furnished a number of female ballad-singers about this time. The laws, and the prejudices of society in that age, concurred in denouncing this race. But how just is Nature ! the most esteemed and the best received ballad-singers of their time belonged to the outlaw tribe. Alice Boyce, for instance, with the bronzed face, dark eyes and hair of her nation, came to London from Cumberland. She