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THE CHILDREN IN THE WOOD.
This charming ballad was published in London, 1595, “ being entered in that year on the Stationers' Books.” Our version is taken from an old copy in the British Museum, which bears this quaint ti
“ The Norfolk Gentleman's Last Will and Testament; who, on his death-bed, committed the keeping of his two children, a boy and girl, to his own brother, who did most wickedly cause them to be destroyed, that so he might possess himself and children of the estate ; but, by the just judg. ments of the Almighty, himself and all that he had was destroyed from off the face of the earth To the tune of Rogers. London: Printed by and for W. D., and sold by C. Boxes, at the Sun and Bi. ble in Gilt-Spur Street.” Dr. Percy, however, has given a different version in his Reliques. The learned prelate considered the subject of the Ballad to have been taken from an old play, "Of a young child murthered in a wood by two ruffians, with the consent of his unkle ; by Robert Yarrington, 1601,” the story being similar in its leading features, although the scene of the drama is laid, not in Norfolk, but in Padua. The previous entry on the Stationers' Books, of which Dr. Percy coull not have been aware, seems to convict this great author of an error. And in truth for a subject, so natural, so simple, so unadorned, it were scarcely necessary to look very far. What can be more probable than that the event embodied in this Ballad, actually occurred, in the locality given to it in the early printed copy. There is an air of truth pervading it, which constitutes half its beauty. Addison calls it “ one of the darling songs of the common people, and the delight of most Englishmen in some parts of their age.” Perhaps the best proof of its intrinsic excellence is to be found in its great popularity with children. We know not any fairy tale, that speaks so earnestly, and so immediate ly, to the infant heart. It may not excite their imaginations, but it takes root in their young sym pathies.