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epic, being neither one nor the other wholly. They are romantic in spirit, but more like the great epic in general treatment.


1. Read, if there is time, one of the above mentioned metrical romances that you have not read before, or apply what you have learned here about the metrical romance to those with which you are already familiar. 2. What is the force of the word "metrical"? Have you ever read a romance to which this term did not apply? 3. What differences did you note between an earlier metrical romance like "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," or "The Faerie Queene," and one of the more modern metrical romances? How do you account for these differences? 4. Which of these romances interested you more? 5. Prove that the modern romances belong to the general type. 6. Can you point out any distinctions as regards the hero of a romance and the hero of a great epic? In which case are you especially impressed by the man himself as an individual? 7. How do the women characters of a romance differ in importance in the story from those of a great epic? 8. In what other particulars do you find a marked difference between a metrical romance and a great epic? 9. Do you think you can recognize a metrical romance when you sec one? How?



The Origin of the Ballad.-The true ballads are distinguished from all other narrative poems because they are the songs of the unlettered folk instead of the work of educated writers. Inasmuch as the people could neither read nor write, the ballads were told, or sung; and, as there was no fixed form, each teller changed or modified the details to suit himself. Thus there are many variations of the same story. For instance, there are twenty-seven different versions in English of the ballad of the "Twa Sisters," and it is still sung by peasants in the British Isles, who have received it from past generations by word of mouth.

Let us see if we can imagine the circumstances under which a ballad was first produced. Story-telling itself is as old as mankind because it arises from a social instinct lying deep in the human heart. The uneducated folk would have plenty of material out of which ballads could be made, since the whole community would know and have a common interest in events of their own lives, stories of war, love, human wrongs, or adventures. It was customary in those old days for the people to gather together and dance upon the village green after the day's work was done. Moved by the rhythm of the dance, some leader among them, with keener imagination than the rest of the throng, might, on the spur of the moment, composing as he went along, put into verse some story known to them all. The people might join in a sort of refrain or chorus, or some other singer be inspired to make additions to the verses. Thus the song would be started. It would then become popular and be handed down by word of mouth from one generation to another. Women, especially, would sing these ballads to their children and their children's children.

Although the ballad form dates back to about the eleventh cen tury, it is only since the seventeenth century that ballad collecting has been done to any extent. Educated people have gone among the peasants and taken down, word for word, the ballads as they

1 They are probably older than that, but none have been preserved of those of earlier date.


were being sung by them. There is now a large and interesting collection.1

Characteristics of the Ballad.

The ballad belonged to the people and not to the educated class; it was not written down, at first, but recited or sung; it was listened to and not read; it was therefore flexible in form and the wording was easily changed. It was very short, as a usual thing, and told with great rapidity, there being much more omitted, or suggested, than told. There were no explanations given. It told a simple, serious story which usually had a tragic ending; love, tragedy, and the supernatural predominated. It was full of superstition because it voiced the actual beliefs of the singers. The passions depicted were strong ones such as jealousy, love, hate, anger, and revenge. There was also shown an admiration for courage, loyalty, kindness, constancy, and selfsacrifice. There was a constant mixture of fact and fiction. The ballad was told impersonally; dialogue was prominent. There was much repetition and similarity of wording, one stanza frequently being simply a repetition of the one preceding it, excepting that a new line, or thought, was added. The ballad singers loved to lead up to a climax through a series of three statements. They loved to sing of lords and ladies, kings and courts, and had much to say about gold, jewels, and beautiful clothing. It must be remembered, however, that these things were viewed not from the standpoint of reality, but through the imagination of peasants.

Classification of Ballads.-There is such variety shown in the subject matter of the ballads that a true classification is impossible. The following forms, however, are some that have been recognized : The ballad of tragedy in family life, the supernatural ballad, the outlaw ballad, the love ballad, the lyrical ballad, the ballad of mourning, and the historical ballad.

The Ballad Meter.-The ballad is usually, although not always, arranged in four-line stanzas with the second and last lines rhyming. The first and third lines usually contain four feet, and the second and fourth lines, three feet. The meter, however, is not exact.


1. In reading the following ballads, try to think of them as being sung by some aged peasant woman as she sits before the peat fire in the evening, crooning to the grandchild on her lap the songs she learned in childhood from the lips of her own mother or grandmother. 2. These ballads should

1 See The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, by Professor F. J. Child.

be read rapidly to get their best effect.1 3. We must not think of them as silly, though the wording is very different from what we would find in other narrative poems. We must remember that the peculiarities are there because of the circumstances under which they were composed and handed down. The peasants sang them with simple dignity. Let us try to get their point of view, and find out, as nearly as possible, what they thought and felt.

4. After reading a ballad, see how many of the characteristics pointed out above you can find illustrated. You will probably not find them all in any one. What passion seemed to be most prominent? If there is a tragedy, what seemed to be its cause? Were there any superstitions embodied? What were they? Would the ballad be included in any of the. classes mentioned above? Did you enjoy it? Why?


1. There was twa sisters in a bowr, Edinburgh, Edinburgh,

There was twa sisters in a bowr,

Stirling for ay,

There was twa sisters in a bowr,
There came a knight to be their



Bonny Saint Johnston stands upon Tay.

2. He courted the eldest wi' glove and ring,

But he lovd the youngest above a' thing.


3. He courted the eldest wi brotch 2
and knife,
But lovd the youngest as his life.
4. The eldest she was vexed sair,
An much envi'd her sister fair.

5. Upon a morning fair and clear,
She cried upon her sister dear:
6. "O sister, come to yon sea
An see our father's ships come
to lan."


7. She's taen her by the milk-white han,

An led her down to yon sea stran.


8. The youngest stood upon a
The eldest came and threw her

9. She took her by the middle sma, And dashed her bonnie back to the jaw.

10. "O sister, sister, tak my han, An Ise mack you heir to a' my lan.


11. "O sister, sister, tak my middle, An yes get my goud and my gouden girdle.

12. "O sister, sister, save my life, An I swear Ise never be nae man's wife."

13. "Foul fa the han that I should

1 Perhaps the teacher will read aloud to the class so that pronunciation of the words may be caught and the effect of the whole be properly felt.

2 brooch.

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Note. Another variation of this ballad sums up the story in the following words:

Then bespake the treble string,
"O yonder is my father the king,"
Then bespake the second string,
"O yonder sits my mother the queen."
And then bespake the strings all three,
"O yonder is my sister that drowned me."


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