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tish hamlet, and in every hand. Accompanying these, there are a multitude of songs, ballads, and fragments, which descend by tradition, and are early imprinted on every mind;—
“Which spinners and the knitters in the
Mr. Cromek next proceeds to investigate some of the causes which 1may have led to the formation of that peculiar character among the peasantry of Scotland, which has been so generally remarked. His arguments are commonly very appropriate; but, as he does not profess to go deeply into the question, there yet remains sufficient ground for a future inquirer. These causes he considers as declining, and with them the consequent peculiarity of Imannel’s.
“So great and rapid, indeed,” says Mr. C. “has been the change, that in a few years the songs and ballads here selected would have been irrecoverably forgotten. “The old cottars (the trysters of other year) are mostly dead in good old age ; and their children are pursuing the bustle of commerce frequently in foreign climates. The names of their bards have been sought after in vain; they live only in song, where they have celebrated their social attachments. “It is affecting to think that poets, capable, perhaps, of the wild creations of Ajilton ; the bewitching landscapes and tenderness of Thomson; the faithful nature of Ramsay ; or the sublimity, eloquent patios, and humour of Burns; it is affecting to think that they lie bełow the turf, and all that can now be redeemed from the oblivious wreck of their genius is a few solitary fragments of song But these remnants show the richness of the minds which produced them ; they impress us with a noble idea of peasant abilities, and a sacred reverence for their memory. “Such might have been the fate excn of IRobert Burns, had not a happy combination of adverse and fortunate circumstances brought his works before the publick tribunal. Some stranger might, a short while hence, have been gather
“These ballads and songs are gleaned from among the peasantry of JWithsdale, and the skirts of Galloway, adjoining to it. They were never printed before, and are ripe in the sentiments and feelings of their forefathers, and often deliciously mixed with their humour. To those who wish to know how the peasantry think and feel, these Remains will be acceptable. They may be considered as so many unhewn altars raised to rural love, and local humour and opinion, by the genius of unlettered rusticity. “In works of compilation like the present, the labour of an editor, however severe, is least apparent, and as far as regards the publick, of very inferiour consideration. It may be proper, however, to say a few words respecting the remarks which are interspersed through the present volume. “It has been my purpose to avoid the mistake into which collectors are prone to fall, of heaping on their materials a mass of extraneous lumber in the shape of facts and dates, of minute discussions and conjectural emendations, equally perplexing to themselves and to the reader. It is by no means a subject of boast that I have avoided this reproach, for, circumstanced as I was, to have incurred it would have been unpardonable. “In the progress of this collection, it was necessary to have personal intercourse with the peasantry, in whose traditions these Remains were preserved. From a race of men so interesting, and so rich in original character, volumes of curious and valuable remark might be gathered ; hence, from access to a mine so abundant, it was more a business of selection than of toil, to derive details which might establish what was doubtful, and illustrate what was obscure. At the same time, these Remains, by exhibiting masterly sketches of the popular genius which produced them, naturally excite a curiosity in readers of every taste, to behold the portrait more fully delineated. Presuming on the excitement of this curiosity, I have ventured to describe, at some length, the domestick manners, the rural occupations, the passions, the attachments, the prejudices, and the superstitions, which characterize the peasantry of Nithsdale and Galloway. “These details were in part necessary to make the poetry understood, and if they should have exceeded the bounds which a rigid critick might prescribe, they will not, it is hoped, be considered wholly irrelevant to the purpose I have had in view. “In point of style, they lay no claim to the praise of elegance or refinement; for, as they were dictated by strictly local observation, they were written with a sole regard to fidelity and truth. Should the outline be found correct, the colouring vivid, and the whole likeness striking, it is a matter of very little moment that the picture appear unrecommended by the graces of laborious embellishment.”
Mr. Cromek has divided the ballads into four classes, which he denominates Sentimental Ballads, Humorous Ballads, Jacobite Ballads, and Old Ballads and Fragments. The first class has the most attractions. It is in them that we find all those glowing touches of inspiration, which excite astonishment and delight. The humorous ballads have their merit, and so have the jacobitical ones: but the sentimental have a merit which, in some respects, have never been surpassed by the wit of man. They have that strain of thought and sentiment which is derived immediately from nature herself: not the frigid echoes of former writers, but the warm and glowing language of the heart. There is a strong and marked originality in all of them, which necessarily enhances their value.
Not, however, to dwell any longer upon general qualities, we shall proceed to make some extracts, and our first shall be of a short poem, but one most exquisitely finished :
“Historical notices on these songs are the most difficult things to be procured imaginable. They are below the dignity of the historian, and tradition has so fabled them that we dare scarcely trust her report. We may justly say they are like wild flower seeds scattered by the winds of heaven. Who can tell the mother which gathered them, or the wind which sowed them They rise up only to flourish unseen, or to be trodden down and to wither.
“This ballad is said to be written about the time of the reformation, on a daughter of the Laird Maxwell, of Cowhill, on the banks of the Nith, called by the peasantry, “The lilie of Nithsdale.” ‘’She faded in her place,’ at the age of nineteen.
There's naught but dust now minelassie,
My saul's wi' thee i' the cauld grave,
“This ballad was copied from the recio tation of a young country girl. She observ. ed that it was a great favourite of her mos ther's, but seldom sung, as its open fami" liarity with God made it too daring for presbyterian strictness. These elegiack verses, though in some instances they pass the bounds of the simple and natural pathetick, express strongly the mingled feelings of grief and devotion which follow the loss of some beloved object. There are degrees of affliction corresponding with the degrees of our attachment and regard; and surely the most tender of attachments must be deplored by affliction the most poignant. This may account for, and excuse those expressions in this song, which border on extravagance; but it must be confessed that the first stanza, with every allowanee, is reprehensible from its open and daring confidence in the peity. The rest are written in a strain of solemn and feeling eloquence, which must find an echo in every bosom. The effusion is somewhat too serious for a song: it has all the holiness of a psalm, and would suffer profanation by being set to a common tune.”
The next ballad with which we shall treat our readers is the followIng:
“T H E LovELY LAss of PREs to N MILL.
The lark had left the evening cloud,
Her naked feet amang the grass,
een, The lovely lass of Preston Mill.
Care's flown on the winds—it's clean out o' sight, Past sorrows they seem but as dreams o' the night: I hear but kent voices—kent faces I see, And mark fond affection glint saft frae ilk ee. Nae fleechings o' flattery—nae boastings o’ pride, 'Tis heart speaks to heart, atane's ain fireside, - My ain fire-side, my ain fire-side, Oh! there's nought to compare to my ain fire-side.”
We must observe, however, that this modern effusion is not equal to the one which precedes it, upon the same subject, entitled, “A weary body's blythe when the sun gangs down.”
We are afraid that in passing to the class of humorous ballads, we shall not so readily obtain the assent of our readers to those commendations which we shall be prompted to bestow. To the mere English reader their humour will be lost: to relish them, a person must, at least, have familiarized himself with the dialect of North Britain by the diligent perusal of Scottish poems: but he who has resided for any time among the peasantry, who has had opportunities of observing their manners, noting their superstitions, and hearing their idiomatick phrases, accompanied with the expression of look and voice, he it is, who will most intensely feel and enjoy the broad but natural humour of these ballads. Some such there will doubtless be among our readers, and therefore we will venture to extract from this division of the work. We may observe, indeed, that Mr. Cromek would have done well had he been more copious in his crplanations of Scottish words and phrases; as he doubtless looks up to the English publick for some part of that praise which he has justly deserved.
We will select one which is as likely to be generally relished as aty: