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Waken, lords and ladies gay,
Louder, louder chant the lay,
Sir WALTER Scott. The music by Dr. JOHN CLARKE,
HUNTSMAN, rest! thy chase is done,
Sleep! the deer is in his den,
Huntsman rest! thy chase is done,
T is worth attention, says Dr. Percy, in his “Reliques of English Poetry," "that the English have more songs and ballads on the subject of madness than any of their neighbours. Whether there be any truth in the insinuation that we are more liable to this calamity than other nations, or that our native gloominess hath peculiarly recom
mended subjects of this class to our writers, we certainly do not find the same in the printed collections of French and Italian songs.” Percy presents his readers with six mad songs, as specimens of the English taste for this peculiar class of compositions. Of those which follow in the present collection only two are included in his “ Relics of English Poetry." It is certainly remarkable how much the genius of English writers loves to dally with, to philosophise upon, and to adorn the subject of madness. Of all Shakspeare's plays, Hamlet is undoubtedly the most popular, and it is difficult to decide whether the half-craze of Hamlet himself, or the utter prostration of the mind of Ophelia, is the more painfully and irresistibly attractive, or which of the two excites the most sympathy. The snatches of song sung by the mad Ophelia invariable melt an English audience to tears; and the terrible madness of Lear, whenever it is represented on the stage, touches a chord in every heart. Sir Walter Scott, in his matchless fictions, has also made powerful use of madness, and of that state of mind—not actual lunacy, but not far removed from it—when reason trembles on the balance, and the spectator or the reader watches with excited and painful curiosity the moment when the tottering intellect shall be finally overthrown, and the madness, which was more than suspected, shall be completely revealed. Many of our song writers have, from an early period, availed themselves of the popular interest in subjects of this kind; and
osers have done their best to aid the efforts of song-writers in rendering them attractive. The literature of other countries, as Percy has remarked, offers no such examples, and we seek in vain among the songs of the northern or the southern nations of Europe for similar specimens. Even the genius of the Germans, so akin to our own, fails to cope with us in the delineation of the picturesque horrors and touching sorrows of the mad. If any allusion be made to the subject in the writings of the continental critics, it is but to give additional currency to the old joke about Englishmen, which Shakspeare has put into the mouth of the clown in Hamlet:
Hamlet. Ay, marry! why was he sent into England ?
Clown. Why-because he was mad: he shall recover his wits there; or if he do not, 'tis no great matter there.
Many modern French poets and critics think that our English madness regalarly returns with the month of November, and that suicides in that month are as plentiful as strawberries in June, or blackberries in September. It is our “sky” that does it, if we are to believe the French theory, and Waterloo-bridge was built on purpose to accommodate ladies and gentlemen afflicted with the national malady, and to render suicide both facile and agreeable. “O Bedlam !” exclaims Auguste Barbier, in his Lazare:
“O Bedlam! monument de crainte et de douleur,
Peut servir largement de dôme au sanctuaire.” Leaving the French to their joke, and declining to speculate whether English madness be not perhaps the consequence of that great wit of which Pope speaks
“Great wit to madness surely is allied,
And thin partitions do their bounds divide"in which case the English pation might bear the gibes of their continental friends with more equanimity for the sake of the compliment involved :—the following specimens of our ancient and modern lyrics of madness may be permitted to speak for themselves.
THE MAD MAID'S SONG.
ROBERT HERRICK, born 1591.
GOOD-MORROW to the day so fair,
Good-morrow, sir, to you;
Bedabbled all with dew.
Good-morrow to this primrose too;
Good-morrow to each maid That will with flowers the tomb bestrew
Wherein my love is laid.
Ah, woe is me; woe, woe is me;
Alack and well-a-day!
Which bore my love away.
I'll seek him in
bonnet brave: I'll seek him in your eyes ; Nay, now I think they've made his grave
In the bed of strawberries,
I'll seek him there;-I know ere this
The cold, cold earth doth shake him ; But I will go, or send a kiss
By you, sir, to awake him.
Pray hurt him not; though he be dead,
He knows well who do love him, And who with green turfs rear his head,
And who so rudely move him.
He's soft and tender ;-pray take heed !
With bands of cowslips bind him, And bring him home; but 'tis decreed
That I shall never find him.