« PreviousContinue »
monstrous face, under which, notwithstanding it was made to frown and stare in a most extraordinary manner, I could still discover a distant resemblance of my old friend. Sir Roger, upon seeing me laugh, desired me to tell him truly if I thought it possible for people to know him in that disguise. I at first kept my usual silence; but, upon the knight's conjuring me to tell him whether it was not still more like himself than a Saracen, I composed my countenance in the best manner I could, and replied, 'that much might be said on both sides.'
These several adventures, with the knight's behaviour in them, gave me as pleasant a day as ever I met with in any of my travels.”
GENTLE HERDSMAN. [This beautiful old ballad, being “A Dialogue between a Pilgrim and a Herdsman," is printed in Percy's 'Reliques of Ancient Poetry. It has evidently suggested Goldsmith's ballad of Edwin and Angelina,' and three of the stanzas of the modern poem are para phrased from the Gentle Herdsman.]
Gentle herdsman, tell to me,
Of courtesy I thee pray, Unto the town of Walsingham
Which is the right and ready way? “ Unto the town of Walsingham
The way is hard for to be gone ; And very crooked are those paths
For you to find out all alone."
And the way never so ill,
It is so grievous and so ill.
Thy wits are weak, thy thoughts are green; Time hath not given thee leave as yet,
For to commit so great a sin.” Yes, herdsman, yes, so wouldst thou say,
If thou knewest so much as I; My wits, and thoughts, and all the rest,
Have well deserved for to die. I am not what I seem to be,
My clothes and sex do differ farI am a woman, woe is me!
Born to grief and irksome care. For my beloved, and well beloved,
My wayward cruelty could kill : And though my tears will not avail,
Most dearly I bewail him still. He was the flower of noble wights,
None ever more sincere could be ;
Of comely mien and shape he was,
And tenderly he loved me.
grew so proud his pain to see, That I, who did not know myself,
Thought scorn of such a youth as he. And grew so coy and nice to please,
As woman's looks are often so,
Unless I willed him so to do.
To see I pitied not his grief, He got him to a secret place,
And there he died without relief. And for his sake these weeds I wear, And sacrifice my tender
age ; And every day I'll beg my bread,
To undergo this pilgrimage. Thus every day I fast and pray,
And ever will do till I die ;
For so did he, and so will I.
But keep my secrets I thee pray ;
Show me the right and ready way. “Now go thy ways, and God before !
For he must ever guide thee still : Turn down that dale, the right hand path,
And so, fair pilgrim, fare thee well !"
SIR PATRICK SPENCE. [This is the Scotch ballad which Coleridge, in his Dejection,' calls “The grand old ballad of Sir Patrick Spence." This is also printed in Percy's . Reliques.'] The king sits in Dumferling toune, O say na sae, my master deir, Drinking the blude-reid wine :
For I feir a deadlie storme, O quhar will I get guid sailor,
Late, late yestreen, I saw the new moone To sail this schip of mine?
Wi' the auld moone in hir arme; Up and spak an eldern knicht,
And I feir, I feir, my dear master, Sat at the king's richt kne :
That we will com to harme. Sir Patrick Spence is the best sailor,
O our Scots nobles wer richt laith That sails upon the se.
To weet their cork-heil'd schoone; The king has written a braid letter, But lang owre a' the play wer play'd, And sign'd it wi' his hand ;
Thair hats they swam aboone. And sent it to Sir Patrick Spence,
O lang, lang, may thair ladies sit Was walking on the sand.
Wi' thair fans into their hand, The first line that Sir Patrick red, Or eir they see Sir Patrick Spence A loud lauch lauched he:
Cum sailing to the land. The next line that Sir Patrick red,
O lang, lang, may the ladies stand, The teir blinded his ee.
Wi' thair gold kems in thair hair, O quha is this has don this deid, Waiting for thair ain deir lords, This ill deid don to me ;
For they 'll se thame na mair. To send me out this time o' the yeir,
Have owre, have owre to Aberdour, To sail upon the se?
It's fiftie fadom deep : Mak hast, mak hast, my mirry men all, And thair lies guid Sir Patrick Spence, Our guid schip sails the morne.
Wi' the Scots lords at his feit.
AULD ROBIN GRAY. [This ballad, which Leigh Hunt has truly said “must have suffused more eyes with tears of the first water than any other ballad that ever was written," is the production of Lady Anne Barnard, who died in 1825. In a letter to Sir Walter Scott this lady gives the following interesting and curious account of the circumstances under which she composed this most charming poem :
“Robin Gray,' so called from its being the name of the old herd at Balcarras, was born soon after the close of the year 1771. My sister Margaret had married, and accompanied her husband to London. I was mela choly, and endeavoured to amuse myself by attempting a few poetical trifles. There was an ancient Scotch melody, of which I was passionately fond;
who lived before your day, used to sing it to us at Balcarras. She did not object to its having improper words, though I did. I longed to sing old Sophy's to different words, and give to its plaintive tones some little history of virtuous distress in humble life, such as might suit it. While attempting to effect this in my closet, I called to my little sister, now Lady Hardwicke, who was the only person near me :- I have been writing a ballad, my dear; I am oppressing my heroine with many misfortuues. I have already sent her Jamie to sea—and broken her father's arm--and made her mother fall sick—and given her Auld Robin Gray for her lover ; but I wish to load her with a fifth sorrow within the four lines, poor thing! Help me to one.' Steal the cow, sister Anne,' said the little Elizabeth. The cow was immediately lifted by me, and the song completed. At our fireside, and amongst our neighbours, “Auld Robin Gray' was always called for. I was pleased in secret with the approbation it met with; but such was my dread of being suspected of writing anything, perceiving the shyness it created in those who could write nothing, that I carefully kept my own secret.
“Meanwhile, little as this matter seems to have been worthy of a dispute, it afterwards became a party question between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. *Robin Gray' was either a very ancient ballad, composed perhaps by David Rizzio, and a great curiosity, or a
very modern matter, and no curiosity at all. I was persecuted to avow whether I had written it or not,—where I had got it. Old Sophy kept my counsel, and I kept my own, in spite of the gratification of seeing a reward of twenty guineas offered in the newspapers to the person who should ascertain the point past a doubt, and the still more flattering circumstance of a visit from Mr. Jerningham, Secretary to the Antiquarian Society, who endeavoured to entrap the truth from me in a manner I took amiss. Had he asked me the question obligingly, I should have told him the fact distinctly and confidentially. The annoyance, however, of this important ambassador from the antiquaries was amply repaid to me by the noble exhibition of the Ballat of Auld Robin Gray's Courtship,' as performed by dancing dogs under my window. It proved its popularity from the highest to the lowest, and gave me pleasure while I hugged myself in my obscurity."]
“When the sheep are in the fauld, when the cows come hame,
40.-AN IRISH VILLAGE.
CARLETON. [The following is extracted from · Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry, published in 1-330. In a subsequent edition of that work, the author, William Carleton, tells the story of his own life, and we thence learn how much of his peculiar felicity in delineating character and manners is derived from the experience of his early days. He was born in the parish of Clogher, Tyrone, in 1798. His father, a peasant, was wonderful as a story-teller; his mother, who possessed a rcice of exquisite sweetness, was eminently skilled in her native music. Here was the real education of such a writer. Mr. Carleton has published a Second Series of * Traits and Stories,' and other Irish Tales.]
The village of Findamore was situated at the foot of a long green hill, the outline of which formed a low arch, as it rose to the eye against the horizon. This hill was studded with clumps of beeches, and sometimes enclosed as a meadow. In the month of July, when the grass on it was long, many an hour have I spent in solitary enjoyment, watching the wavy motion produced on its pliant surface by the sunny winds, or the flight of the cloud shadows, like gigantic phantoms, as they swept rapidly over it, whilst the murmur of the rocking trees, and the glaring of their bright leaves in the sun, produced a heartfelt pleasure, the very memory of which rises in my imagination like some fading recollection of a brighter world.
At the foot of this hill ran a clear deep-banked river, bounded on one side by a slip of rich level meadow, and on the other by a kind of common for the village geese, whose white feathers during the summer seasop lay scattered over its green surface. It was also the playground for the boys of the village school ; for there ran that part of the river, which, with very correct judgment, the urchins had selected as their bathing-place. A little slope or watering ground in the bank brought them to the edge of the stream, where the bottom fell away into the fearful depths of the whirlpool under the hanging oak on the other bank. Well do I remember the first time I ventured to swim across it, and even yet do I see in imagination the two bunches of water flags on which the inexperienced swimmers trusted themselves in the water.
About two hundred yards above this, the boreen * which led from the village to the main road crossed the river by one of those old narrow bridges whose arches rise like round ditches across the roadan almost impassable barrier to horse and car. On passing the bridge in a northern direction, you found a range of low thatched houses on each side of the road ; and if one o'clock, the hour of dinner, drew near, you might observe columns of blue smoke curling up from a row of chimneys, some made of wicker creels plastered over with a rich coat of mud, some of old narrow bottomless tubs, and others, with a greater appearance of taste, ornamented with thick circular ropes of straw, sewed together like bees' skeps with the peel of a brier; and many having nothing but the open vent above. But the smoke by no means escaped by its legitimate aperture, for you might observe little clouds of it bursting out of the doors and windows; the panes of the latter, being mostly stopped at other times with old hats and rags, were now left entirely open for the purpose
of giving it a free escape. Before the doors, on right and left, was a series of dunghills, each with its concomitant sink of green rotten water ; and if it happened that a stout looking woman with watery eyes, and a yellow cap hung loosely upon her matted locks, came with a chubby urchin on one arm, and a pot of dirty water in her hand, its unceremonious ejection in the aforesaid sink would be apt to send you up the village with your forefinger and thumb (for what purpose you would yourself perfectly understand) closely, but not knowingly, applied to your nostrils. But, independently of this, you would be apt to have other reasons for giving your horse, whose heels are
- A little road.
by this time surrounded by a dozen of barking curs and the same number of shouting urchins, a pretty sharp touch of the spurs, as well as for complaining bitterly of the odour of the atmosphere. It is no landscape without figures ; and you might notice--if you are, as I suppose you to be, a man of observation—in every sink as you pass along, a 'slip of a pig' stretched in the middle of the mud, the
beau ideal of luxury, giving occasionally a long luxuriant grunt highly expressive of his enjoyment; or perhaps an old farrower, lying in indolent repose with half a dozen young ones jostling each other for their draught, and punching her belly with their little snouts, reckless of the fumes they are creating ; whilst the loud crow of the cock, as he confidently ilaps his wings on his own dunghill, gives the warning note for the hour of dinner.
As you advance, you will also perceive several faces thrust out of the doors, and rather than miss a sight of you, a grotesque visage peeping by a short cut through the paneless windows, or a tattered female flying to snatch up her urchin, that has been tumbling itself heels up in the dirt of the road, lest 'the gentleman's horse might ride over it,' and if you happen to look behind, you may observe a shaggyheaded youth in tattered frieze, with one hand thrust indolently in his breast, standing at the door in conversation with the inmates, a broad grin of sarcastic ridicule on his face, in the act of breaking a joke or two on yourself or your horse ; or perhaps your jaw may be saluted with a lump of clay, just hard enough not to fall asunder as it flies, cast by some ragged gossoon from behind a hedge, who squats himself in a ridge of corn to avoid detection.
Seated upon a hob at the door you may observe a toil-worn man, without coat or waistcoat, bis red, muscular, sunburnt shoulder peeping through the remnant of a shirt, mending his shoes with a piece of twisted flax, called a lingel, or perhaps sewing two footless stockings, or martyeens, to his coat, as a substitute for sleeves.
In the gardens, which are usually fringed with nettles, you will see a solitary labourer, working with that carelessness and apathy that characterises an Irishman when he labours for himself, leaning upon his spade to look after you, and glad of any excuse to be idle.
The houses, however, are not all such as I have described far from it. You see here and there, between the more humble cabins, a stout comfortable looking farmhouse, with ornamental thatching and well glazed windows ; adjoining to which is a hay-yard, with five or six large stacks of corn, well trimmed and roped, and a fine yellow weatherbeaten old hayrick, half cut,--not taking into account twelve or thirteen circular strata of stones, that mark out the foundations on which others had been raised. Neither is the rich smell of oaten or wheaten bread, which the good wife is baking on the griddle, unpleasant to your nostrils ; por would the bubbling of a large pot, in which you might see, should you chance to enter, a prodigious square of fat, yellow, and almost transparent bacon tumbling about, be an unpleasant object; truly, as it hangs over a large fire, with well-swept hearth-stone, it is in good keeping with the white settle and chairs, and the dresser with noggins, wooden trenchers, and pewter dishes, perfectly clean, and as well polished as a French courtier.
As you leave the village you have, to the left, a view of the hill which I have already described, and to the right, a level expanse of fertile country, bounded by a good view of respectable mountains, peering directly into the sky; and in a line that forms an acute angle from the point of the road where you ride, is a delightful valley, in the bottom of which shines a pretty lake ; and a little beyond, on the slope of a green hill, rises a splendid house, surrounded by a park well wooded and stocked with deer. You have now topped the little hill above the village, and a straight line of level road, a mile long, goes forward to a country town, which lies