The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #145512 Message #3366457
Posted By: Richie
21-Jun-12 - 09:33 PM
Thread Name: Origins: Child Ballads: US Versions Part 3
Subject: Origins: Child Ballads: US Versions Part 3
Since Part two was over 100 posts I'm starting part 3. I'd like to begin Part 3 with Lady Alice. In the US the ballad is known mostly as George Collins- several versions have been posted in the DT by Stewie and others. I'd like to have more US versions- please post!
I'm curious about the English version a 1799 commentary found in The Spirit of the Public Journals. It's rather long but I'll post it in its entirety rather than link it to my web-site. Please look at this and make comments. Is this well-known? Not included in Child? The first published version?
The Spirit of the Public Journals: being an impartial selection of the most exquisite essays and Jeux D'esprits, Principally prose; That appear in Newspapers and other Publications; Volume 1- Second edition, edited by Stephen Jones, Charles Molloy Westmacott- 1799
CRITICISM ON AN ANCIENT BALLAD
TO point out to public notice the merits of a Poem, is confessedly the noblest, as well as the most agreeable part of criticism. Dennis may hunt the errors of Cato, while its illustrious author is employed in immortalizing Chevy-Chace, by praises which will probably out-live the subject of them. Antiquity presents us with many commendatory critics, and the writers of Greece and of Rome have almost all found some one to applaud what, if they had written in modern times, would have drawn on them acrimonieus censure. During the present century, however, some of the ancient authors of our own country, who have confined themselves within a sheet of paper, have met with someone to refresh their laurels. Not only Chevy-Chace, but the Children in the Wood, and many otfter popular songs, have been dignified by panegyrics. The Lover's Ballad yet remains unpraised; not because it is undeserving, but because it is obscure.
That this poem is of great antiquity, may be concluded from its language and conduct. The heroine is introduced in a situation in which sew modern fine ladies can be found, that of mending her night-cap. We know, too, that the custom of burying the dead in open coffins, without any covering, in order to prevent the suspicion of violence, has been long discontinued.
Lady Alice was sitting at her bow-window,
Amending her night-coif;
And there she law the finest corpse
That ever she saw in her life.
Lady Alice she laid to the four tall bearers,
"What bear you on your shoulders?"
"It is the body of Giles Collins,
An old true lover of yours."
The great beauty of the second stanza is the circumstance of Giles Collins' love towards Lady Alice being so generally known; and the delicate and ingenious manner in which the tall bearers insinuate the cause of his death to have been his unfortunate passion for that lady. The provincialisms and the rugged metre of this poem can only be excused by the barbarism of that age in which it was probably written.
"Set him down, set him down," Lady Alice she said;
"Set him down on the grass so trim;
For before the clock it doth strike twelve,
My body shall lie by him."
Lady Alice she then put on her night-coif,
Which fitted her wond 'roufly well;
She cut her throat with a sharp pen-knise,
As the four tall bearers can tell.
If Cæsar has been deservedly praised by his biographers, for the solicitude which he discovered to die with decorum, let the same praise be extended to Lady Alice, whose night-coif was as material to the propriety of her apoearance, as the robe of the Roman Emperor. The moral of these verses, it may be said, is not agreeable to modern times; and suicide should not be encouraged by example, even in fiction. We may here appeal to Virgil, who makes Dido act in the fame way, although he considered self-murder to be criminal, as appears from the sixth book of the Æneid.
Proxima deinde tenint majii loca quisibi letum
---------pepercre manu, lucimque perori
and the rest of the passage.
It may be observed, too, that Dido and Lady Alice, and I believe all our great heroines, declare their intentions first, to shew how innocent they are of the knowledge of any guilt in them; and, sensible pf the propriety of their conduct, choose to have witnesses of their contempt of death.
Lady Alice was buried in the east church-yard,
Giles Collins was buried in the south;
And there came a lilly out of Giles Collins's nose,
Which reach'd Lady Alice's mouth.
The learned reader will immediately perceive that this thought is strictly classical. It is perhaps borrowed from Persius; who, in describing the advantages which a deceased poet derives from applauie bestowed upon his works, exclaims,
Nunc non i tnanibus illti
Nunc non i lumulo fortunataque fa-villa,
It is indeed astonishing how favourable to vegetation the corpses of a pair of lovers generally prove. It is long since I looked into Ovid; but I remember there are few, either male or female, who die for love, who do not add something useful or agreeable to the kitchen to the flower garden.
The limited space which the more important articles of your paper will suffer me to occupy, is much toy small to admit an examination of the particular excellence of each line. Of the whole, considered in the Aristotelian sense, as composed of beginning, middle, and end, the utmost praise that can be uttered is, that it is interesting. His acuteness, to speak in the diction of a brother critic, is more to be commended than his feelings, who can read with a malignant sneer, what was written under the influence of strong passions; nor was he, perhaps, so reasonable as he might have imagined himielf to be, who-first attempted to subject to the laws of poetry, those passions of which it is unhappily often a characteristic to defy the laws of morality.
[St. James's Chron.] Momus Criticorum.