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INTRODUCTION.

vii

any date can be assigned. His leading purpose was so to arrange these Ballads as to obtain variety, both of style and illustration, without regard to the period at which they were written, or the sources in which they originated; prefacing each by such explanatory remarks as should communicate all the information he was able to obtain concerning its history.

In illustrating the work, he was ambitious so to apply the great and admitted capabilities of British Art, as to prove that the embellished volumes of Germany and France were not of unapproachable excellence, in reference either to design or execution. He believes himself warranted in stating, that he has been enabled to submit examples of the genius of a large proportion of the more accomplished artists of Great Britain — as exhibited in drawing upon wood. The supremacy of our English engravers, in this class of Art, has been long established.

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HEVY-CHACE. Of the old beroic ballad of

“ Chevy-Chace," thus wrote Sir Philip Sidney :

-"I never heard the old song of Percie and Douglas, that I found not my heart moved, more

than with a trumpet : and yet it is sung but by some blinde crowder, with no rougher voice, than rude style; which beeing so evill apparelled in the dust and cobweb of that uncivill age, what would it work, trimmed in the gorgeous eloquence of Pindare !” There can be

no doubt that he referred to the very ancient, and not

to the comparatively modern, ballad ; yet Mr. Addison, quoting the great authority, applies it to the latter, - an error that did not escape the penetration of Dr. Percy, who printed both ; — the more ancient, from the preface to

“ Gul. Newbrigiensis Hist.,” by the learned antiquary Thomas Hearne, — (by whom, the authorship is assigned to “R. Sheale ;”) – the more recent, from “the common stall copies.” The older seems to have been forgotten, until revived in the “ Reliques of Ancient English Poetry; for Mr. Addison confines his criticism to the modern version, with which only he was acquainted ; and it does not appear that any of his contemporaries detected the mistake.

The style of the old ballad, Dr. Percy characterises as “ uncommonly rugged and uncouth ;” and “the soul of chivalry,” Sir Philip Sidney, describes it as “apparelled in the dust and cobweb of an uncivill age.” It is, however, so full of vigour, life, and action, -50 grand in its natural rudeness, that few will hesitate to subscribe to the opinion of Sir Walter Scott, that the current version has “lost in poetical fire and energy, and in vigour and pithiness of expression, more than it has gained in suavity of diction.” We give, notwithstanding, the modern copy in preference, as far more intelligible to the general reader; merely extracting a verse of the ancient, as a sample of its rude style and rough strength:— this verse we take from the volume of Hearne.

The Perse obt off porthombarlande, and a bowe to God mayd he
That he wold hunte in the mountains off Cupbiat within days iii.,

In the magger of doughte Dogles and all that ever with hiin be.
Although it was not the modern version that moved the great heart of Sidney “more
than a trumpet,” it is undoubtedly that which, for centuries, has maintained its
popularity, in England, more firmly, and, perhaps, more universally, than any other
of the “ favourites of the people." And, whether we agree with Percy, in considering
that the old ballad was “ expressly modernised,” in consequence of the “eulogium”
it received in the “ Defence of Poetry;” or with Scott, in believing the changes it
has undergone to have been “produced by the gradual alterations of numerous
reciters,” there can be but one opinion as to its beauty, grandeur, force, and sim-
plicity,-qualities, in the happy combination of which, it is unsurpassed by any
composition in the language.

Such border feuds as that of Chevy-Chace were of frequent occurrence; and although no authentic historical documents exist to determine precisely the period at which the “ woeful hunting” actually occurred, there is no doubt that a battle was fought under circumstances such as those recorded in the ballad, and as little

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that the old poem, by which it is commemorated, was composed soon after the event. Evidence of its popularity has been given so early as the time of Queen Elizabeth, and of its being considered, even then, as the production of an uncivill

Reference is made to “the fourth Harry our Kyng;” but it was written, probably, during the reign of Henry the Sixth, when “ James, the Scottish King," the first of the name, wore the crown of Scotland. That the affair took place previous to 1402 is certain ; for the battle of Humbledowne, expressly alluded to, was fought on the fourteenth of September of that year.

The only battle mentioned in history, wherein an earl of Douglas was slain fighting with a Percy, was that of Otterbourne — the theme of several ballads, both of England and Scotland. This occurred in 1388, during the reign of Richard the

Second ; and there are some reasons for supposing it to have been the

event commemorated in the ballad of Chevy-Chace. Sir Walter Scott, in his “ Border Antiquities," has published an engraving of the Banner of

Douglas,“ supposed to have been" borne at this encounter ; which we here copy; as well

as the Pennon of Percy, that had been previously “taken fror him” by Douglas, during an incursion of the Scots into the English marches; the attempt to regain which led to the fight of Otterbourne, where Douglas was killed, and Percy was taken prisoner. The circum

stances connected with this contest are strongly characteristic of the chivalric spirit of the age. They are given in Froissart. “ The Earl of Douglas had a long conflict with Sir Henry Percy; and in the end, by gallantry of arms, won his pennon, to the great vexation of Sir Henry and the other English. The Earl of Douglas said — 'I will carry this token of your prowess with me to Scotland, and place it on the

tower of my castle at Dalkeith, that it may be seen from far.' By God, Earl Douglas,' replied Sir Harry, 'you shall not even bear it out of Northumberland.' You must come, then,' answered Earl Douglas, this night, and, if you will, venture to take it away.""

A copy of this ballad — partly in black letter, with which we have collated the text of Dr. Percy is preserved in the folio collection at the British Museum. One, however, much older, and more perfect, is in the Pepysian Collection, in the library of Magdalen College, Cambridge. Dr. Percy does not state that he had compared his text with this edition ; and it is singular that it should have escaped his notice ; for he was intimately acquainted with the collection, to which he makes frequent reference in the course of his work. That he overlooked it, we have little doubt; for although the differences are not many, nor very material, they are so obviously improvements, that he could not have hesitated to adopt them. We have introduced them in nearly every instance; the reader may ascertain their value by taking the trouble to compare our copy with that of Dr. Percy.

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