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figure of speech ever is drawn from the scene before him— the lake, the mountain, or the sky. His followers in America had scarce more inclination to poetry than he. Men who are reflecting on the "five points," discoursing of election, reprobation, and the kindred themes, or inwardly digesting the Assembly's Catechism, would not be likely to write war-songs, or to make ballads. They did well in allowing "the nursery rhymes" to be sung to children; in not suffering "unworthy Barbara Allen" to be wholly forgotten. Still further, their outward circumstances were most unfavorable to the production of popular poetry, songs, and ballads amongst the people. They were struggling against poverty, against the wilderness, the wild beasts, and savage men, not to mention the difficul
ties which came from the other side of the water. Thus stood the fathers of New England. On the one side was Starvation, and Destruction on the other; and the Indians laying in wait and ready to hasten the advance of both. Under such circumstances few men would incline to sing anything very secular, or æsthetic. Besides, to the Puritan "common things" had a certain savor of uncleanness about them, and were thought scarce worthy of being sung. Would a man be merry, he might indeed sing, for there was a scriptural argument for his singing; but it must be-psalms. New England psalmody is a proverb amongst nations. We speak not of the melodies, so long-drawn and so nasal, but of the substantial words which endure while the volatile melodies have long ago been hushed into expressive silence. We give a verse from an old American version of "the Psalms of David," assuring our readers that it is no invention of ours, but an undoubted original.
"The race is not to them that do the swiftest run,
To the peopel,
That carries the longest gun."
Of psalm-singing there was no lack in New England. But that was not quite enough even for the Puritans. The natural heart of man wanted something a little more epic-some narrative of heroic events in a form slightly poetical, with a tinge of moral feeling, and a minute specification of time, place, person, and all particulars thereto belonging. This want was supplied-so far as we can learn by the public prayers so abundantly made by the Puritans. They were as narrative as
the popular ballads, about as long-winded, equally garrulous, it is said; only the rhythmic element was wanting; and that was supplied, we suppose, by the intonation of the orator, or by the repetition of particular phrases as a sort of refrain, or "burden." Few men esteem the founders of New England more than we, but we honor them for what they were, not for what they were not-not so much for their poetry as for their masculine character and unshrinking faith in God.
We have seen many of the early American ballads, but few of any merit. New England ran to theology, politics, and practical life; not to lyric poetry. Even war, which forced such music from the Greeks and the Spaniards, extorted but little song from the stern men of America,- and that little poor. Of the ballads which belong to the Revolutionary period, there are few which are worth perusing. We insert a portion of one, which seems to us the best. Its date is obvious.
"While I relate my story, Americans give ear;
"The cruel lords of Britain, who glory in their shame,
"There are two mighty speakers, who rule in Parliament,
"He search'd the gloomy regions of the infernal pit,
"Old Satan, the arch traitor, resolved a voyage to take,
"He takes his seat in Britain, it was his soul's intent,
His comrades were pursuing a diabolic way,
For to complete the ruin of North America.
"He tried the art of magic to bring his schemes about,
"These subtle arch-combiners address'd the British court,
"There is a wealthy people, who sojourn in that land;
"Their land with milk and honey continually doth flow,
"On turkeys, fowls, and fishes most frequently they dine,
"With gold and silver laces, they do themselves adorn,
"Let not our suit affront you, when we address your throne,
"O king, you've heard the sequel of what we now subscribe,
"Invested with a warrant, my publicans shall go,
The tenth of all their current they surely shall bestow,
"I'll rally all my forces by water and by land,
My light dragoons and horses shall go at my command, I'll burn both town and city, with smoke becloud the day, I'll show no human pity for North America.
"Go on, my hearty soldiers, you need not fear of ill—
"My gallant ships are ready to hoist you o'er the flood,
"The laws I have enacted, I never will revoke,
"O George! you are distracted, by sad experience find
"Our fathers were distressed, while in their native land;
"Heaven was their protector while on the roaring tide,
"To sail they were commanded, about the hour of noon,
"We are their bold descendants, for liberty we 'll fight,
"We never will knock under, O George, we do not fear
"To what you have commanded, we never will consent;
"We have a bold commander who fears not sword nor gun,
The "whig songs" of 1840 are still fresh in the recollection of their authors, no doubt, and are pretty fair samples of what America has produced in the form of poetry for the people, and were besides valuable as specific signs of that period.
The work of Mr. Moore named at the beginning of this article is intended to supply the want of a book containing all the good, or at least all of the best, ballads in the language. Certainly the want has long been felt, and remains still unsupplied. These volumes contain some pieces unworthy of a place in such a collection,- as it seems to us,- such as the
Story of John Gilpin," Kirk White's "Gondoline," and "The Rime of the Auncient Waggonere." Valuable ballads are omitted to make way for them. We miss, and who would have thought it," the grand old ballad of Sir Patrick Spence," the "Friar of Orders Grey," the ballads relating to "sweet William" and "fair Margaret," and even those about King Arthur. "Auld Robin Gray" is likewise omitted. The most valuable that he has inserted which are not in the hands of lovers of ballad lore, are "The Luck of Muncaster," "Robin Conscience," "The King and a poore Northerne Man." The last which seems to be the original of a popular song, "A Farmer there was in the west countrie," supposed to have been written by one Martin Parker, a celebrated author of ballads. We give some extracts from it.
"Come hearken to me all around,
And I will tell you a merry tale
Of a Northumberland man that held some ground,
"He was borne and bred thereupon,
And his father had dwelt there long before,
And staved the wolfe from off his doore.
"Now for this farm the good old man
Just twenty shillings a-year did pay.