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“I wad gie a' my gowd, my bairn,
Sae wad I gie my fee,
To blaw the reek frae thee.
“ " But I winna gie up my bonny house
To nae sic traitor as he; Come weel, come wae, my jewels fair,
Ye maun tak share wi' me.'
“O bonny, bonny was her mouth,
And cherry were her cheeks,
Whereon the red bluid dreeps.
“ Then wi' his spear he turned her ower,
O gin her face was wan!
I wished alive again.'
“ He turned her ower and ower again,
O gin her skin was white ! ' I might hae spared that bonny face,
To been some man's delight.'
· Busk and boun my merry men all,
For ill dooms I do guess ;
As it lies on the grass.'”
The Borderers of these ballads were, in truth, children in their moral habits and in their social customs. But they were not the children of that effeminacy which is born of a relaxing climate or of enervating manners, They bore the spirit of the North—the fierce power which grew from their unremitting struggle for existence with nature and with one another. Their character is, therefore, that which is formed by passion, fiery or tender, rather than by principle ; and even their adherence to a principle becomes a passion.
This is the character which these ballads have contributed to transmit in the people by whom they have been sung. The sturdy strength and the stern daring of the old Border clans have not passed away. Nothing dies altogether; and the force of those strong natures gushes out in other channels now. The arm, which in those wild times would have poised a spear or carried off the load of booty from a plundered grange, is now swinging a hammer, or toiling with an engine that moves a hundred looms or bears a thousand tons over the sea.
The head, which would then have led a party of freebooters to drive home the cattle of a hostile tribe, is now directing the beneficent industry of our factories and railways and ships. But the old Border ballads are interesting still, as preserving, in the freshness of nature, the material out of which these valuable forces of modern Scottish life have been formed. “The stream which of yore rushed wastefully from fount to sea, is banked and bridged ; it turns the wheels of innumerable mills, carries on its bosom barge and stately ship, sweeps through mighty towns where thousands live and die beneath an ever-brooding canopy of smoke, and melts at last into peaceful ocean-rest a labourer grimed and worn ; but its cradle is still, as of old, on the mountain top among the sacred splendours of the dawn, its companions the flying sunbeams and the troops of stars, its nurses the dews of heaven and the weeping clouds.” 1
Long after civilization had leavened the Border tribes, their spirit was kept alive in the North; and, till the Highland clans were broken up for ever by the irretrievable ruin of Culloden and the policy which followed, they maintained a state of society founded on ideas of right and property similar to those met with in the ballads which have just been described. The remarks, therefore, which have been made on the influence of these ballads, may be applied with equal truth to those which celebrate the deeds of Rob Roy and Gilderoy and Macpherson and other Highland freebooters who subsisted by plundering or black-mailing their Lowland neighbours.
§ 3.—The Reformation Period.
The lyrics of this period, in so far as they reflect the condition of the people, will not occupy us so long as their number might seem to justify. The lyrical and
1 Alexander Smith in “ Edinburgh Essays,” p. 238.
other poetry of Reformation times was unquestionably extensive and varied-more extensive and varied than that of any previous epoch in the history of Scotland. There is, in fact, every evidence to show that Scotland was even taking the start of England in that reviving culture which was spreading throughout Europe, and which mingled itself, partly as cause, partly as effect, with the ecclesiastical revolution of the sixteenth century. A very slight inquiry into the literature of the time soon reveals to the inquirer an extraordinary number of names which had risen to no
mean distinction in poetry. The songs and ballads which reflect the condition of the period have mostly for their aim to advance the cause of the Reformers, and, as will presently appear, contributed powerful aid to that cause. In so far, therefore, as the Reformation assisted in the development of a national character among the Scotch, the same influence may be indirectly ascribed to the ballads and songs by which the Reformation was promoted.
It is unnecessary to go into a detailed examination of these lyrics, but it may be worth while to notice some of the more prominent kinds. As is the case with most of the lyrics called forth in any contest, the songs of the Reformation period are, many of them, of a satirical cast-parodies of the Catholic hymnology, burlesques of Catholic dogma, and jeering exposures of clerical and monastic vices. But the most curious and apparently the most popular parodies of the time are those which, in all seriousness, give a religious turn to purely secular songs, sometimes even to songs of a coarsely
licentious character. This has been a favourite kind of parody with a certain class of minds at various periods: the Puritans of England are ridiculed in the Winter's Tale1 for “singing psalms to hornpipes," and similar practices are still being perpetually revived at times of religious excitement. Though the most of
. these parodies, which formed part of the religious instruction of our ancestors, are characterised by a silliness and incongruity astonishing to us, yet some possess a good deal of that rough vigour which makes their popularity and their polemical usefulness not altogether unintelligible. Here is one, for example, which parodies what is known to have been a favourite old
“With huntis up, with huntis up,
It is now perfite day :
Quha lykes to speid, they may.
This lang and mony ane day,
Nane micht him 'schape away.
Of yung and tender lammis;
The yung anis with thair dammis.
The hundis are Peter and Paul :
That rubbis us on the gall.