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to those of the Jacobites in defiant resolution, in reckless satire, in subduing pathos, and in exuberant mirth.
With all this literature of song on their side, the wonder naturally arises that the Stuarts should have been so perpetually unsuccessful, that men began to talk mysteriously of their evil star, and the devout to see in their fate an answer from heaven to the cry of the people whom they had oppressed. It is for the historian to investigate the causes of this defeat; but it is not wholly beyond the province of this essay to observe, that the Whigs were the men of work, the Jacobites the men of sentiment, in their times. If the sterner nature and more practical activity of the former gave them little opportunity for indulging the enthusiasm which finds its natural outlet in song, the sentimentalism of the latter took from them that practical force which is absolutely essential to success. It is not surprising, therefore, that there should have been few songs, and these few of small poetical merit, on the side of the Whigs, while the force of their enemies, which ought to have been directed to political and military tactics, overflowed wastefully in lyrical effusions.
The poetical excellence of the Jacobite songs claims for them a place in this inquiry, as contributing, along with other popular Scottish poems, to the cultivation of that poetical taste which is so widely diffused among the people of Scotland; but beyond this effect, which is merely common to them with all other good Scotch songs, their influence on the national character is quite inappreciable. In fact, even with reference to their power in preserving the traditional history of the struggle out
of which they took their origin, it must be admitted that louder in the ear of the Scottish people than Woe's me for Prince Charlie is the wail over the martyrs of the Covenant; and tales of the heroism these displayed. amid their sufferings are cherished in the memory and told with enthusiasm, when the name of the Chevalier is never mentioned, except in singing the Jacobite songs for the enjoyment of their poetry and music.
GENERAL INFLUENCE OF THE BALLADS AND SONGS.
"O Caledonia, stern and wild,
The Lay of the Last Minstrel.
"Take up Burns. How, is he great, except through the circumstance that the whole songs of his predecessors lived in the mouth of the people— that they were, so to speak, sung at his cradle; that, as a boy, he grew up amongst them, and the high excellence of these models so pervaded him, that he had therein a living basis on which he could proceed further?"GOETHE, in ECKERMANN'S Conversations.
THE previous chapters have endeavoured to trace the influence on the Scottish character which has been exerted by different classes of ballads and songs; but it is still necessary to point out the influence which the ballads and songs in general have exerted, without reference to the particular classes into which they may be divided. It is on this subject, therefore, that I propose to make some observations in the present chapter.
There need be no hesitation in saying that the general influence of the Scottish songs and ballads has been to diffuse among the people of Scotland a poetical taste and even a considerable poetical faculty. Of course, the existence of such an amount of excellent popular poetry as these songs and ballads compose, is itself, in the first instance, proof of a widely diffused
poetical taste and power among the people; but it must, in the second instance, have contributed very greatly to keep alive, to strengthen, and to extend the taste and the power from which it derived its existence at first. It seems scarcely necessary to say anything on the poetical character of these ballads and songs, or to prove their extensive distribution among the people; but the nature of their general influence will be made clear by some remarks on both of these points.
§ 1--Poetical Character of the Ballads and Songs.
What, then, in the first place, are the peculiar characteristics of the poetry which has been reviewed in the previous chapters? These chapters make no claim to be considered as an adequate critical treatment of the ballads and songs, but they can scarcely have failed to impress on the reader one prominent peculiarity of these lyrics. This peculiarity may be expressed by different terms: it may be described negatively, from the poetry never being violently strained into accordance with rules, as artlessness; positively, from the whole style being that which the subject spontaneously creates, as naturalness. Occasionally in more minute and excessive forms, this peculiarity is designated by a term of the same origin and the same grammatical meaning as naturalness, naïveté, which is merely the French form of our nativity. This characteristic of an artless or natural (naïve or native) style is the distinctive excellence of popular poetry. There was a period of British literature—indeed, of European litera
ture—so dazzled by the glitter of artistic finish as to be blind to the charm of natural expression; and it is only in recent times that the appreciation of this charm has revived. We are apt, therefore, to take credit to the superior discernment of these times for the recognition of this excellence, and consequently to overlook the merits of those who, in the midst of prevalent artificial tastes and in opposition to all the critical authorities by whom they were surrounded, had yet the insight to discover and the courage to proclaim the superior literary power of natural sentiment and natural action artlessly expressed to the most perfect work of art without these. Now, I do not know that this critical principle, though much has since been written in its illustration, has ever been more clearly stated than by Addison in his delightful critique of the popular English ballad, The Children in the Wood. "This story," he says and it is still refreshing to read his words "is a plain simple copy of nature, destitute of the helps and ornaments of art. The tale of it is a pretty tragical story, and pleases for no other reason but because it is a copy of nature. There is even a despicable simplicity in the verse; and yet because the sentiments appear genuine and unaffected, they are able to move the mind of the most polite reader with inward meltings of humanity and compassion. The incidents grow out of the subject, and are such as are most proper to excite pity; for which reason the whole narrative has something in it very moving, notwithstanding the author has delivered it in such an abject phrase and poorness of expression, that quoting any part of it would look like a