the grimsay press

Among the Old Scotch Minstrels studying their Ballads of War, Love, Social life, Folk-Lore and Fairyland (1888)
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By McDowall, William
ISBN 1845300904
SERIES Ecclefechan Carlyle Society
Paperback  358 pages
Published 30 August 2010
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"Not a few students of the Old Scottish Ballads have endeavoured, with less or more success, to identify their heroes and heroines with real personages, to fix with some degree of precision the scenery of the incidents, and to ascertain the historical value of such metrical tales as relate to matters of national importance. Into these well-traversed fields of inquiry the author of this volume has rarely ventured. He has approached the ballads in a sympathetic spirit, accepting them as the genuine utterances of men who made it their business and their pleasure to instruct and entertain the public, and had full faith in their mission. He has aimed at being descriptive rather than critical; as the ballads are the product of a credulous age, and were addressed to believ­ing audiences, he has listened to them with a receptive ear. When entering the circle of the old minstrels, it was with uncovered head and reverential step, and to become, as it were, a humble but loving disciple, luxuriating in the romantic atmosphere which they breathe, the unconventional sentiment- delicate yet bold, ' tender and true'-which they express, in verse that is rarely commonplace, and is often richly musical. Fully sixty ballads are studied in the text, these comprising nearly all the best productions of their kind now extant. The author is aware that certain able critics have looked upon some of them as mere imitations; but he is of opinion that all the pieces he has dealt with carry as credentials the unmistakable hoar and flavour of antiquity. It will be seen that he has adopted a new classification, the divisions being into historical and warlike, border and warlike, tragical, amatory and tragical, melodramatic, and mythological, which may perhaps meet with the reader's approval, even though several of the ballads given in one group possess features in common with those of other sections. The author may perhaps be permitted to add that some ten of the 'studies' are thirty years old, that the others were produced within the last fourteen months, and that the more he mixes with the old Scottish minstrels the better he likes their company." - From the Preface.

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