Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

come into the possession of only a few. It appeared to the editor of the present volumes, that if a collection could be made, comprising all the really good songs, accompanied by all the information respecting them which can now be recovered, and at once handsome in appearance and cheap in price, the object would be still more decidedly accomplished.

From these motives, and with these views, the present collection was undertaken. It will be found to contain all the songs written in and regarding Scotland, which have either the merit of being old and characteristic, or that of being new and popular. No original songs are admitted, as in most other collections; because it is inconsistent with the idea of a collection of the best songs of a country, that some should be accepted which have not yet endured the ordeal of public taste. In an Introductory Essay, a view is given of all the facts known with certainty regarding Scottish Song in general; and to almost all the songs are appended notes, containing such anecdotes, and other pieces of information, referring to them individually, as the editor considered necessary for their illustration, or at least mentioning the earliest printed collection in which they are known to have appeared. No songs of an indecorous nature

are introduced; while from one or two others which are included, the objectionable passages are silently omitted ; the editor judging it better to fit his book, by that very slight sacrifice, for the use of the tasteful, the fair, and the young, than to consult the wishes of the antiquary; who, after all, has but little reason to complain of such violations, seeing that the songs are to be found, in all their native beauty, in the collections of Ramsay and Herd.

HANOVER STREET, EDINBURGH;

April 27, 1829.

1

HISTORICAL ESSAY

ON

SCOTTISH SONG.

It seems extremely strange, that, although the Scottish people are more proud of their songs and music than of

any

other branch of literature or accomplishment peculiar to them, they can tell very little regarding the origin and early history of these endeared national treasures. Yet, mysterious as the thing appears, it is perhaps easily to be accounted for. Poetry and music, till the early part of the last century, lived a very vagrant and disreputable life in Scotland. They flourished vigorously in the hearts and souls of the people—for the people of Scotland were susceptible of the strongest impressions from poetry and music. But they were discountenanced, to the last degree, by the public institutions of the country. The voice of song was, perhaps, daily heard on the lea and on the mountain side, where the simple ploughman and shepherd were following their various occupations ; it was also, perhaps, heard nightly under the sooty rafters of the humble cot, breathing from fair or from manly lips, as an amusement for the hours of relaxation. It was

a

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

employed universally in giving expression to the passions of humble life. It supplied language to the bashful shepherd lover in addressing the beautiful and barefooted divinity, who had first sent the thrill of love into his heart. It supplied that divinity, in her turn, with inpuendoes and evasive phrases, wherewith to play the first game of coquetry; and finally, with metaphorical imagery, in which to clothe her confession and consent. Youth found in song a weapon to employ against the selfish views of age ; and age found, in its various and interminable armoury, a dart wherewith to transfix and mortify the inconsiderate passions of youth. Yet, although thus of universal application in ordinary life, and although forming so great a part in the sum of rustic enjoyment, it was always looked upon with aversion and disrespect by persons concerned in public affairs. It was a sinful thing, arising from the natural wickedness of the heart; a thing, at least, that tended to pleasure, and which was therefore condemned by the oracles of a religious creed, which looked upon every human pleasure, however innocent, as calculated to ensnare and mislead. If it lived at all, it lived as crimes live against the exertions of the High Court of Justiciary, or as the tribe of rats continues to exist notwithstanding the craft of the rat-catcher. Its existence was altogether clandestine and desultory. It never appeared, so to speak, above board. It stole along, a little hidden rill of quiet enjoyment, beneath the incumbent mass of higher, and graver, and more solid matters. Its history, thus, is no more noted by the chroniclers of the kingdom, than the course of a subterraneous river is marked on the map of the country in which it is situated.

Such having been the condition of Scottish song till a recent period, it necessarily follows that very little can be recovered by the present generation regarding it. It would be no more possible to compile a history of the vagrant ditties wbieh delighted the sixteenth

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »