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CHAPTER IX.

LYRICAL POETRY.

Definitions-Classification-Ballads—Ballads of Robin Hood—The Bal.

lad of Chevy Chase-Scotch Ballads—Waly, Waly !—The Braes of Yarrow—Noteworthy Collections of Ballads-Hymns and Religious Poems—Hymns not always Poetry-George Herbert's TempleCrashaw's Steps to the Temple-Henry Vaughan-Milton's Hymn on the Nativity-A Christmas Hymn, by Alfred Dommet-Christ's Victory and Triumph, by Giles Fletcher—The Hymns of Dr. Isaac Watts—Pope's Messialı, Dying Christian, and Universal PrayerCharles Wesley-Moore's Sacred Songs—Byron's Hebrew MelodiesHenry Hart Milman's Hymns for Church Service-John Keble—The Christian Year-Love-Lyrics—The Songs of the Troubadours-The Sonnet-Wyatt, Spenser, Sidney, Shakspeare, Drayton, Drummond, Milton, Wordsworth—Mrs. Browning's Sonnets from the PortugueseWyatt's Love-Songs-Marlowe's Passionate Shepherd—The Nympli's Reply, by Raleigh-England's Helicon—Sir John Suckling-Robert Herrick—The Mistress, by Cowley—The Love Lyrics of Robert Burns -A Fond Kiss and then We Part—Moore's Love-Lyrics-Genevieve, and Love, by Coleridge--Songs of Patriotism-Rule Britannia !–Smollett's Poems-Scott on Patriotism-Burns—Scots Wha hae wi' Wallace Bled --James Hogg-Moore's Irish Melodies—Ye Mariners of England-Gray's Bard-Byron and Shelley— American PatriotismMontgomery and Goldsmith on Patriotism-Battle-Songs-Laurence Minot-Scott's Battle-Scenes-Macaulay-Tennyson and Drayton— Odes–Dryden and Pope on St. Cecilia's Day-Other Famous Odes-Elegies—Spenser's Astrophel-Milton's Lycidas--Shelley's Adonais-Tennyson's In Memoriam-Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wel. lington-Gray's Elegy-Pope's Elegy on an Unfortunate Lady—The Dirge in Cymbeline-Collins's Dirge in Cymbeline-Other ElegiesMiscellaneous Lyrics-Drummond's Poems—Ramsay-FergussonBurns-William Blake—Songs of Innocence-Whittier-Swinburne.

LYRICAL poetry, strictly defined, is that which is written to be sung to the accompaniment of music. In its broadest signification, however, it includes a large number of compositions which have never been set to music. It is the glowing utterance of passion aided by fancy and the imagination. It is true poetry. It is the means by which we give vent to our most ecstatic thoughts of happiness, and to our feelings of devotion to the Creator, to our country, to our friends, or to whatsoever is true and beautiful in nature. It is that form of poetry which appears earliest in a nation's literature, being the spontaneous expression of the feelings of the surcharged human soul.

Lyrical poems are usually short, but by reason of their great number they constitute no inconsiderable portion of the bulk of English poetry. For the sake of convenience in treatment we shall classify them as follows:

1. The Early Ballads.
2. Religious Songs and Hymns.
3. Love-Songs.
4. Songs of Patriotism.
5. Battle-Songs.
6. Odes.
7. Elegies.
8. Miscellaneous Lyrics.

1. The Early Ballads.—The ballads were originally the production of wandering minstrels or gleemen, a class of men very popular in the Middle Ages, who followed the profession of poetry and music. These rude poets were held in the highest esteem and veneration by the people among whom they lived, they were received and welcomed wherever they went, and even kings delighted to honor them. In short, their art was supposed, by the AngloSaxons, to be of divine origin, having been invented by Odin, the great All-Father, and perfected by Bragi, the musician of the gods. As, however, civilization advanced and Christianity became established, this admiration for the minstrel and his art became modified in a degree. He was no longer regarded as a poet, but only as a singer, a sweet musician. Poetry was cultivated by men of leisure and refinement; but lyrical ballads remained the peculiar inheritance of the minstrel. For a long time after the Norman conquest, minstrels continued to gain their livelihood by singing in the houses of the great, and at festive occasions, which were never considered complete unless graced by the presence of these honored descendants of Bragi; nor did they cease to compose and sing their inimitable pieces until near the close of Elizabeth's reign. The greater number of the ballads now in existence were probably produced during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; and the best of them originated in the "North Country,” or the Border region between England and Scotland. They were not at first reduced to writing, but were handed down from one generation to another merely by oral tradition. As agards their metre and versification, the ballads were commonly composed of iambic hexameters or heptameters rhyming in couplets. These couplets are readily broken into stanzas of four lines, in which form they are usually printed. These poems abound in antique words and phrases, and exhibit a natural carelessness in the use of language as well as in the construction of the

verse.

Among the earliest and most popular of English ballads are those relating to Robin Hood. This noted, halfmythical outlaw was the impersonation of popular rights as they were understood by Englishmen of the lower orders in the days of the Plantagenets. Hence the memory of him and his reputed deeds was preserved in the songs of the people. “It is he,” says an old historian, “whom the common people love so dearly to celebrate in games and comedies, and whose history, sung by fiddlers, interests them more than any other.” Even so late as the reign of Edward VI., “Robyn IIoode's Daye” was very generally observed in the country parishes as a day of feasting and amusement. The tradition which preserves his name and deeds relates that he lived in the reign of Henry II., and that, being outlawed for debt, he dwelt in the forest, subsisting on the king's game and on such plunder as he could take from the nobility who came in his way. He finally had command of a company of a hundred archers, equal in strength and valor to any four hundred men who might be brought against them. Chief among his friends and companions were Little John, George à Green Pinder, Friar Tuck, and Much, the miller's son. “ Poore men's goods he spared, abundantlie relieving with that which by theft he got from abbeys and the houses of rich earles;

and of all theeves he was the prince and the most gentle theef."* The following stanzas, selected from one of the best known of the Robin Hood Ballads, will serve as an illustration of the style and character of these early popular songs:

When shawes beene sheene, and shrads full fayre,

And leaves both large and longe,
Itt is merrye walkyng in the fayre forest,

To heare the small birdes songe.

O

The woodweele sang, and wold not cease,

Sitting upon the spraye,
Soe lowde, he wakened Robin Hood,

In the greenwood where he lay.

“Now, by my faye,” sayd jollie Robin,

“A sweaven I had this night;
I dreamt me of tow wighty yemen,

That fast with me can fight.

“Methought they did mee beate and binde,

And tooke my bow mee froe;
Iff I be Robin alive in this lande,

Ile be wroken on them towe.”

Little John, to whom this speech is directed, offers to go with the outlaw in search of these yeomen, but Robin Hood repels the proffered kindness with anger.

* Sto

Annals.

"It is no cunning a kuave to ken,

And a man but heare him speake;
And itt were not for bursting of my bowe,

John, I thy head wold breake!"

As often wordes they breeden bale,

So they parted, Robin and John;
And John is gone to Barnesdale;

The gates he knoweth eche one.

Robin goes alone in another direction, and meets a * 20man, Guy of Gisborne, in the wood.

"Good morrowe, good fellowe," sayd Robin so fayre,

“ Good morrowe, good fellowe,” quoth he.
“Methinks by this bowe thou bears in hande,

A good archere thou sholdst bee.”

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Robid Hood offers to show him the outlaw whom he seeks, but first challenges him to a trial of skill in archery. Robin is the victor in this friendly contest, and Guy, admiring his skill, asks his name.

“Nay, by my faith," quothe bolde Robin,

“ Till thou have told me thine.”

“I dwell by dale and downe,” quoth hee,

“ And Robin to take Ime sworne;
And when I am called by my right name,

I am Guy of good Gisborne."

“My dwelling is in this wood,” sayes Robin,

“By thee I set right nought:
I am Robin Hood, of Barnésdale,

Whom thou so long hast sought.”

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