A Collection of Ballads eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 146 pages of information about A Collection of Ballads.
entering into the joke, would commit her son’s fraudulent verses to memory, and recite them to Sir Walter as genuine tradition?  She said to Scott, that the ballad “never was printed i’ the world, for my brothers and me learned it and many mae frae auld Andrew Moore, and he learned it frae auld Baby Mettlin” (Maitland?) “wha was housekeeper to the first laird o’ Tushilaw.” (On Ettrick, near Thirlestane.  She doubtless meant the first of the Andersons of Tushielaw, who succeeded the old lairds, the Scotts.) “She was said to hae been another or a guid ane, and there are many queer stories about hersel’, but O, she had been a grand singer o’ auld songs an’ ballads.” (Hogg’s Domestic Manners of Sir Walter Scott, p. 61, 1834.)

“Maitland upon auld beird gray” is mentioned by Gawain Douglas, in his Palice of Honour, which the Shepherd can hardly have read, and Scott identified this Maitland with the ancestor of Lethington; his date was 1250-1296.  On the whole, even the astute Shepherd, in his early days of authorship, could hardly have laid a plot so insidious, and the question of the authenticity and origin of the ballad (obvious interpolations apart) remains a mystery.  Who could have forged it?  It is, as an exercise in imitation, far beyond Hardyknute, and at least on a level with Sir Roland.  The possibility of such forgeries is now very slight indeed, but vitiates early collections.

If we suspect Leyden, who alone had the necessary knowledge of antiquities, we are still met by the improbability of old Mrs. Hogg being engaged in the hoax.  Moreover, Leyden was probably too keen an antiquary to take part in one of the deceptions which Ritson wished to punish so severely.  Mr. Child expresses his strong and natural suspicions of the authenticity of the ballad, and Hogg is, certainly, a dubious source.  He took in Jeffrey with the song of “Donald Macgillavray,” and instantly boasted of his triumph.  He could not have kept his secret, after the death of Scott.  These considerations must not be neglected, however suspicious “Auld, Maitland” may appear.


From Buchan’s Ballads of the North of Scotland.  There are Elizabethan references to the poem, and a twelfth century romance turns on the main idea of sleep magically induced.  The lover therein is more fortunate than the hero of the ballad, and, finally, overcomes the spell.  The idea recurs in the Norse poetry.


Scott took this ballad from Mrs. Brown’s celebrated Manuscript.  The kind of spell indicated was practised by Hera upon Alcmena, before the birth of Heracles.  Analogous is the spell by binding witch-knots, practised by Simaetha on her lover, in the second Idyll of Theocritus.  Montaigne has some curious remarks on these enchantments, explaining their power by what is now called “suggestion.”  There is a Danish parallel to “Willie’s Ladye,” translated by Jamieson.

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