My brother was a great admirer of the Ingoldsby Legends, and could himself handle Richard Barham’s fascinating metre very effectively. He was meditating “A Pseudo-Ingoldsbean Lay,” dealing with leading personalities in the then House of Commons. The idea came to nothing, as an “Ingoldsby Legend” must, from its very essence, be cast in a narrative form, and the subject did not lend itself to narrative. Although it has nothing to do with the subject in hand, I must quote some lines from “The Raid of Carlisle,” another “Pseudo-Ingoldsbean Lay” of my brother’s, to show how easily he could use Barham’s metre, with its ear-tickling double rhyme, and how thoroughly he had assimilated the spirit of the Ingoldsby Legends. The extracts are from an account of an incident which occurred in 1596 when Lord Scroop was Warden of the Western or English Marches on behalf of Elizabeth, while Buccleuch, on the Scottish side, was Warden of the Middle Marches on behalf of James VI.
“Now, I’d better
explain, while I’m still in the vein,
That towards the close of Elizabeth’s reign,
Though the ‘thistle and rose’ were no longer at blows,
They’d a way of disturbing each other’s repose.
A mode of proceeding most clearly exceeding
The rules of decorum, and palpably needing
Some clear understanding between the two nations,
By which to adjust their unhappy relations.
With this object in view, it occurred to Buccleuch
That a great deal of mutual good would accrue
If they settled that he and Lord Scroop’s nominee
Should meet once a year, and between them agree
To arbitrate all controversial cases
And grant an award on an equable basis.
A brilliant idea that promised to be a
Corrective, if not a complete panacea—
For it really appears that for several years,
These fines of ‘poll’d Angus’ and Galloway steers
Did greatly conduce, during seasons of truce,
To abating traditional forms of abuse,
And to giving the roues of Border society
Some little sense of domestic propriety.
So finding himself, so to
speak, up a tree,
And unable to think of a neat repartee,
He wisely concluded (as Brian Boru did,
On seeing his ‘illigant counthry’ denuded
Of cattle and grain that were swept from the plain
By the barbarous hand of the pillaging Dane)
To bandy no words with a dominant foe,
But to wait for a chance of returning the blow,
And then let him have it in more suo.”
These extracts make me regret that the leading personalities in the Parliament of 1886 were not commemorated in the same pleasant, jingling metre.