Page images
PDF
EPUB

When we came in by Glasgow town,

We were a comely sight to see;
My love was clad in the black velvet,

And I myself in cramasie.

But had I wist, before I kissed,

That love had been sae ill to win,
I'd locked my heart in a case of gold.

And pinned it with a silver pin.

Oh, oh, if my young babe were born,

And set upon the nurse's knee,
And I myself were dead and gone,

[And the green grass growing over me!) The same ballad touch overweighs even the lyric quality of the verses about Yarrow:

«Willy's rare, and Willy's fair,

And Willy's wondrous bonny,
And Willy heght' to marry me

Gin e'er he married ony.

“Oh came you by yon water-side ?

Pu'd you the rose or lily?
Or came you by yon meadow green ?

Or saw you my sweet Willy ? »
She sought him east, she sought him west,

She sought him brade and narrow;
Syne, in the clifting of a craig,

She found him drowned in Yarrow.? Returning to Germany and to pure lyric, we have a pretty bit which is attached to many different songs.

High up on yonder mountain

A mill-wheel clatters round,
And, night or day, naught else but love

Within the mill is ground.
The mill has gone to ruin,

And love has had its day;
God bless thee now, my bonnie lass,

I wander far away.'
1 Promised.
2 Child's Ballads, vii. 179.
3 Böhme, p. 271.

But there is a more cheerful vein in this sort of song; and the mountain offers pleasanter views:

OH YONDER on the mountain,

There stands a lofty house,
Where morning after morning,

Yes, morning,
Three maids go in and out."

The first she is my sister,

The second well is known,
The third, I will not name her,

No, name her,
And she shall be my own!

Finally, that pearl of German folk-song, "Innsprück.' The wanderer must leave the town and his sweetheart; but he swears to be true, and prays that his love be kept safe till his return:

INNSPRÜCK, I must forsake thee,
My weary way betake me

Unto a foreign shore,
And all my joy hath vanished,
And ne'er while I am banished

Shall I behold it more.

I bear a load of sorrow,
And comfort can I borrow,

Dear love, from thee alone.
Ah, let thy pity hover
About thy weary lover

When he is far from home.

My one true love! Forever
Thine will I bide, and never

Shall our dear vow be vain.
Now must our Lord God ward thee,
In peace and honor guard thee,

Until I come again.

In leaving the subject of folk-song, it is necessary for the reader not only to consider anew the loose and unscientific way in which this term has been employed, but also to bear in mind that few of the above specimens can lay claim to the title in any rigid classification. Long ago, a German critic reminded zealous collectors of his

1 The rhyme in German leaves even more to be desired.

day that when one has dipped a pailful of water from the brook, one has captured no brook; and that when one has written down a folk-song, it has ceased to be that eternally changing, momentary, spontaneous, dance-begotten thing which once flourished everywhere as communal poetry. Always in flux, if it stopped it ceased to be itself. Modern lyric is deliberately composed by some one, mainly to be sung by some one else; the old communal lyric was sung by the throng and was made in the singing. When festal excitement at some great communal rejoicing in the life of clan or tribe fought its battles o'er again,” the result was narrative communal song. A disguised and baffled survival of this most ancient narrative is the popular ballad. Still more disguised, still more baffled, is the purely lyrical survival of that old communal and festal song; and the best one can do is to present those few specimens found under conditions which preserve certain qualities of a vanished world of poetry.

It may be asked why the contemporary songs found among Indian tribes of our continent, or among remote islanders in low stages of culture, should not reproduce for us the old type of communal verse. The answer is simple. Tribes which have remained in low stages of culture do not necessarily retain all the characteristics of primitive life among races which had the germs of rapidly developing culture. That communal poetry which gave life to the later epic of Hellenic or of Germanic song must have differed materially, no matter in what stage of development, from the uninteresting and monotonous chants of the savage. Moreover, the specimens of savage verse which we know retain the characteristics of communal verse, while they lack its nobler and vital quality. The dance, the spontaneous production, repetition, — these are all marked characteristics of savage verse. But savage verse cannot serve as model for our ideas of primitive folksong

nere.

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

2

JANE name of Samuel Foote suggests a whimsical, plump little

man, with a round face, twinkling eyes, and one of the CPL readiest wits of the eighteenth century. This contemporary of the elder Colman, Cumberland, Mrs. Cowley, and the great Garrick, knew many famous men and women, and they admired as well as feared his talents.

Samuel Foote was born at Truro in 1720. He was a young boy when he first exhibited his powers of mimicry at his father's dinnertable. At that time he did not expect to earn his living by them, for he came of well-to-do people, and his mother, who was of aristocratic birth, inherited a comfortable fortune.

Throughout his school days at Worcester and his college days at Worcester College, Oxford, where he did not remain long enough to take a degree, and the idle days when he was supposed to be studying law at the Temple and was in reality frequenting coffee-houses and drawing-rooms as a young man of fashion, he was establishing a reputation for repartee, bons mots, and satiric imitation. So, when the wasteful youth had squandered all his money, he naturally turned to the stage as offering him the best opportunity. Like many another amateur addicted to a mistaken ambition, Foote first tried tragedy, and made his début as Othello. But in this and in other tragedies he was a failure; so he soon took to writing comic plays with parts especially adapted to himself. "The Diversions of the Morning' was the first of a long series, of which «The Mayor of Garratt,' (The Lame Lover,' (The Nabob,' and 'The Minor,' are among the best known. As these were written from the actor's rather than from the dramatist's point of view, they often seem faulty in construction and crude in literary quality. They are farces rather than true comedies. But they abound in witty dialogue, and in a satire which illuminates contemporary vices and follies.

Foote seems to have been curiously lacking in conscience. He lived his life with a gayety which no poverty, misfortune, or physical suffering could long dampen. When he had money he spent it lavishly, and when the supply ran short he racked his clever brains to make a new hit. To accomplish this he was utterly unscrupulous, and never spared his friends or those to whom he was indebted, if he saw good material in their foibles. His victims smarted, but his ready tongue and personal geniality usually extricated him from consequent unpleasantness. Garrick, who aided him repeatedly, and who dreaded ridicule above all things, was his favorite butt, yet remained his friend. The irate members of the East India Company, who called upon him armed with stout cudgels to administer a castigation for an offensive libel in “The Nabob,' were so speedily mollified that they laid their cudgels aside with their hats, and accepted his invitation to dinner.

To us, much of his charm has evaporated, for it lay in these very personalities which held well-known people up to ridicule with a precision which made it impossible for the originals to escape recognition. Even irascible Dr. Johnson, who wished to disapprove of him, admitted that there was no one like that fellow Foote.” So this «Aristophanes of the English stage” was mourned when he died at the age of fifty-seven, and a company of his friends and fellow-actors buried him one evening by the dim light of torches in a cloister of Westminster Abbey.

There is often a boisterous unreserve in the plays of Foote, as in other eighteenth-century drama, which revolts modern taste. As they consist of character study rather than incident, mere extracts are apt to appear incomplete and meaningless. Therefore it seems fairer to represent the famous wit not alone by formal citation, but also by some of his bons mots extracted from the collection of William Cooke in his Memoirs of Samuel Foote' (2 vols. 1806).

HOW TO BE A LAWYER

From «The Lame Lover)

Enter Jack

ERJEANT —So, Jack, anybody at chambers to-day ?

Jack — Fieri Facias from Fetter Lane, about the bill to be filed by Kit Crape against Will Vizard this term. Serjeant Praying for an equal partition of plunder ? Jack — Yes, sir.

Serjeant — Strange world we live in, that even highwaymen can't be true to each other! [Half aside to himself.] But we shall make Vizard refund; we'll show him what long hands the law has.

Jack — Facias says that in all the books he can't hit a precedent.

« PreviousContinue »