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lyrics demanded a separate notice. It can never be a cause of complaint that England is singularly barren of song-writers, though it may be said she is somewhat deficient in good ones. Our best poets have almost all attempted song, and have, I think, too frequently failed, while those who have been generally spoken of as second class authors, have without exception the most lyrical turn of thought and expression. People are too apt to consider a song as a trifle because it is short, not remembering the compression, or what Dryden has styled the closeness of thought, with the simplicity, pathos, and music, requisite for an author to excel in a very difficult and very high department of genius. Burns has somewhere said that those who consider a good song as a trifle easy to be written, should set themselves down and try.
The songs of Mr. Moore are all but unequalled for elegance of expression and subtlety of thought, flowing along at the same time in the exactest harmony. The airs of Ireland are not only
Married to immortal verse, but he has indeed as Cowley said, married them to eternal youth, for time shall lend them fresh fervour and fresh beauty.*
* The Editor regrets that he has been unable to obtain permission to insert some of Mr. Moore's songs in this collection. He acknowledges the courtesy and kindness of Mr. Moore io granting him per. mission to select what he required as far as it lay in his power to do VOL. I.
Barry Cornwall has caught much of the spirit, and lyrical ease of our old dramatists. The depth of thought in his songs, is what we too rarely meet with. I need only mention the names of Mr. Lover and Mr. Darley, and who can do so without great approbation.
In looking over the works of our poets, it cannot but be a source of regret that such authors as Cowley, Donne, Daniel, Drummond, and many others had not given the fine ore of their genius a more popular cast, or a more musical nicety. The sentiments of these writers though often laboured and artificial, are frequently pleasingly natural, indeed some of the very finest compliments, or what should properly be called conceits, may be found in their pages. A gentleman author, Sir Benjamin Rudyard, who flourished during the Elizabethan period, has one of the happiest, one of the luckiest complimental conceits ever imagined, he begins by saying since every man is singing the praises of his love, he sees no reason why he should not make some pretty song for the favourite of his heart, that she may fit it to her voice.
80 ;-but the publisher and proprietor of the Irish Melodies has refused so many similar requests, that he could not accede, to the present one without giving offence to titled and noble applicants. The Edi. tor cannot conceive what injury the printing of half a dozen songs could do to the copyright of a work like the Irish Melodies-which must be in the hands of every one. Had the music of even a single song been printed, copyright would certainly have been interfered with and hurt-but with the printing of the lyrics themselves, the case seems otherwise.
As for descent and birth in her,
You see, before you seek-
United in ber cheek.
Several little elegancies of almost similar beauty might be brought forward from the writings of old poets did the limits of this preface permit such wandering
On comparing the English songs with the Scottish, it will be found, I think, that the former are more artificial, the latter more natural; the English love songs rather depending upon a single sentiment, the Scottish in a general description and admiration of beauty, the one bordering somewhat upon coldness, the other full of warmth and truth, the one seems addressed to their mistresses, the other to those whom they love as themselves. A Scottish song is a story mingled with sentiment—the English is a sentiment alone. The Englishman writes as a learned cavalier, the Scotsman as an enthusiastic devotee. There are certainly exceptions on both sides to this parallel, but this seems the distinction.
There are few drinking or convivial songs in the English language, songs which may be sung
When flowing cups run swiftly round
With no allaying Thames
the Scotch have got the better of their Southern neighbours in this respect; there are no English lyrics which we can class with · Willy brew'd a peck o' maut,' and · When I've a saxpence under my
thumb,' (the latter, says Burns, is perhaps the best bottle song ever composed); of songs which excite laughter, or what should be rather called comic or humorous songs, the English are equally deficient. The Scotchman can put forward Duncan Gray, Tibbie Fowler, Willy was a wanton wag, and Maggy Lauder, all written in the true comic spirit, full of glee and paw ky humour. Carey's strains are mere failures as drinking compositions, and when honest Harry, as Ritson delights to call him, descended into such strains as
Zeno, Plato, Aristotle,
his little talent was lost in mere balderdash.
Of martial, or what has been called naval and military songs, the English can shew few or none. While Thomson, Burns, Scott, and Campbell, have enriched the Scottish Anthologies, in this division of song, it must be regretted that Charles Dibdin is the only name an Englishman is able to produce.
If we observe so many beauties, and so many more admirable songs of nearly all kinds, the property of Scotland-it must nevertheless be admitted that the admirers of Anacreon will look in vain through the collection of Scots songs for a real Anacreontic, for an exquisite morsel written in the spirit of the old Grecian,—the English volumes are full of such sweets, such delicate and choice effusions of the fancy.
Ireland is on an equal footing with her sisterkingdoms in the department of Song-writing. Several of the finest productions contained in the present volume, are from the pens of Irishmen.
It will, the Editor thinks, be pretty generally allowed by those who are acquainted with lyrical compositions, that Ben Jonson stands decidedly at the head of English songsters, the delicacy and depth of his thought are unrivalled, but not more so than his exquisite manner of handling what one cannot but call a conceit. It was remarked by Burns that he would sooner be the author of one good song than twenty middling ones, Jonson's songs are not numerous (for I do not allude at large to those contained in his Masques which were not written, to be divided from the entertainments themselves), but the few he wrote are brilliants, brilliants of the first water set in the finest workmanship of gold. The request of his mistress to drink to him only with her eyes, will be admired as long as beauty has a lip, and gallantry is an ornament to man.
In the present collection of Songs it has been the desire of the Editor, not so much to please antiquarian readers with extracts from rare volumes, or the lovers of “mirth and jollity,' with over-rapturous and indelicate songs ; but by admitting whatever seemed to bear the stamp of talent and decency to give delight to beauty, and to place within the reach of the lovers of poetry a wellselected, and correct edition of our best lyrics