« PreviousContinue »
strength, as our vivid imaginations continued straining to portray every trait of the mournful, warlike, or pathetic, into the fair semblance of reality-when our mind's eye saw them all before us dancing into life, beckoning our compassion, rousing us up to feats of chivalry, or entreating our tears! When each and all of these fancy-born hallucinations kept flitting before our excited mind by turns, until, wearied and exhausted, we had fallen asleep, and alternately dreamed them all over again.
But, drawing this digressive parallel to a close, regarding early virgin impressions, whether the same has been called into existence from the study of nature, garnished forth in her May-tide livery, or, rather, from the talismanic aspirations of song, seared down upon the plastic mind during the halcyon days of infancy, the Editor now submits to his reader, an outline of the little work before him, which, for arrangement's sake, he has divided into Four Sections.
The first of these Sections, embraces a few essays by Byrd, the celebrated pupil of Tallis, along with selections from the works of numerous other musicians and lyric composers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These lighter emanations of the muse of bygone times, the Editor doubts not, will be sufficiently appreciated by many; while, to others, who deem themselves passingly
indifferent to every thing else which chimes not directly
“Some splendid passage in the last new poem,”
he would be inclined to remark, of these earlier Songs, wbat Burgh in his Anecdotes of Music, says of melody during the Elizabethian period, that those pieces, which, in their day, have afforded delight to the best judges of their respective merits, even now are entitled to examination as well as respect, however much the revolutions of taste and fashion may have diminished their popularity amongst us, their more polished and fastidious descendants. This First Section contains one hundred pieces, which, for the most part, are now only to be found sprinkled over the pages
of a few rare or expensive works; these are occasionally placed beyond the reach of the majority of song admirers, while others of them, he hazards not to say, bave long since been out of print, and remain altogether unknown, excepting to a very few antiquarians in lyrical lore.
The Second Section comprises a few excerpts from the unpublished minor poetry of Sir William Muir of Rowallan: the illustrative remarks
have been kindly furnished the Editor by the gentleman whose name is attached to the article; and by many, he doubts not,
this will be considered as the most interesting Section of the work. It ever will remain the Editor's most earnest wish, that the unpublished remains of this nearly forgotten Scottish poet, should, at some time or other, form a separate publication; and with the public, whose will in these matters is often tantamount to a law, it now rests to decide, whether or not this task should yet be attempted by him. The Editor, after having transcribed the whole of Sir William's recovered manuscript poetry, with the exception of his psalmody, and read each specimen individually and repeatedly over, is inclined to say much in favour of Rowallan's poetical powers, and even wills to place this western baronet's abilities, as a candidate in the Parnassian scale, almost next in degree with those of that much talked about, though little read or understood brother of the lyre, Sir William Drummond of Hawthornden, who also was his contemporary. These gentlemen having been born within nine years, and died within eight years of each other, the former in the sixtythird, and the latter in the sixty-fourth year, of their respective ages.
The Third Section, amongst other varieties, contains a small portion of the Song and Ballad lore, that erst was floating about on the wings of tradition, over the shires of Renfrew and Ayr, during the era of the Editor's boyhood; and which, some time ago, at passing intervals, were noted
down by him, partly from early recollections, and partly from the singing of one or two individuals, whose memories in these matters, had been greener than his own. These reminiscences were generally committed by him to paper, at the time, or soon afterwards, as nearly as the sets picked up during his juvenile researches, warranted him to do; and each traditionary specimen will now be found placed in its respective class, along with some illustrative notice or other, wherever the same has been deemed necessary. These pieces, as various in merit, as in plot or incident, are here given as they were found by him, so far as well could be done, without unnecessarily trespassing beyond the pale of decency and decorum; which restricting caveat, he is sorry to acknowledge, has, in not a few instances, caused him throw aside a number of superior pieces, which, but for their freedom, might otherwise have been admitted here, or any where else, as tolerably fair specimens of lyrical composition in their own way; but wherever, for the sake of introducing one or more of these, he has altered, as seemed to him for the better, any relic of the olden times, the correction, whatever it may be, is acknowledged in its subjoined note-while the traditional fragments gleaned by him, which now must be considered as nearly if not altogether bis own, when a whole could not be procured, have been eked out a stanza or two, or remodelled according to circumstances for the sake of unity, and then embodied into a song, with the intent of
wresting from oblivion's grasp, some fine old and semiforgotten melody, which he was anxious to see preserved, and equally tenacious that it should not be lost to posterity, if any trifling effort of his could avert the same.
The Fourth and last Section comprises a few of the Editor's own compositions.
Of the various and respectable individuals who have trodden over the same paths of Ancient Song he now regrettingly lingers upon, bis limits here forbid him from saying any thing, as sufficient notices will be found within the body of the work, regarding all of them he has been necessitated to consult, while drawing up and arranging this little volume for the press.
GLASGOW, Ist Sept. 1827.