« AnteriorContinuar »
was only thirty-five years old, but had just won his laurels under Turenne. The ballad is addressed to
"You generals all and champions bold
That knock down palaces and castle walls, and coming from the mouth of one who had been guilty more than once of treason and perjury both to William of Orange and to James, offers to its more special audience some singularly inappropriate advice in this final verse
• Now on a Bed of sickness laid
I am resigned to die,
Stand true as well as I;
And fight with courage bold,
But neer was bribed with gold.' Our next section of Modern Events' is characterised throughout by such a general sameness of treatment as to need few examples by way of illustration. They are clearly written, for the most part, hastily, on the spur of the moment; and though they may command a good sale at first, they do so not by the wit, beauty, or aptness of the verse, but by the absorbing interest of the calamity which it describes. Thus, say, an appalling accident happens in London ; the news spreads like wildfire throughout the city, and gives rise to rumours, even dreadful than the reality. Before night it is embalmed in verse by one out of five or six well-known bards who get their living by writing for Seven Dials, and then chanting their own strains to the people. The inspiration of the poet is swift, the execution of the work rapid," but the pay is small. “I gets a shilling a copy for my verses' (says one) besides what I can make by selling 'em.' But the verses are ready and go to press at once. A thousand or two copies are struck off instantly, and the Orfle Calamity' is soon flying all over London from the mouths of a dozen or twenty minstrels, in the New Cut, in Leather Lane, Houndsditch, Bermondsey, Whitechapel, High Street, Tottenham-court-road-or wherever a crowd of listeners can be easily
* How rapid may be judged from the following fact. On Thursday, Feb. 21, 2 woman named Walker was brought before the magistrate and charged with robbing Mr. F. Brown, her master, a publican, to whom she had offered her services as a
She was sent to prison, and there her sex was discovered. The next morning, at 10 A.M., two men and two women were singing her personal history and adventures in the New Cut, to a large but not select audience, under the title of • The She Barman of Southwark.' It was great trash, but sold well.
and safely called together. If the subject admits of it, two minstrels chant the same strain,
In lofty verse Pathetic they alternately rehearse, each taking a line in turn, and each vying with the other in doleful tragedy of look and voice. A moment suffices to give out in sepulchral accents, Dreadful Accident this day on the Ice' in Regent's Park,' and then the dirge begins
• You feeling Christians, both high and low
(Then in full chorus from both voices)
They sank that Tuesday never more to rise.' The dismal horror attending on a dozen such verses shouted out con spirito in the midst of a busy thoroughfare, spreads rapidly, and the crowd thickens as they stand aghast, all intently listening, and all eager to buy, whilst
patulis stant rictibus omnes 't at shop doors, and at open windows, old people and young, drinking in every scrap of the doleful strain, and on tiptoe to catch a glimpse of the minstrels in the crowd as the pathos deepens at the words
O see that father how he stands so calm
The Boat has reach'd them, Oh ! thank God they're saved.' Such a ballad is sure to be popular, and unless the weather is unusually cold or wet, a couple of active singers will dispose of twenty or thirty dozen copies in a single day. And in this way an edition of 5000 or 10,000 soon runs off, to the extreme advantage of Mr. Catnach, if not to the immortality of the poet.
Other topics in this class, such as the Norwich Festival, *The Wreck of the London,' 'A Night in a London Workhouse, and the ‘Yelverton Marriage Case,' or “The Lady beat the
* C. Lamb's translation of V. Bourne. Vol. 122.-No. 244.
† V. Bourne's Poem, “Seven Dials.'
Soldier,' are, for the most part, so alike in point of general treatment, that one specimen exemplifies them all. Here and there, indeed, in the dull, dead level of commonplace, a single, solitary line sparkles up to the surface, as where alluding to what the famous ' Amateur Casual' went through in his Night at Lambeth Workhouse, the poet says
“So he went through his degrees like a blessed brick *
Thro' scenes he had never seen before Sir,
For bestowing a thought upon the poor Sir.' But this is altogether an exception to the rule, and nothing can be duller or more prosaic than the heavy lamentations which he pours
forth over the • Loss of the London,' or more trumpery than the vulgar smartness of “The Lady who loved her Father's Groom. Making but one more quotation from The Trafalgar Square Lions,' we must leave · Modern Events.' Here again we have a spark of humour. No sooner are the Lions in their places than they catch sight of the monster on the top of Northumberland House
" They shouted, brother pray how do you do?
Sir Edwin Landseer's Lions.' We pass on, therefore, to the next division of our subject, the “Religious Ballads ;' and here we come upon an entirely new stratum, and with one step dash headlong into the raging waters of religious controversy between the Protestant and Romish Churches. With the exception of a single sheet, which contains Patient Job,” and “The Hymn of May,' all the Ballads are clearly the work of a red-hot Irish Papist, armed with all the resources of an unscrupulous tongue, and a "mighty zeal for convarsion.' A verse or two from · Job,' and “The Hymn of May' will at once show the character of the milder Protestant
Both compositions are in the same metre, both evince the same lofty contempt for rhyme, and both are so entirely to the same tune, that they might well pass for parts of one poem.
If · Job'says
* Mr. James Greenwood, indeed, not only deserves infinite praise for thus heroically “graduating at Lambeth,' but for having so called public attention to the infamies of the workhouse as to rouse the feeling which has culminated in Mr. Hardy's admirable legislation.
Be watchful of your latter end
Be ready when you're called,
Some rises and some falls'-
"The life of a man is no more than a span
He flourishes here as a flower,
We're all of us gone in an hour !' The other Religious Ballads seem to be importations from County Cork for the express edification of the lower orders of Irish Papists, who yet haunt the grimiest dens and courts of Whitechapel, St. Giles's, and the New Cut. One of the finest flowers of the bouquet is entitled, 'Answer to the Protestant Drum,' in which the poet apparently replies to some attack on the Romish Church, which has roused his anger to the highest pitch of fury. The whole eleven stanzas are one long, blazing, rant against the Reformed Church, and everything connected with it. Every word of that Church against the Virgin Mary is * heinous and blasphemous,'
• She is honoured by Christians, despised by Philistines,
And insulted by those of the Protestant Drum.' For those who insult her the very hottest corner in the hottest of all imaginable places is scarcely warm enough,
Where is Luther and Calvin in-they're all burning
They're calling for aid, but they can't find no aid! And thus with a string of double negatives, that seem to him of almost Grecian potency, he pursues his hapless victims through all the torments of chains, flaming fire, and raging thirst, until he comes to King Henry VIII. As for the Reformation, it was 'Satan who invented 'it;' but ‘King Harry' was in all the wickedness his grand aid and abettor, and is now in the hottest place with Luther and Calvin. And not only was he head and chief in all wickedness, the curse of the land,' but guilty of incest, and the author of all the intolerable woes which the word Orange has wrought in Ireland. • Young Nancy,' whispers 2 D 2
Satan, 'is charming, by all means take her, and get rid of poor, doating Catharine,' and so it came to pass that
King Harry, Anne's father, who wed his own daughter
T'was from his cursed lust that Orange first sprang,
And then march'd to Hell with his Protestant Drum.'
No wonder, therefore, that when this monstrous arch-heretic's life came to an end, and having started for the next world he called on St. Peter to let him in, pleading that he was the champion of the Reformation, and a great English king, he met with a flat denial,
'O King, says St. Peter, the curse of the nations
You denied Pope and Popery, and that you have done,
Protestant Drum.' Having thus demolished the Protestant Church, Bluff King Hal, and the Reformation in about ten stanzas, he disappears with a grand flourish of trumpets
So now to conclude and finish these lines
I think I have answered the Protestant Drum,
They'd all become Catholics every one.' Meanwhile, until that desirable time shall arrive, we must be content to pass on to our next section of Miscellaneous' Ballads, of which, however, we almost despair of giving our readers any adequate notion by mere extracts. We wander from grave to gay, from lively to severe, from boisterous fun to faint satire, to touches of mild sentiment and mysterious bathos, until we fancy that all the blazing metaphors and fiery denunciations of the • Protestant Drum' school must be an entire myth.
Yet they issue from the same press, and find a sale among the same appreciating admirers. What pensive housemaid, in these perilous days of crinolines and chignons,' could withstand the fascination of a Ballad beginning thus :
‘One morning serene as I roved in solitude
For to view the magnitude of the ardent way,
With their sweet melody tuned each spray.
&c.' It is fairly entrancing to hear of a maiden whose cheeks were