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Volume 43, 1910
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Also verses 134, 163, 202, 210, 239, 242, and 249. It is probable that in poetry, in the transition stage from Romance to Ballad, these heavy-ended verses will be found in more abundance than in later poetry. In natural growths all departures from the “type” tend to die out, seeing that the type is the mean result of many varying forms of which the departures are individuals only. If they have sufficient vigour to persist, they may produce new forms—fixed variations. When poetry was more recited than written the process of elimination of departures from type would be carried on in the speech, and it is only when the departures have become fossilized in manuscript that we can see the process at work. Had Chapman's verses been memorized and recited instead of being written, it is probable—almost certain—that the heavy-ended verses would have been changed; nor would any great change be needed to convert them into the light-ended, heavy-headed verses of the “type”—the Balled.

(6a.) Obeying his high will, the priest trod off with haste and fear

would easily become

(6b.) The priest, obeying his high will, trod off with haste and fear;

and so on. Whilst the verses quoted in example No. (6) seem unbalanced when separated from the context, they are, when read in the poem, paused in accordance with rhythmical division, not syntactical :—

(7.) a. Jove's and Latona's son; who, fired Against the king of men
b. Obeying his high will, the priest
Trod off with haste and fear;
c. And quiver covered round, his hands
Did on his shoulders throw;

This reversed division occurs with a new feature in modern poetry :—

(8.)  Well does the May that lies
Smiling in thy cheeks, confess
The April in thine eyes;
Mutual sweetness they express.
No April e'er lent kinder showers,
Nor May returned more faithful flowers.

(Crashaw, “Saint Mary Magdalene.”)

(9.) So it is, my dear.
All such things touch secret strings
For heavy hearts to bear.
So it is, my dear.

(D. G. Rosseth, “Even So.”)

(10.) Go forth! for she is gone!
With the golden light of her wavy hair,
She is gone to the fields of the viewless air,
She hath left her dwelling lone!

(Mrs. Hemans, “The Bird's Release.”)

(11.) A voice from Scio's isle—
A voice of song, a voice of old
Swept far as cloud on billow rolled,
And earth was hushed the while.

(Mrs. Hemans, “The Voice of Scio.”)

The new feature is the place now taken by the pause; it neither precede nor follows the Ballad verse, but divides it, so that the first line in each example is, as it were, isolated, the latter half of the first full verse combining

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with the next verse. Take example No. (11), in which are combined two full Ballad verses. As read, this stanza is divided by the pause :—

(11a.) A voice/  from Sci/o's isle/—  /   a voice/  of song/,  a, voice/  of old/
Swept far/  as cloud/  on bil/low rolled/,  and earth/  was hushed/  the while/.   /

The first three stresses are isolated, and the rest of the stanza is knit into a perfect whole. The heavy half of the Ballad verse refuses to follow—it will lead, as does the heavy head of the arrow—and a new combination results. Let two stanzas be quoted :—

(11b.) A voice from Scio's isle—
A voice of song, a voice of old
Swept far as cloud on billow rolled,
And earth was hushed the while.
The souls of nations woke!
Where lies the land, whose hills among
That voice of victory hath not rung
As if a trumpet spoke?

In both stanzas, and in every stanza of the poem, the first line of three accents is separated from the rest of the stanza by a pause; the rime is its sole connection, from a metrical point of view. Omit the first line of the two stanzas quoted :—

(11c.) A voice of song, a voice of old
Swept far as cloud on billow rolled,
And earth was hushed the while.
Where lies the land, whose hills among
The voice of victory hath not rung.
As if a trumpet spoke?*

Substitute for “And earth was hushed the while,” “Nor earth the silence broke,” and the “Dowsabel” stanza is the result. Or if the pause isolating the first line be filled—

(11d.) A voice from Scio's isle, ‘tis told,
A voice of song, a voice of old
Swept far as cloud on billow rolled,
And earth was hushed the while
The souls of nations woke and sung,
Where lies the land, whose hills among
That voice of victory hath not rung
As if a trumpet spoke?

—the stanza of “Helen of Kirkconnel” results, this stanza being a combination of a Romance with a Ballad verse, as the former is the “telescoping” of those two verses.

5. Another possible origin may be conjectured. Bishop Percy, in. his Reliques, has fortunately preserved an unpolished piece of work from the stithy of the poet's brain. He prints the first stanza of “A, Robyn, Jolly Robyn” :—

(12.) “A, Robyn,
Jolly Robyn,
Tell me how thy leman doeth,
And thou shalt know of myn.”

[Footnote] * reference might be made to the remarks by Professor Saintsbury on what has in this paper been called the Dowsabel form of verse, in “History of English Prosody,” vol. i., pp. 92, 93.

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And the second stanza :—

“My lady is unkynde perde.”
“Alack! why is she so?”
“She loveth an other better than me;
And yet she will say no.”

The Bishop remarks, “Yet the first stanza appears to be defective, and it should seem that a line is wanting, unless the first four words were lengthened in the time.” But the two fragmentary lines—

A, Robyn,
Jolly Robyn,

—simply form half of a Romance verse; and the stanza runs trippingly as—

(12a.) “A, Robyn, jolly Robyn,
Tell me how thy leman doeth,
And thou shalt know of myn.”

—which, again, forms half of a “Dowsabel” stanza. These fragmentary lines give body to a certain thought that lies at the back of the mind when it is said that the Romance verse is the average length of a spoken or recited sentence—the thought that in old ballads, newly taking shape, there must have been many sentences that either exceeded or fell short of the average. These erratic verses would naturally be altered to conform to type, or if they proved inconformable they would be replaced by others, and would in either case disappear. If, indeed, they were possessed of sufficient vitality, and were on the lines of natural development, they would become established as permanent variations, or might even supplant the parent type, becoming themselves the new type from which subsequent variations would flow. The latter is the case with the Ballad metre, which threatened to supplant the Romance metre; the former is the case as regards the permanent variations of the Alexandrine and Nibelungen metres. This constant alteration and development was a process at first largely carried on in the minds of the singers or reciters: a verse that sounded harsh when recited by one poet would be altered by another with perhaps a finer ear, and so the change would go on until the whole poem was conformable to type, or until it had been caught and set up by a scribe, becoming an example for all time. Even after a poem had been committed to manuscript, and often during that very process, it underwent new changes, until, excepting for the matter, the two forms can hardly be recognized as being originally one and the same.

6. A short study of the “Ancient Ballad of Chevy Chase” will reveal the existence of many varieties of verses, some of which are now fixed types, but most of which are obsolete. One stanza is printed by Bishop Percy :—

(13.) “Nay [then]” sayd the lord Persè,
“I tolde it the biforne,
That I wolde never yeldyde be
To no man of woman born.”

(Part ii, stanza 11.)

The “then” of the first line was inserted by Percy, so that in the manuscript the stanza had a very different opening :—

(13a.) “Nay” sayd the lord Persè,
“I tolde it the biforne,

Divided, the two forms side by side are,—

(13b.) “Nay/  then” sayd/  the lord/  Persè/,  “I tolde/  it the/  biforne/,
“Nay” sayd/  the lord/  Persè/,   /  “I tolde/  it the/  biforne/,
[or] “Nay”/  sayd the lord/  Persè/,   /  “I tolde/  it the/  biforne/,

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Similarly, the stanza given by Percy as opening—

(14.) The[y] tooke [on] on ethar hand
Be the lyght off the mone;

(Part ii, stanza 25.)

—should be,—

(14a.) The tooke on ethar hand
Be the lyght off the mone;

Again comparing the divided forms :—

(14b.) The[y]/  tooke [on]/  on e/thar hand/  be the/  lyght off/  the mone/;
The tooke/  on e/thar hand/   /be the/  lyght off/  the mone/;

In both instances Percy has made an abrupt Ballad verse out of what was originally an ordinary Alexandrine. Such alternation of Alexandrine with Ballad was and is common enough: an example by the Earl of Surrey has been given in example No. (28), Section I, of this chapter. The Nibelungen verse is also found in “Chevy Chase”—

(15a.) Then sayd the doughtè Doglas
Unto the lord Persè:
“To kyll all thes giltless men,
A-las! it wear great pittè.

(Part i, stanza 19.)

(15a.) Then sayd/  the dough/te Dog/las   /  unto/  the lord/  PersèG/:

—though by the accent-marks Percy would make the verse Alexandrine. In the stanzas following hereunder the Ballad of the first verse dwindles to Nibelungen in the second and third, and to Alexandrine in the fourth :—

(16.) Thear was slayne with the lord Persè
Sir John of Agerstone,
Sir Roger the hinde Hartly,
Sir Wyllyam the bolde Hearone.
Sir Jorg the worthèG Lovele
A knyght of great renowen,
Sir Raff the ryche Rugbè
With dyntes were beaten downe.

(Part ii, stanzas 28, 29.)

(16a.) Thear/  was slayne/  with the lord/  Persè/  Sir John/  of A/  gerstone/,
Sir Ro/ger the hin/de Hart/ly,   /  Sir Wyl/lyam the bolde/  Hearone/.
Sir Jorg/  the wor/thè Lo/vele   /a knyght/  of great/  renowen/,
Sir Raff/  the ryche/  Rugbè/   /  with dyn/tes were bea/ten downe/.

The swelling of the Ballad to the parent Romance is even more noticeable :—

(17.) The dougheti Dogglas on a stede
He rode att his men beforne;
His armor glytteryde as dyd a glede;
A bolder barne was never born.

(Part i, stanza 14.)

(17a.) The dough/eti Dog/glas on/  a stede/  he rode/  att his men/  beforne/;  /
His ar/mor glytt/eryde as dyd/  a glede/; a bol/der barne/  was ne/ver born/.

It swells to full Romance in both verses of the following :—

(18.) Tivydale may carpe off care,
Northombarlond may mayk grate mone,
For towe such captayns, as slayne wear thear.
On the march perti shall never be none.

(Part ii, stanza 34.)

(18a.) Ti/vydale/  may carpe/  off care/,  Northom/barlond/  may mayk/  grate mone,
For towe/  such cap/tayns, as slayne/  wear thear/,  on the march/  perti/  shall ne/ver be none/.

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In several verses even the Romance is exceeded :—

(19.) “Leave off the brytlyng of the dear,” he sayde,
“And to your bowys look ye tayk good heed;
For never sithe ye wear on your mothars borne
Had yo never so mickle need.”

(Part i, stanza 13.)

This “Battle of Chevy Chase” is a stirring, rugged old Ballad; and the process of forcing to type is clearly seen when the foregoing stanzas are compared with the parallel stanzas in the later version, given by Percy as “the more improved edition of that fine Heroic ballad.” He says the bard of the latter has “everywhere improved the versification”—that is, he has brought it into strict conformity with type. In this “improved edition” quotation No. (13) becomes—

(20.) “Noe, Douglas,” quoth Erl Percy then,
“Thy proffer I doe scorne;
I will not yeelde to any Scott
That ever yett was borne.”

(Stanza 38.)

Quotation No. (16) becomes—

(21.) With stout Earle Percy, there was slainc
Sir John of Egerton,
Sir Robert Ratcliff, and Sir John,
Sir James that bold Barron:
And with Sir George and stout Sir James,
Both knights of good account,
Good Sir Ralph Raby there was slaine,
Whose prowosse did surmount.

(Stanzas 51, 52.)

Here Procrustes has been lengthening the limbs of his victims without a doubt. Quotation No. (17) becomes—

(22.) Erle Douglas on his milke-white steede,
Most like a baron bold,
Rode foremost of his company,
Whose armour shone like gold.

(Stanza 17.)

And, lastly, quotation No. (19) becomes the second verse of—

(23.) All men of pleasant Tivydale,
Fast by the river Tweede:”
“O, cease your sports,” Erie Percy said,
“And take your bowes with speede:

All the ruggedness, and much of the life, have disappeared in the course of “improvement,” and we may be quite certain that our smoothest ballads have resulted from a similar process. It is possible that even in the older form the process is seen at work in a verse like—

(24.) That day, that day, that dreadfull day:
The first Fit here I fynde.

(Part i, last stanza.)

—where an Alexandrine—

(24a.) That day, that dreadfull day:
The first Fit here I fynde.

—has been swelled to the full Ballad by the insertion of another “that day.” Such verses are of very frequent occurrence in the old ballads; in

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“Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne,” a ballad of fifty-nine stanzas as given by Percy, there are five :—

(25.) a. “Woe worth, woe worth thee, wicked wood,
That ere thou grew on a tree;

(Verse 35.)

b. Saies, “Lye there, lye there, now sir Guye,
And with me be not wrothe;

(Verse 87.)

c. “Hearken, hearken,” sayd the sheriffe, “I heare now tydings good,

(Verse 95.)

They are also of frequent occurrence in modern ballads, as in Coleridge's “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” :—

(26.) a. Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere
Nor any drop to drink.
b. “Fear not, fear not, thou wedding-guest!
This body dropt not down.

And many others. In many instances the repetition adds force,* but in as many it appears to be mere filling-out to obtain conformity to type.

7. An amplification of a somewhat different kind appears in Burns's poem :—

(27.) O, wert thou in the cauld blast
On yonder lea, on yonder lea,
My plaidie to the angry airt,
I'd shelter thee, I'd shelter thee.
Or did Misfortune's bitter storms
Around thee blaw, around thee blaw,
Thy bield should be my bosom,
To share it a’, to share it a'.

Every verse of both stanzas of the poem echoes in the same way. An abruptness, otherwise too apparent, is rounded off by the echo. There is no echo in Walsh's “Mo Craoibhin Cno,” and the result is almost disagreeable :—

(28.) The high-bred dames of Dublin town
Are rich and fair,
With wavy plumes and silken gown,
And stately air;
Can plumes compare thy dark-brown hair?
Can silks thy neck of snow?
Or measured pace thine artless grace,
Mo craoibhin cno,
When harebells scarcely show thy trace,
Mo craoibhin cno?

(Stanza 2.)

Again, one is inclined to draw out the “rich and fair” like “love's young dream” in the example with No. (28b) of Section I, or to echo as in Burns's stanza, the reason being that the verse as it stands—

(28a.) The high-bred dames of Dublin town
Are rich and fair,

[Footnote] * As in Coleridge's

[Footnote] Alone, alone, all, all alone,

[Footnote] Alone on a wide, wide sea!

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—is not conformable to type: it is, in reality, an unpaused Alexandrine. The same is true of the two concluding verses of Burns's characteristic “Mouse stanza” :—

(29.) Still thou art blest, compared wi' me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But och! I backward cast my e'e
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I canna see,
I guess an' fear!

These remarks properly belong to the chapter on the stanza, being merely touched upon in this place in connection with irregular verse-lengths as affecting the “type.”

8. Coming to modern times, we may glance at the treatment of the fine old Danish ballad “Agnes and the Merman.” A translation is given of the version appearing in Svend Grundtvig's “Danmarks Folkeviser,” published in 1882. As this is intended to illustrate the metre, the broken lilt of the original is as nearly as possible adhered to, and the translation is divided so that the lilt may more readily be perceived. The words that would bear the metrical stress, were the verses made to conform to type, immediately precede the firm bar; words whose stress must then be suppressed, though they would probably have received stress when the poem was recited in olden days, precede the broken bar :—

(30.) 1.Agne/te she stands/  on the High/land bridge/,  Singing the birds are.
  • And up/  came the Mer/man from bil/low's blue ridge/.

  • Lovely Agnete/

2.As pu/rest gold-/glimmer so/  was his hair/,
  • The joy/  of his heart/  in his eyes/  lay bare/.

3.“And hear/  thou, Agne/te so fair/  and so fine!/
  • And wilt/  thou become/  now the All-dear/est of mine?”/

4.“Oh, yes/  indeed/,  that will/  I do/,
  • If thou ta/kest me un/der the bil/low so blue.”/

5.Her ears/  then he/  has clo/sèd, her mouth/  covered o'er/,
  • Then down/  to the o/cean's deep/  the maid/  he bore/.

6.From o/cean's floor/  his dwel/ling uprose/,
  • Agne/te in shoes/  of red gold/  therein goes/.

7.There wonned/  they toge/ther for eight/  full years/,
  • Sons se/ven and a daugh/ter to the Mer/man she bears/.

8.Agne/te she sat/  at cra/dle and sang/:
  • Then hears/  she in En/gland the clocks/  as they clang/.

9.Agne/te she goes/  before,’ the Mer/  man to stand/:
  • “And may/  I but once/  go to kirk/  on land?”/

10.“Oh, yes/  indeed/,  that well/  may fall/,
  • If thou seek'st/  here again/  thy chil/dren small”/.

11.“Yes, tru/ly and of sure/ty them seek/  will I/:
  • There lies naught/  in the wi/dest earth/  my heart/  so nigh”/.

12.“But when/  thou now/  in the kirk/  shalt go/,
  • Thou shalt not/  deck thy bo/som with gold's/  ruddy glow/.

13.“And when/  thou stepp'st/  in the kirk-/yard there/,
  • Then must thou/  not shake free/  thy love/ly gol/den hair/.

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14.“And when/  thou trea/dest the house/  of wea/pons in/,
  • Let thy lips/  'neath thy cra/moisy in no/  smiling twin/.

15.“And when/  thou setts't/  on kirk-floor/  thy feet/,
  • Must thou not/  turn aside/  to thy mo/ther's dear seat/.

16.“And when named/  by the priest/  is the High/est, /
  • See thou/  in no bend/ing compli/est.”  /

17.But now/  when she in/to the kirk/  should go/,
  • She decked/  herself/  with gold's/  ruddy glow/.

18.And when/  she had stepp'd/  in kirk-/yard there/,
  • Agne/te shook free/  her love/ly gol/den hair/.

19.And as/  she stepp'd/  the house/  of wea/pons in/,
  • With smi/ling 'neath cra/moisy her lips/  did she twin/.

20.And when/  she on kirk-/floor set/  her feet/,
  • Agne/te went in/  to her mo/ther's dear seat/.

21.And when named/  by the priest/  was the Ho/ly,/
  • Her bo/dy she ben/ded low/ly.   /

22.Then whis/pered low/  her mo/ther, who stood/  full near/:
  • “Agne/te! Agne/te! whence co/mest thou here?/

23.“Agne/te! Agne/te! dear daugh/ter so mild!/
  • Where/  hast thou tar/ried these years/,  my child?/

24.“Where/  hast thou tar/ried so long/  a time?/
  • And why/  is thy cheek/  as the win/ter rime?”/

25.“My dwel/ling stands/  in o/cean's green growth/,
  • And there/  have I gi/ven the Mer/man my troth/.

26.“There/  shines no sun/  as here/  so bright/ly,
  • There/fore my cheeks/  are blan/chèd so white/ly.

27.“Se/ven good sons/  in's arm/  have I laid/,
  • The eighth/  one dear/  is so tin/y a maid”/.

28.“What gift/  did the Mer/man on thee/  bestow/
  • When thy/  bride-fes/tal was held/  below?”/

29.“Me/  he gave/  five cir/clets of gold/,
  • And therein/  lay both ro/ses and li/lies untold/.

30.“And me/  he gave/  the gol/den red band/,
  • The queen/  herself/  no bet/ter may bind/  on her hand/.

31.“And me/  he gave/  the gold-/buckled shoe/,
  • The queen/  herself/  no bet/ter on foot/  ever knew/.

32.“And me/  he gave/  a gold-framèd harp/,
  • To play/  on if sor/row should sting/  me sharp/.

33.“But now/  will I dwell/  on the green-/growing shore/,
  • And ne/ver will/  I down/  to the o/cean more”/.

34.They deemed/  them alone/  and that none/  else knew/,
  • But near/  stood the Mer/man and hear/kened thereto/.

35.The Mer/man he trod/  the kirk-door/-way within/,
  • All/  the ho/ly i/mages they turned/  themselves/  from him/.

36.As pu/rest gold-/ghmmer so/  was his hair/,
  • His sor/row of heart/  in his eyes/  lay bare/.

37.“Agne/te! Agne/te! come to o/cean with me!/
  • For the small/  things, thy chil/dren, long/  for thee”/.

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38.“Yea/,  let them long/  for me, while long/  they will!/
  • They ne/ver again/  my arms/  shall fill”/.

39.“Oh think/  of the stur/dy! and think/  of the small!/
  • The dear/  in the cra/die, think of her/  most of all!”/

40.“Nay, ne/ver will/I think/  of them, stur/dy ones or small/,
  • Of her/  in the cra/dle will I think/  least of all”/.

41.The Mer/man uplif/ted his/  right hand/:
  • “Dule/  and dark/ness be on all/  the land!”/

42.Dark/ness came/  and hea/vy cloud/,
  • They lay/  on the mead/  and the town/  a shroud/.

43.The dule/  and the dark/ness blind/  her, /
  • Agne/te no way/  can find/  her.   /

44.She pur/posed to have has/ted o/ver green-/growing shore/,
  • Then took/  she the path/  to o/cean's floor/.

45.She pur/posed to have has/ted to her mo/ther's home/,
  • Then took/  she the path/  to o/cean's foam/.

46.“O wel/come, Agne/te, to the bil/low's blue day!
  • Yet no/  more on/  the green-/growing earth/  shalt thou stray/.

47.“No more/  shalt thou/  e'er stray/  on the green-/growing shore/,
  • And gaze/  upon/thy chil/dren, the small/  things! no more/.

48.“But here/  shalt thou sit/  on the gra/nite's hard stones/,
  • And here/  mayst thou dal/ly with dead/  men's bones/.

49.“One thing/  to thee/  I spare/,  thy harp/  of red gold/,
  • To mur/mur the grief/  thy heart/  shall hold”/.

50.Men heard/  a sad mur/mur in wood-/land's green ways/:
  • Singing the birds are.

  • Agne/te her harp/  in o/cean plays/.

  • Lovely Agnete!

This ballad was very widely known and loved. At the time Grundtvig was compiling his collection, in the nineteenth century, it was still sung in all parts of Denmark, in Norway, Sweden, North Germany, and the neighbouring Slavic lands. It often concludes at the 40th stanza, where Agnete refuses to return with the Merman; when continued, the part from stanza 41 onwards varies considerably in different countries. The 47th stanza has a keen dramatic touch; an exclamation of pity rises involuntarily to the lips. Beauty and pathos well from these two-lined stanzas, rugged as they are; and it is evident that here the story is all-in-all—the Procrustean spirit has not yet become sufficiently powerful to fetter the thoughts springing directly from the heart, and uttered with the heart at the lips. But it is with the metrical form that we are at present concerned. The name Agnete has been retained in the translation as more conformable to the metre. The stanzas are the simplest possible—merely one verse of two lines, being the simple single thought broken into its two parts. Yet the “type” has even here so far evolved that the whole of the stanzas at least suggest it. Occasional verses appear absolutely unmetrical, yet in all can be seen the germ of the eight-stressed verse, the Romance. Stanza 5, when falling from the lips of simple singers, would still, probably, be a ten-stressed verse, as indicated by the division into units in the foregoing translation. To obtain conformity to type, the second unit of the first line and the second unit of the second line, containing

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respectively four and five syllables, would have to be “reduced” by the taking-away of a certain number of syllables. This process would be so simple that it is quite evident that the reciters as yet felt no necessity to reduce either the number of stresses or the number of syllables—that is to say, the “form,” whilst it was in course of development, had not begun to obtrude—detrition was going on, but unconsciously. In the verse under consideration its structure is more conformable, as under :—

(30a.) He clo/sed her ears/  and her mouth/  covered o'er/,
Then down/  through the o/cean the maid/  he bore/.

It is not for one moment intended that this were any improvement whatever; it is merely intended to show that the reciters had not yet become self-conscious as regards type. In the fifty verses, or one hundred lines, of which the whole poem is composed, there are thirty-five units of four syllables, and one of five syllables, the most remarkable example being the second line of the 35th stanza :—

(30b.) 1. All/  the ho/ly i/mages they turned/  themselves/  from him/.

Given its due stresses, this line becomes a full Ballad verse :—

2. All/  the ho/ly i/mages/  they turned/  themselves/  from him/.

The full stanza might almost be regarded as a very crude embryo of the Dowsabel stanza :—

3. The Mer/man trod/  the door/  within/
But all/  the ho/ly i/mages/
They turned/  themselves/  from him/.

Stanza 26 is alone in being a feminine Romance verse. The verses so far noted are those tending to exceed or actually exceeding the average verse of the type. There are three verses that fall below the average, resolving themselves into feminine Nibelungen: these are contained in stanzas 16, 21, and 43, and their effect is most pleasing and characteristic. As regards the free blending of duple and triple units (the quadruple have already been noted), attention need only be directed to stanzas 4, 10, 26, 28, 29, and 42 as typical instances.

As two utter contrasts in British treatment of this beautiful ballad, attention may be called to Robert Buchanan's quatrains in his “Ballad Stories” published in 1869, and Matthew Arnold's exquisite adaptation, “The Forsaken Merman.”

9. As the stanza-form of “Agnes and the Merman” is of the simplest kind, it is possible that the verses were varied as independent members, no connection being felt between any one verse and the one either foregoing or following—that is to say, no formal connection. A few examples may therefore be quoted of stanzas that have advanced considerably in their formal development, stanzas that are built up of two verses, or four lines, and whose verses show decidedly that the Romance verse had shortened to the Ballad. Again the examples are from an old Danish ballad in Grundtvig's collection—“Svend Svejdal.” The stanzas chosen are not all consecutive, their places in the ballad being indicated by the number prefixed before each one :—

(31.) 4. Ne/ver thou/  in sleep/  shalt slum/ber,
Not e/ver rest/  shalt gain/,
Till thou/  hast loosed/  the sor/rowful-heart/ed,
Who ma/ny days/  in fet/ters has lain/.

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  • 8. Stood/  the youth/ful Svej/dal,

  • He raised/  his voice/  in call/ing:

  • The walls/  of rock/  were rent/  asun/der,

  • The moun/tain qui/vered as/  ‘twere fall/ing.

  • 14. If now/  I must/  arouse/  me   /

  • From sleep/  and trance/  abi/ding,   /

  • Thou/  on ways/  full ma/ny /

  • Soon/  shalt forth/  be ri/ding./

  • 17. Yet/  shall I give/  thee the ring/  of red gold/,

  • Upon/  thy hand/  it shall glow/  then:

  • Once/  thou hast found/  her thy mai/den high-born/,

  • Thyself/  she shall full/  well know/  then.

  • 28. Li/on and/  the un/tamed bear/

  • They stood/  and the door/  defen/ded:

  • And ne/ver li/ving man/  might en/ter therein/,

  • Sa/ving young Svej/dal him/  befrien/ded.

  • 48. Now has/  the youth/ful Svej/dal /

  • O'er come/  both fear/  and pain/  that encum/bered,

  • Nor fet/ter they/  the mai/den high-born/,

  • Full deep/  at his side/  she slum/  bered.

  • Good heed of thy speech have!

Most observable is the great variety of the rhythm; duple and triple units do not meet in antagonism, they blend in harmony. In stanza 4 the Ballad returns to full Romance, unless a unit of four syllables, with a minor mid-stress, be admitted as the second unit of the last line. In stanza 8 a feminine Nibelungen (similar to stanzas 16, 21, and 43 of “Agnes and the Merman”) is followed by a feminine Romance. Stanza 14 is composed of two duple feminine Nibelungen verses, and contrasted with these are the verses of stanza 17, which are almost full triple feminine Ballad. In stanza 28 the first half of a Romance verse contains a quadruple unit which would, were its due mid-stress allowed, make a line of five stresses, followed by one of four; in fact, a nine-stressed Romance verse would result. To British ears these heavy verses will sound unnatural, and unmusical, if not harsh; yet they are of value—apart always from their undoubted natural beauty and delightfulness—as illustrations of types of verse through which our own smoothest (and often too smooth) Ballad poetry has passed. Nor have they yet lost their pristine melody to the folk of the lands wherein they were cradled. Moreover, may we not in our own beloved psalms (unmetrical, save the mark !) find four, five, or more words huddled together about a single stress? The struggle against conformity to type must ever have been sharp, and it certainly was longcontinued; but wheresoever there was poetry there was, irrespective of the “form,” imperishable beauty; and it is this very immortality of loveliness that has preserved so many of the crude media through which the divine light passed from man to man, from age to age—one might almost say from everlasting to everlasting. The myriad-man caught the cry of the struggle: he spoke of either the Romance or the Ballad when he spoke of the

…stretchèd metre of an antique song:

and of a surety he refers to the struggle between the two in the “Midsummer Night's Dream.”

Quince. Well, we will have such a prologue; and it shall be written in eight and six.
Bottom. No, make it two more; let it be written in eight and eight.

(“A Midsummer Night's Dream,” III, i.)

Two lines of eight and six (syllables) is Ballad; eight and eight, Romance.

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10. To return again to the Dowsabel stanza, it is probable that its full development cannot be traced in British poetry; it possibly began its evolution in France—Warton derives it from the French chansons.* Its source may lie in the same fount from whence flowed the Latin hymns of Adam of St. Victor and others, having reference to hymns of similar substructure. The following is from one by Adam of St. Victor :—

(32.) Verbi vere substantivi,
Caro cum sit in declivi
Temporis angustia,
In aeternis verbum annis
Permanere nos Johannis
Docet theologia.

This stanza has been translated by Dr. Neale (incorrectly according to Archbishop Trench) as follows :—

(32a.) That substantive word, united
To the flesh, and therein plighted
To a life of misery sore,
Him to be the Coeternal,
John's theology supernal
Testifieth evermore.

These hymns swell into yet fuller stanzas: The following, again, is by Adam of St. Victor :—

(33.) Jucundare, plebs fidelis,
Cujus Pater est in coelis,
Recolens Ezechielis
Prophetae praeconia:
Est Joannes testis ipsi,
Dicens in Apocalypsi,
Vere vidi, vere soripsi
Vera testimonia.

In this stanza the insertion of a half-verse in each section has converted the irregular Dowsabel stanza into one perfectly regular. Whilst the language of these hymns may be no more than dog-Latin, they have a sonorous, majestic sweep of rhythm. The metre of Poe's “Raven” is based on No. (33). Without authentic specimens of its early forms, it is perhaps unprofitable to speculate as to the actual origin of the combination that results in the irregular Dowsabel stanza. The change from the abrupt (trochaic) form of the Latin hymns to the ordinary duple (iambic) of British verse is due to the syntactic construction of the language, but the actual form of the stanza is the result of metrical forces. It is hardly possible that it was derived from the hymns themselves, as they, when occurring in the form of No. (34), are composed of four-stressed lines throughout—as though in each half of the stanza two Romance verses had been “telescoped,” not a Romance and a Ballad verse as in the Dowsabel stanza.

11. In paragraph 5 of this section reference was made to thoughts which exceeded or fell short of the average verse. In Ballad metre the verses may lengthen regularly to Romance, or contract to Nibelungen or Alexandrine. In the old Danish ballads examples have been given of verses lengthening even beyond the Romance; but in only one example, No. (30b), 1 to 3, was there even an embryonic indication of an apparent

[Footnote] * Warton's “History of English Poetry,” as before, p. 29.

[Footnote] † “Sacred Latin Poetry,” p. 71.

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irregularity that has developed to a regular type. It is conceivable that a Ballad or Romance verse might need considerable extension, yet not so as to equal two verses, to be able to express certain thoughts, and it is also conceivable that during a certain period of the evolution of metre the verse would be lengthened to suit the thought rather than the thought cramped to suit the verse. There are many examples among those given that show this conception to be reasonable. The British ballad of “Sir Cauline” gives examples of “regular irregularities” :—

(34.) Faire Christabelle, that ladye bright,
Was had forthe of the towre;
But ever she droopeth in her mynde,
As nipt by an ungentle winde
Doth some faire lillye flowre.

(Part 11, stanza 9.)

The thought expressed in the last three lines of the stanza is one of considerable beauty, and it can well be imagined that poet and hearer alike would rather suffer violation of the form than loss of the thought. As regards the metrical construction, one of two things may have taken place: a half-verse of four stresses may have been added, or a half-verse of three stresses may have been dropped. There is, of course, another possible origin, but of so ancient date as to be undiscoverable in British poetry. The vital question is, will the three lines be spoken in a breath ? The two first certainly are: what difference will be made by the presence of the interloper ? Reading aloud having fallen into disfavour, opinion will vary; some will hold that a breath will be taken after “mynde,” of the third line, as well as after “towre,” of the second. refer back, however, to the verses quoted in No. (2) of this section, part of “The Lady of the Lake.” Will it be denied that in almost every instance in this quotation two lines are taken in a breath, and easily taken ? It is quite possible to take all three lines of the second part of the stanza from “Sir Cauline” in one breath; with many it is quite an easy matter to do so; and if easy now it would presumably be much more easy at a time when the recitation of verse was the rule, and reading the exception. Be it noted, moreover, that whilst this exceptional construction has, like all other vigorous variations, been taken and made an actual type in some instances, as a rule the construction occurs as an occasional, not as a constant, variation in Ballad poetry; occurring occasionally only, the breath can quite easily make the extra effort required to give utterance to the extra length of verse. A curious instance of the length to which this construction will be carried out on paper occurs in Burns's “Battle of Sherramuir” :—

(35.) But had ye seen the philibegs
And skyrin tartan trews, man,
When in the teeth they daur'd our Whigs
And covenant trueblues, man!
In lines extended lang and large,
When baig'nets o'erpower'd the targe,
And thousands hasten'd to the charge,
Wi' Highland wrath they frae the sheath
Drew blades of death, till out of breath
They fled like frighted dows, man!

The reader, too, is out of breath after reading this amazing stanza. The first four lines (two verses) are easily taken in two breaths; then, inveigled by the rimes, the reader is induced to attempt the remainder of the stanza,

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six “lines extended, lang and large,” in two breaths also. In “Sir Cauline” the stanza preceding the one quoted, No. (34), is differently constructed :—

(36.) All woe-begone was that gentil knight
To part from his ladye;
And many a time he sighed sore
And cast a wistful eye:
“Faire Christabelle, from thee to parte
Farre lever had I dye.

Here a full verse takes the place of the half-verse of four stresses. The stanzas can, of course easily be made similar :—

(36a.) All woe-begone was that gentil knight
To part from his ladyè;
He sighed sore with many a smart,
“Faire Christabelle, from thee to parte
Farre lever had I dye.”

Seeing that the three-versed stanza required three breaths, it may be con tended that, though half of one verse has been dropped, the residue of that verse should still retain its breath and that the shortened stanza should receive the three breaths. As pointed out in Scott's couplets, however, two riming lines are taken in a breath; moreover, stanzas such as the above were often printed in this way :—

[The section below cannot be correctly rendered as it contains complex formatting. See the image of the page for a more accurate rendering.]

(37) This mayde in a morne betime
Went forth, when May was in her prime, To get sweet cetywall,
The honeysuckle, the harlocke,
The lilly and the lady-smocke, To deck her summer hall.

And so also—

[The section below cannot be correctly rendered as it contains complex formatting. See the image of the page for a more accurate rendering.]

(38.) Alone walking
In thought plaining all desolate.
And sore sighing Me remembering
Of my living, both early and late.
My death wishing

(Chaucer, “Virelal.”)