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I never heard the old song of Percie and Douglas, that I found not my heart moved more than with a trumpet: and yet it' is sung but by some blinde crowder, with no rougher voice, than rude style ; which beeing so evill apparelled in the dust and cobweb of that uncivill age, what would it work, trimmed in the gorgeous eloquence of Pindare!
SIR PHILIP SYDNEY'S DEFENCE OF POETRY.
Ancient Poetry, etc.
SERIES THE FIRST.
THE ANCIENT BALLAD OF CHEVY-CHASE.
THE fine heroic song of Chevy-Chase has ever been admired by competent judges. Those genuine strokes of nature and artless passion, which have endeared it to the most simple readers, have recommended it to the most refined; and it has equally been the amusement of our childhood, and the favourite of our riper years.
Mr. Addison has given an excellent critique* on this very popular ballad, but is mistaken with regard to the antiquity of the common-received copy; for this, if one may judge from the style, cannot be older than the time of Elizabeth, and was probably written after the eulogium of Sir Philip Sidney: perhaps in consequence of it. I flatter myself, I have here recovered the genuine antique poem; the true original song, which appeared rude even in the time of Sir Philip, and caused him to lament that it was so evil-apparelled in the rugged garb of antiquity.
* Spectator, No. 70. 74.
This curiosity is printed, from an old manuscript, at the end of Hearne's preface to Gul. Newbrigiensis Hist. 1719, 8vo. vol. i. To the MS. copy is subjoined the name of the author, Rychard Sheale;* whom Hearne had so little judgment as to suppose to be the same with an R. Sheale, who was living in 1588. But whoever examines the gradation of language and idiom in the following volumes, will be convinced that this is the production of an earlier poet. It is indeed expressly mentioned among some very ancient songs in an old book intituled, The complaint of Scotlandt (fol. 42.) under the title of the Huntis of Chevet, where the two following lines are also quoted:
The Perssee and the Mongumrye mette,‡ That day, that day, that gentil day :§ which, though not quite the same as they stand in the ballad, yet differ not more than might be owing to the author's quoting from memory. Indeed, whoever considers the style and orthography of this old poem will not be inclined to place it lower than the time of Henry VI: as on the other hand the mention of JAMES THE SCOTTISH KING, with one or two anachronisms, forbids us to assign it an earlier date. King James I, who was prisoner in this kingdom at the death of his father, did not wear the crown of Scotland till the second year of our Henry VI.** but before the end of that long reign a third James had mounted the throne. A succession of two or three
Subscribed, after the usual manner of our old poets, ExPLICETH [explicit] QUOTH RYCHARD SHEALE.
One of the earliest productions of the Scottish press, now to be found. The title page was wanting in the copy here quoted; but it is supposed to have been printed in 1540. See Ames.
# See Pt. 2. v. 25. § See Pt. 1. v. 104. || Pt. 2. v. 36. 140. ¶ Who died Aug. 5, 1406, in the 7th year of our Hen. IV. **James I. was crowned May 22, 1424; murdered Feb. 21, 1436-7.
†† In 1460.—Hen. VI. was deposed 1461 : restored and slain