Not much more has been attempted in these pages than to extract the marrow of the Scottish Ballad Minstrelsy. They will have served their purpose if they help to awaken, or to renew, a relish for the contents of the Ballad Book. To know and love these grand old songs is its own exceeding great reward; and it is also, alas! almost the only means now left to us of knowing something concerning their nameless writers.
om and delight of living under 'the leavés greene' as those of the Robin Hood Cycle; although we also have our songs of the 'gay greenwood'; although bows twanged as keenly in Ettrick Forest and in Braidislee Wood as in Sherwood itself, and we can even claim, partly, perhaps, as a relic of the days when the King of Scotland was Prince of Cumbria and Earl of Huntingdon, the bold Robin and his merry men among the heroes of our ballad literature.
But, on the whole, mirth and light-heartedness are very far from being characteristics of the Scottish ballads. Of ballad themes in general, it has been said that they concern themselves mainly with the tragedy and the pathos of the life of feudal and early times; while, on the other hand, the folk-song reflects the sunnier hours of the days of old. This is peculiarly true of the Scottish ballads. The best of them are dipped in gloom of the grave. They breathe the very soul of 'the old, unhappy far-off times.' Even over the true lovers, Fate stands from th