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CX)NSTANCE RUMMONS 63

bequests of the dying bride, (in The Cruel Brother j they are to the
father, mother, sister, brother and brother's wife,) he gives us
eleven, including bequests to three sisters, three brothers, the
bridegroom, best man, and bridesmaid. In the same way the
poem is lengthened in every part, until the whole amounts to fifty-
nine stanzas. The dreary refrain lines,

One with another,

and

Mother, my mother,

do nothing to save it from monotony.

It is not intended to imply that the poem as a whole is devoid
of beauty, in spite of the somewhat wearisome impression it makes
There are remarkably melodious stanzas, like the third,

Too long have your tears run down like rain.

One with another.
For a long love lost and a sweet love slain,

Mother, my mother,

quite in Swinburne's best manner. But it seems to me that the
piece would have been vastly improved by a stricter adherence to
the ballad ideal of simplicity.

From this we turn to The Witch Mother. This is a striking
piece, comparable for tragic quality to the finest of the traditional
ballads. The story is that of Medea, with the added horror of the
children's flesh being served to the faithless lover at his bridal
feast. The ballad idiom is admirably imitated, the language at-
taining in some places a high distinction :

And the rain is sair upon my face,

And sair upon my hair;
And the wind upon my weary mouth.

That never may man kiss mair.

The narrative moves swiftly to its impressive close.

And there were twae mair sangs in heaven.
And twae mair sauls in hell.

The next ballad is The Bride^s Tragedy j which has the striking
and ballad-like refrain,



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64 THE BALLAD IMITATIONS OF SWINBURNE

In, in, out and in,

Blaws the wind and whirls the whin.

The theme of this poem is worth particular notice for the resem-
blance it bears to those of several of the traditional ballads. Brief-
ly, it is this: A jroung man is restrained by his mother from
keeping tryst with his sweetheart, and goes the next day, only to
meet her as she comes from her wedding to another man. He
seizes her horse's rein, and they ride away, pursued by the bridal
party. They come to a ford which is swollen by a flood. Rather
than return to her bridegroom, she chooses to " ride yon fell water, "
and they are drowned. The first and last parts of the narrative
are reminiscent of The Mother^s Malison^ where the mother, un-
able to persuade her son to stay with her, curses him, and he is
drowned on his return. The elopement reminds one of Katherine
Jafferay, which suggested Lochinvar to Scott.

Not in the theme and refrain alone does the poem resemble
traditional ballads. The phraseology is distinctly ballad-like,
and there are some lines at whose particular origin we may guess.

Weel may ye get a light love yet,
But never a mither mair,

was surely suggested by the lines in The Douglas Tragedyj

True lovers I can get many a ane.

But a father can never get mair,

and it is worth while to note, in passing, how Swinburne
has smoothed the rough phrase of the ballad, without detracting
from its strength. There are other lines, more his own, which
strike the ballad note equally well, as, for example, the seventh
stanza:



When cocks were crawing and day was dawing,

He's boun' him forth to ride:
And the ae first may he's met that day
Was fause Earl Robert's bride.
In, in, out and in,
Blaws the wind and whirls the whin.

He uses internal rime throughout the poem. This is common
in ballads, though never so consistently used.



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CONSTANCE RUMMONS 65

Altogether, this is a very fine and spirited piece, to be placed
with The Witch Mother^ among the best of Swinburne's ballad-
imitations.

The last poem which we can strictly class as a ballad-imita-
tion, which was published in Swinburne's lifetime, is The Brothers,
which appeared in Astrophel and Other Poems (1894). Th^ theme
as in The Bloody Son, is the murder of one brother by another; but
the treatment has nothing in common with that of the latter, nor
has it much resemblance to the traditional ballad of The Twa
Brothers. The murderer, as in Edward and The Bloody Son, makes
a pilgrimage overseas in penance, after burying his victim:

Between the birk and the aik and the thorn,

but he returns after fifty years. He has the body exhumed and at
his touch blood gushes from the bones, which he takes for a sign
that his expiation is ended and death is about to release him. The
psychology of the piece is perhaps rather too subtle for a ballad,
but in other respects it is quite successful in catching the ballad
note. It has a fine double refrain.

Sweet fruits are sair to gather,

and

The wind wears owre the heather,

which adds to the melancholy effect of the piece.

Among the poems which I have classed as allied pieces show-
ing the influence of the ballads, the first is lifter Death in Poems
and Ballads, First Series. This very impressive poem is not strict-
ly of the ballad-type, but it owes much to the ballad in form and it
also bears some relationship, in its cynicism, to the Scottish ballad
of The Twa Corbies. The influence of the ballad upon its form is
shown in the device, which is not, strictly speaking, incremental
repetition, of giving a series of parallel phrases, each varying from
the last but all of similar import.

I had fair coins red and white.
And my name was as great light;

I had fair clothes white and red.

And strong gold bound round my head.

This device is used throughout the poem.



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66 THE BALLAD IMITATIONS OF SWINBURNE

Closely related to this piece ia A Lyke-Wake Songy in the vol-
ume of 1889. This might have been called a ballad, since Pro-
fessor Child has included a lyke-wake dirge in his collection, but
it seems better to restrict the term "ballad" to poems in which
the narrative element is more important. Swinburne, in his
Lyke-Wake Songj follows the ballad idiom more closely than in
After Death, but otherwise this poem is much like the other. The
same parallelism is made use of:

Ye set scorn by the silken stuff
Now the grave is clean enough.

Ye set scorn by the nibis ring:
Now the worm is a saft sweet thing.

This, like the other, is a grim piece, with a harsh severity
that verges on the horrible.

A Reiver* s Neck-Verse is a lyrical piece, which hints at a story,
but can hardly be called narrative. The language is that of the
ballads. There is a recklessness about the very swing of it that
suggests the godless spirit of the old freebooters. The first stanza
will be sufficient to illustrate its character:

Some die singing, and some die swinging,

And weel not a* they be:
Some die playing, and some die praying.

And 1 wot sae winna we, my dear.

And I wot sae winna we.

Very difi'erent is the spirit of A Jacobite^s Farewell. This
exhibits a tenderness quite unlike the hardened cynicism of the
Neck-Verse.

There's nae mair lands to tyne, my dear.

And nae mair lives to gie:
Tho a man think sair to live nae mair.

There's but one day to die.



lands are lost and life's losing.
And what were they to gie?

Fu' mony a man gives all he can,
But nae man else gives ye.



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CONSTANCE RUMMONS 67

Only in the language and stanza form does this piece resemble
the ballads.

The same is true of A Jacobite* s Exile. This is a very fine
piece in its way, describing in a touching manner the nostalgia of
the Northumbrian in France.

On Aikenshaw the sun blinks braw,

The bum rins blithe and fain:
There's naught wi' me I wadna gie

To look thereon again.

One thing which particularly distinguishes the last three
pieces from the ballad type is their personal tone. Two other
pieces in this volume must be removed from the ballad classifica-
tion on that account. The first is The Winds^ which is taken out
of its proper order for the better comparison with the similar poem
The Tyneside Widow. Both are laments in ballad style. The
former poem consists of but four stanzas and is most touching in
its simplicity and artistic restraint. It is one of the best of Swin-
burne's poems in this style, but the lack of the epic impersonality
which must characterize the true ballad prevents its being so
classed. The subject and phrasing are such as we find in the best
traditional ballads. As an example of the closeness with which
it parallels ballad phraseology, compare the last two lines.

It might hae taken an hundred men,
And let my ae love be,

with such traditional lines as these from Barbara Livingston^

Thou micht hae taken anither woman,
And lat my lady be.

The Tyneside Widow is a lament of the same type, but less
eflFective because of its greater length. It has several very fine
and impressive stanzas, as for instance the ninth, the tenth, and
the last; but the effect of these is weakened by over-elaboration
and undue repetition in the rest of the poem, — ^for example, in the
seven introductory stanzas (in a poem of only fifteen stanzas!)
The language is the ballad-idiom, but in some places the thought
is on a different plane. One could scarcely imagine finding in a
ballad such lines as these

My life is sealed with a seal of love,
And locked with love for a key.



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68 THE BALLAD IMITATIONS OF SWINBURNE

Perhaps the best thing about the whole is the pathos of the
last stanza:

We were nane ower mony to sleep, my dear,
I wot we were but three;

And never a bed in the weary world

For my bairn and my dear and me, my love,
For my bairn and my dear and me.

The ballad influence is strongly shown in the song from Mary
Stuart "And ye maun braid your yellow hair." The language is
that of the ballads, and the stanza is the ballad-stanza lengthened
by two lines — a form often used in the ballads. There is more
than a hint in it of a sad story, and a reminiscence of the open-
ing stanzas of The Weary Wedding. It seems most like a snatch of
a ballad.

The Ballad of Dead MerCs Bay has very little to do with the
traditional ballads, but here and there the language is borrowed
from them. • Especially is this true of the opening stanza:

The seas wings owre the slants of sand.

All white with winds that drive;
The sea swirls up to the still dim strand.

Where nae man comes alive.

But this is not at all consistently followed out. For instance, in
the sixth Stanza, Swinburne has

For as day's waesome span,



79



but in the very next stanza he writes "woe" instead of "wae,
because it chances to suit the rime. In subject-matter, this mys-
tical piece has no relationship to the ballads.

U

We come now to what is perhaps, the hardest part of this
study, the discussion of the ballads published in the Posthumous
Poems. These eleven poems were placed first by the editors,
Edmund Gosse and Thomas James Wise, and form, in bulk, rath-
er more than a third of the whole volume. They were found
"among MSS. of the years 1862 and 1863 . . . With them
were found several of the ballads published at last in the Third
Series of Poems and Ballads (1889) but provisionally set up in type
in 1877."



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CONSTANCE RUMMONS 69

Naturally, it is an interesting subject for conjecture why
Swinburne allowed so large a body of his ballad poetry to remain
unpublished. Mr. Gosse, in his preface to the Posthumous Poems j
attempts to explain the fact on the ground that these ballads were
censored by Rossetti, whose influence with Swinburne was very
great at the period when they were written, "as too rough and bare
for publication, and that only such as possessed a pre-Raphaelite
coloring or costume were permitted to pass the ordeal. But Swin-
burne persisted in his private conviction that a kind of poetry
much closer to the old rievers* and freebooters' loosely-jointed and
rambling folk-poems might be attempted, and he carefully pre-
served the ballads" published in the Posthumous Poems.

For various reasons, this explanation of Mr. Gosse's fails to
satisfy. Rossetti's criticism may have prevented Swinburne from
publishing most of his ballads in 1866, but when he finally decided
to include more of them in the volume of 1889, why did he select
a part of them and suppress the remainder.^ Did the hand of
Rossetti, then dead for seven years, reach out from the grave to
prevent his giving Lord Soulis and the rest to the world .^ And
why did not Rossetti rule out The Bloody Son, which is certainly
rugged enough, from the first volume.^ It seems to me that Mr.
Gosse's hypothesis involves us in more difficulties than it clears up.

Before a more satisfactory theory can be framed, we must ex-
amine the suppressed ballads. Let us then proceed to the study
of them with that end in view.

The first of them is Lord Soulis, a rather long ballad (280
lines), whose subject-matter, as related by Mr. Gosse in the pre-
face, is in part traditional. There was a historical Lord Soulis,
and a wide-spread, though unfounded, tradition "that he had
been boiled to death within the Druid circle of Nine-Stone-Rig,
which overlooks and slopes down to the Water of Hermitage. "
This cruel fate was supposed to have been accorded him for prac-
ticing witchcraft.

The ballad represents him as having created by his art three
castles, "Estness," "Westness," and Hermitage.

The twain to fall at his life's ending.
The third always to stand.

In these he keeps prisoner three maidens, and his capture and
death are brought about by the father, brother, and lover, respect-
ively, of Annet, Janet, and Marjorie with the counsel of the "foul



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70 THE BALLAD IMITATIONS OF SWINBURNE

Borolallie. " The story, however, is unsatisfactory as it gives no
account of the fate of the three "mays" and their would-be res-
cuers. It is also contradictory, for, though Burd Annet's father
says

Ye'U speir at Estness, ye'll speir at Westness
But no at Hermitage,

they do "speir" at Hermitage.

The language is frequently vigorous and effective, in spite
of its wilful ruggedness, as in the following.

Gin I wist where I might be wroken of him,

Betwixen dark and day,
I wad give baith my soul and body

To hell to fetch away.

Again, in some places it has the true Swinburnian ring:

O ye'll gang down to me, Janet,
For God's sweet mercy and mine;
For I have sought ye the lang lands ower.
Those eight months wearing nine.

But there are many more places in which the ruggedness be-
comes awkwardness, and the effect is marred. For example.

Between the wa's and the Hermitage Water,

In ways that were waxen red
There was cleaving of caps and shearing of jack,

And many a good man was there dead.

Here the length of the last line spoils the whole stanza.

There are few places where the language seems directly in-
fluenced by that of particular ballads. The lines,

The first of Estness, the last of Westness,
The middle of Hermitage,

bear some resemblance to

The Eastmuir king, and the Westmuir king.
And the king of Onorie,

in one of the versions of Pause Foodrage.

Pull off the green, and the goodly green,
Put on the black, the black,

also has a reminiscent ring.



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CONSTANCE RUMMONS 71

The "foul BorolalHe," who starts up to give advice when
needed, has his prototype in the familiar ballad fiend, the "Eelly
Blin," who counsels Burd Isbel in Young Bekie^ and appears in
several other ballads, notably in King Arthur and King Cornwall^
where he is slightly disguised as the " Burlow Beanie. "

Mr. Gosse, thinks it necessary to point out that Lord Scales
"has nothing to do with the universal poison-ballad of Lord Ran-
dalj'^ because the latter name is given to the hero. The most
casual perusal of the piece shows that it bears a close relation to an
entirely different ballad, that of Little Musgrave and the Lady
Barnard, In this ballad, the lady makes an assignation with
Little Musgrave, which is betrayed by a " little foot-page. " Lord
Barnard finds them and offers Little Musgrave a chance to defend
himself, but kills him and also his lady. In Swinburne's ballad.
Lord Randal is freed from prison by Lord Scales' wife. Lady Helen
who takes him to her chamber. Lord Scales comes, though it is
not clear how he has been warned; but, contrary to the ballad
story, it is he who is slain by Lord Randal, who attacks him with
the lady's "girdle knife" and is victorious in a combat which is
rather unequal, as Lord Scales has on a "goodly coat," "a' bound
wi' steel thickly, " while Lord Randal has "but a little shirt. "

Not only does the story resemble that of the ballad, but there
are close parallels in the language.

I hear a mouse rin by the straw.
And a bird rin by the coen,

is only a variation on the lines,

Me thinks I hear the throstle-cock,
Methinks I hear the jay,

of the traditional ballad. Again, we have

The first good straik Lord Randal strak,
The red blood sprang upon his face,

and in the other.



The first stoke that little Musgrave stroke
He hurt Lord Barnard sore



The lines,



Wake ye or sleep ye now, madame,
Ye'se gar make room for me,

resemble these, from Willie and Lady Maisry, where the father
surprises the lovers.

Ye sleep ye, wake ye, daughter Maisry,
Ye'U open, lat me come in.



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72 THE BALLAD IMITATIONS OF SWINBURNE

On the other hand, though the language has so many ballad
elements, there are also a great many pre-Raphaelite features
about this piece. Such lines as the fifteenth stanza,

The insides of her bed curtains,

The gold was gone them thru;
The outsides of her bed curtains,

They were full merry and blue.

the twenty-seventh,

The small tears fell about her face

Between her lips and his;
From side to side of her gold hair

Her face was full sad to kiss,

and the description of the bower-maidens in the thrity-eighth,

In their sma' coats green and white;
With a red rose wrought for the left breast.
And a rose wrought for the right,

have no affinity with anything in the traditional ballads. Yet
Swinburne has not made of this a purely pre-Raphaelite piece,
like The King^s Daughter^ any more than he has taken care to pre-
serv^e the ballad tone thoughout, as in The Bride^s Tragedy. It is
this mingling of somewhat incongruous elements which prevents
Lord Scales from being as effective as these undoubtedly are.

Burd Margaret is the story of a maiden who believes herself
betrayed and forsaken by her lover. He returns, however, and
bears her off. Her brothers jeer at her, and he kills them. In its
main outlines, the plot is not very different from that of The Broom
of the Cowdenknofves, though in the latter the heroine is of low de-
gree.

The first stanza,

O wha will get me wheaten bread.

And wha will get me wine?
And wha will build me a gold cradle

To rock this child of mine.^

resembles the opening stanzas of jinnie of Roch Royals



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CONSTANCE RUMMONS 73

O wha will shoe my fu' fair foot?

An' wha will glove my han'f
An' wha will lace my middle jimp

Wi' the new-made London ban'?

Or wha will kemb my yallow hair,

Wi' the new-made silver kemb?
Or wha'll be father to my young bairn,

Till Love Gregor come hame?



The stanzas,



The first of them had fair Milan coats,
The second had but likes and jacks;
The third had coats of fair scarlet,
. And gold across their caps;

There were three and three wi' bits of steel
And three and three with siller fine,

And three and three wi' bits of gold.
Was red as fair new wine,

might have been suggested by the stanzas in Kinmont fFUlifj

There were five and five before them a',
Wi' hunting-horns and bugles bright;

And five and five came wi' Buccleugh,

Like Warden's men arrayed for fight; etc

Besides these, there are no places where the language resem-
bles that of any particular traditional ballad. It does not in any
place reach a high level of distinction. There are some lines which
while contrary to the ballad type, and pre-Raphaelite in tendency,
are not, on the other hand, of very high quality from the latter
point of view. Such, for example, is the sixth stanza.

The tears ran thru her fair sma' mouth;

(one is inclined to wonder how this is physically possible!)

The white bones small and thin
Were waxen sharper in her lang throat.
And in her wrists and chin.

On the whole, it is impossible to assign any great merit to
this piece.



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74 THE BALLAD IMITATIONS OF SWINBURNE

The Worm of Spindlestonheugh is a ballad whose source has
peculiar interest. There is supposed to have been a traditional
ballad of that title, of which The Hagg Worm is a surviving ver-
sion, and a forged ballad on the same legend was published in 1776.
The story is of a magical transformation, of the type familiar to
ballad readers in Kemp Owyne^ Allison Gross ^ and The Laidley Worm
and the Machrel of the Sea. As in Kemp Owyne^ the malice of a
wicked stepmother transforms the heroine (in the other two bal-
lads it is the hero) to the shape of a "laidley worm," or dragon.
Her brother, like Kemp Owyne, hears of this in a foreign land
where he is, and comes over the sea, fearing some harm has come
to his sister. Again like Kemp Ozuyne^ he releases her by kissing
her thrice, and takes vengeance on her wicked stepmother.

Such transformation-stories were the common property of
myth and legend all over Euope, and the usual method of break-
ing the spell was by a kiss, or, as here, three kisses. Morris has
given us a story on this theme in The Earthly Paradise, The
Northumbrian form of the legend, upon which Swinburne has
founded his ballad, is highly localized. The heroine*s father is
Ida, king of Northumbria, and his castle is Bamborough Castle,
where the wicked queen, metamorphosed into a toad, is still sup-
posed to dwell. The neighboring locality of Spindlestonheugh is
the scene of the "worm^s" devastations.

Swinburne has followed the traditional story with consid-
erable fidelity. He begins, as does The Hagg Worm, with the
heroine. Lady Helen, left at home to keep her father's house.
Word is brought to her that her father has taken a new wife, and
she goes to meet her. Then Swinburne interpolates an account
of the hardships suffered by her at her stepmother's hands :

And she's ate of the foul swine's meat

With her saft lips and fine;
She's put her mouth to the rank water

Was poured amang the swine.

After a while the stepmother apparently tires of this sort of
cruelty, and

She's witched her body to a laidley worm,
A laidley worm to be.

The duration which she pronounces for this spell is inconsistent
with the denouement:



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CONSTANCE RUMMONS 75

The red fhiit shall grow in green river water,

And green grass in the wet sea,
Ere ye shall come to a fair woman,

A fair woman to be.

Word is brought to her mother, — ^whom Swinburne names Lord
Richard instead of Child o' Wynd, — of the devastation caused by
the "worm* ' and of the disappeai^^^e of his sister. He apparent-
ly suspects the witchcraft of his stepmother, for he has a ship built
"a' of the rowan tree,'* — supposedly a protection against spells.
This circumstance is taken from the traditional ballad, as is the
difliculty which they have in landing, which in Swinbume*s ver-
sion is overcome by the magic virtue of vervein. He frees his sis-
ter in the traditional manner, and vows vengeance on the witch,
though the manner in which he takes it is left in doubt.

The anguage in one or two places bears a close resemblance to
that of The Hagg Worm. In tiie latter we read,

For seven miles east and seven miles west,

And seven miles north and south
Nae blade of grass or com will grow

For the venom of her mouth,

and in Swinburne's piece

For nine miles out of Spindlestonheugh
Of grass and rye there is nae routh;

There is sma' routh of the good reH corn.
For the breath of her rank mouth.

In general, however, the resemblance is in the circumstances
rather than in the diction. The mention of the keys at the open-
ing of the poem is an in8tance.^j||;In the ballad we have

She's knotted the keys upon a string,
And with her she has them taen;

She cast them o*er her left shoulder
And to the gates is gaen.



Swinburne has



She's taen the keys intil her hands

Between the red sun and the moon;

The rain ran down upon the grass
And stained in her silk shoon.



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^(> THE BALLAD IMITATIONS OF SWINBURNE

She's taen the keys to her girdle-tie

Between the warm sun and the weet;



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