Page:An Elizabethan garland; being a descriptive catalogue of seventy black-letter ballads, printed between the years 1559 and 1597.djvu/14

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viii


Knights and dames, and goblins hairy,
Giants rude aud gentle fairy,

were as plentiful and as popular as ever. But in process of time the old metre-men passed away, and when Charles I. became King a new race succeeded to their titles, though they maintained very indifferently their honors. The most prolitic of these was Martin Parker a Grub-street scribbler, to whom our much-abused friend "fonde Elderton" was a Swan of Helicon to a Tailor's Goose And in his wake followed an inferior fry (Price, Wade, Climsel, and Guy) to whom even Martin himself was a Triton of the minnows! In fecundity they kept pace with their predecessors, and poured forth merry medicines for melancholy. Daring the Usurpation, the people who had been arbitrarily deprived of their amusements by the iron hand of treason and fanaticism, found refuge in the penny ballad, in which the cup dity, hipocriey, and cant of their oppressors were happily exposed and ridiculed. And while the stage, that had been trodden by Shakespeare and his "fellows," was steruly prohibited, the well-graced actor silent and pining in poverty, and the may-pole and its flowery garlands prostrate and withered, the dark narrow streets and low-roofed dingy hostelries and houses of ancient London rang with these mirth-moving madrigals!

The Restoration brought back with it Theatres and May-games, and England joyfully resumed her ancient title of "Merrie." But the old-fashioned minstrelsy of the million had seen its best days, and diversions more generally attractive put ballad-singing somewhat in abeyance. Old songs were now gathered into Garlands, and reprinted as Chap Bocks adorned with "new and proper sculptures," and in this more permanent shape were fortunately preserved to posterity. The Pepysian and Bodleian libraries are rich in these interesting tiny tomes, and in that of the writer there are many curious specimens. St. Bartlemy and Frost Fairs, Party Politics and Tyburn Tree still found congenial occupation for a goodly host of garretteers—