Page:An Elizabethan garland; being a descriptive catalogue of seventy black-letter ballads, printed between the years 1559 and 1597.djvu/15

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ix


Sons of a Day! just buoyant on tbo flood,
Then number'd with the puppies in the mud.
Ask ye theair names? I could as soon disclose
The names of these blind puppies as of those.

And Duck Lane and its "kindred cobwebs," The Rings in Little Britain, The Three Bibles, and the Black Boy on London Bridge, and The Golden Ball in Pie Corner were the Heliconian founts whence poured their inspirations which made old London vocal and

Befring'd the walls of Bedlam and Soho.

The accomplishments of the bygone ballad-singer are graphically described by Brathwaite in his "Whimsies." "Now he counterfeits a natural base, then a perpetual treble, and ends with a counter-tenure. You shall heare him feigne an artfall straine through the nose, purposely to insinuate into the attention of the purer brotherhood." And in a rare tract, "Nimble and Quick, Pick and Chuse where you will," without date, we have a quaint specimen of his phraseology, "I love strong beer twice in the year, that is summer and winter. Ballad-singers have the most honest trade in the world for money: it is also an ancient and honorable calling, for Homer also was one." Ben Jonson, in his "Bartholomew Fair," introduces Nightingale a ballad-singer, who asks Cokes whether he shall sing his ballad to the tune of Paggington's (i.e. Packington's) "Pound."

The street ballad-singers of the present day are no improvement upon their predecessors. The elaborate blackguardism ard gin-and-fog voices of these excruciating screech-owls speak little for the boasted march of intellect.

Than old ballad lore nothig is more coveted or more rare. A bunch of broadside Elizabethan ballads is a prize that the owner of the choicest library would ride "booted to the groin" to add to his bibliographical treasures! Ritson bears testimony to their uncommon scarcity. "Very few," he remarks, "exist of an earlier date than the reigns of James, or even of Charles I. Being printed only on single sheets, which would fall chiefly into the