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ART. V.-1. The Nightingale in the East.
Price One Halfpenny.
1854. 2. John Bull and the Taxes .
Ditto 1865. 3. The Reform Battle in Hyde Park
1866. 4. Stop the Beer on Sunday.
1860. 5. Be Merry on Christmas Day
1866. 6. Grand Conversation on Napoleon
1830. 7. The Lakes of: Killarney
1840. 8. Spencer, the Rover
1827. 9. Work, Boys, Work.
1861. 10. The Oakham Poachers.
1819. 11. Müller's Lament
1860. 12. What do you think of Billy Roupell
1861. 13. The Road Hill Murder
1861. 14. Wonderful Mr. Spurgeon
1860. 15. Shakspeare's House
1858. 16. Death of Lord Palmerston
1865. 17. Church and Chapel
1859. 18. Answer to the Protestant Drum
1852. 19. Elegy on the Death of Prince Albert
1860. 20. The Prince of Wales' Baby
1861. 21. A Night in a London Workhouse
1866. 22. A Catalogue of Halfpenny Ballads (500)
1866. 23. Dreadful Accident on the Ice in Regent's Park
1867. 24. The Lions in Trafalgar Square
wise friend who believed that if a man were permitted to make all the Ballads of a nation, he need not care who should make the laws.'* Ingenious M. Meusnier de Querlon, too, once seriously projected the writing of the history of his country by a chronological series of Songs and Ballads; and, beyond a doubt, honest Andrew's words contain a considerable amount of truth, however difficult his more airy Gallic neighbour might have found it to make his history a complete one.
We can well imagine the effect of such glowing impassioned words as
Scots wha ha' wi’ Wallace bled' on the hearts of a band of Scotch patriots; or of the · Marseillaise'
· Aux armes, citoyens, formez vos bataillons,
* These well-known words have been variously attributed to men as different and as wide a part in every respect as Robert Burns and William Cobbett. But there is no doubt that they belong to honest Andrew. Vide • Political Works,' 266; and Whately’s • Bacon,' p. 175. Fletcher died in 1716.
on the crowd of hungry savages who hastened to “The Feast of Pikes ;' with what lusty throats, when King Henry came back from Agincourt, the men of London city shouted
*Owre kynge went forth to Normandy
Deo gratias :'* or, how, one and all, throughout Cornish land, the brave hearts and sturdy lips of the people, when their favourite Knight was in durance vile, made the country-side ring with
• And shall they scorn Tre, Pol, and Pen,
Will know the reason why.' There have been Ballads and Songs in every age of every civilised country, which gave utterance, not simply to the noble thoughts of some rapt minstrel or inspired bard, but to the deep and passionate longings, the undying patriotism, the heroic patience, the invincible courage, the sublime self-sacrifice, the rapture or the agony of a whole people ; and it was this that lent immortal fire and music to the lips of the singer; though his verse may have lacked the martial splendour of Macaulay, or the smooth and subtle strength of Aytoun. So far, therefore, we may
well endorse the dictum of worthy Mr. Fletcher; and still be a long way from making Acts of Parliament out of Ballads. But there comes a time in the history of every highly-civilised people, amid all the golden fruits of Religion, Philosophy, Art, Poetry, Science, Discovery and Wealth, with the baser results of Luxury and Refinement, when the Nation no longer speaks as a whole. The classes that in a simpler age were more or less one, or bound together by the tie of common duties, needs, and pleasures, become selfish and distinct. Each begins to have its own heroes, poets, teachers, maxims and favourite rules; and then, amid the clash of conflicting creeds, the jargon of schools, the cries of hungry ambition, the lofty reasonings of the philosopher, the proud flights of science and of song, the insatiable cravings of increasing wealth, and the dreams of self-indulgence,-among the great, the mighty, the rich, and the prosperous,—the words of the lower and poorer classes pass unheeded and almost unknown beyond their own immediate circle. And
yet this very circle, narrow as it comparatively is, in the midst of a great country like England, and in the heart of the mightiest city in the world, has its own pet heroes, poets, and teachers, its own favourite maxims, sayings, and rules; and, above all, its own Literature; with which few but the multitude of ardent disciples have any real acquaintance. Of that Literature Mr. Catnach* and his successors, Disley and Fortey, are the High-priests ; Seven Dials is the shrine ; while the question of authorship in the majority of cases is as great a mystery as that of the Homeric poems themselves. As to the shrine, it was known and famous as long ago as the days of delightful old Vinny Bourne'-as Cowper affectionately calls him-and even then as the seat of Song
* Percy's Reliques,' ii. 22.
'Qua Scptem vicos conterminat una Columna,
Consistunt Nymphæ Sirenum ex agmine binæ.'t The Column' has long ago given way to a far more sightly and useful building, and the ragged sirens with their cracked voices and wearisome importunities must be now looked for in the crowded recesses of the New Cut. But the ground is still sacred, Catnach is still the presiding genius of all the neighbouring grimy streets, and the Literature, though somewhat fallen from its ancient glory, includes that wonderful domain of • Halfpenny Ballads' to which we are now about to introduce our readers; forming, more or less, a separate class by themselves; distinct, as will be seen, in subject, style, and beauty. We have now before us a catalogue containing five or six hundred of these Ballads, and out of them, with considerable careas choice flowers out of a dainty garden—about a hundred have been selected, of which two dozen are named at the head of this Article. No mere selection, indeed, can give a true idea of all their varied beauties, or even of the innumerable topics on which they touch; so lofty is the flight of genius, so various are
* The most elaborate production of Jemmy Catnach,' as he was popularly called, was ' An Attempt to Exhibit the Leading Events in the Queen's Life, in Cuts and Verse,' price 2d. ; printed on a folio sheet adorned with 12 cuts, interspersed with verses of descriptive poetry, and bearing date Dec. 10, 1821. Catnach was then at the height of his fame as a printer of ballads in Monmouth-court, Seven Dials, where he spent a hardworking, busy life, and died in 1840, ætat. 49, baring amassed a fortune of 10,0001. He was the son of a decent north-country printer, and began at first with a small shop, and a small trade in halfpenny songs, relying for their composition on one or two of his 'bards, and when they were tipsy, being driven to write himself. During the Peninsular war, and specially at the time of Queen Caroline's trial, his business had increased so enormously as at times to require two or three presses going night and day to keep pace with the demand. At a later period he turned his attention to the Gallows Ballads,' and here he reaped a golden harvest. He retired from business in 1839, and was succeeded by a Mr. Fortey. † Vin. Bourne, ' Poemata,' p. 61.
the themes which poesy seizes on, ennobles, and makes her own for ever ; but we have done what we could in the difficult task, and those ardent readers whose thirst shall be still unquenched must go themselves to the fountain head.
The Ballads may be roughly divided into about eight classes, Famous Men and Women, Historical, Modern Events, * Religious,'_"Miscellaneous,'· Murder,' • Political,' “The Royal Family.' The modes of treatment are so curious, the metres employed so lawless, the beauties and the blots so many and so unexpected, that the difficulty is where to begin and what to select. The critic is fairly distracted by the infinite variety that besets and captivates him. The only way, therefore, in such a garden of roses, is to begin boldly, pluck the first flower that comes to hand, and arrange the bouquet as we best may. We turn, therefore, to · Famous Men and Women,' and light at once on the fair name of Florence Nightingale, as · The Nightingale in the East.' It's a far stretch from Seven Dials' to the Crimea, but the poet, nothing daunted by the greatness of his subject, thus plunges boldly in medias res,
‘On a dark lonely night on the Crimea's dread shore
And the soldier so cheerful in the morning do rise;
You're cheered by the presence of a sweet Nightingale.' * There is a fine abruptness in the three opening lines, but in spite of the rough music of the second, the whole picture is at once before the reader's eye; and in the midst of dead and dying heroes, some silent for ever, and some crying madly for help in their last agony, is the poet's fit occasion for obeying the great canon of · Nec deus intersi &c.,' and making a bold dash for the heroine in the closing line.
Stanza II. tells us that this woman was sent' from Heaven to succour the brave, that her eyes beam with pleasure, as some wounded ones are brought in with fever and life almost gone,' while
Some with dismantled † limbs, some to fragments is torn:' but, all keeping up their spirits, and hearts that never fail, in the presence of their sweet Nightingale. Yet, in utter defiance of
* Iu every extract from these ballads care has been taken to quote most exactly, terbatim, literatim,-and if it were lawful to say so,- punctuatim.
† Another version of this ballad here has . mangled,' but dismantled is clearly the true reading.
this horrible scene of carnage and confusion, the grim woodcut at the head of the Ballad represents our fair countrywoman as seated cosily by the side of a downy four-post bed, and handing a Basin of Hot Gruel (with Brandy in it beyond all doubt) to a stalwart but dismantled’ Dragoon, propped up with pillows and looking the very picture of easy comfort.
The name of Florence Nightingale is graven deeply on the hearts of the English people, and far and wide over the world, wherever the English language is spoken, goodness, and valour, and beauty are proud to claim kindred with her; but we doubt whether she ever reached a prouder apotheosis than
"The soldier's they say she's an angel from Heaven,
And all women was sent for the comfort of man!' Our next hero is Mr. Spurgeon, who for the last few years has probably preached more sermons, in better English, in spite of their slang, with a mightier voice, to a greater number of thousands, in a larger Rotunda, than any other young man of the age. All ages, ranks, and classes, have been found among his audience, from the days of the front rows and half-guinea reserved seats at the Surrey Music Hall, to the present free seats at the Tabernacle ; critics, embryo orators, profound admirers, and ungodly scoffers, ladies of fashion, unbelievers, and Christians of every known shade, have all 'sat under' him. So great is his eloquence, that in the words of our poet
" He can please the duke, the lord, the squire,
And ladies with gold lockets,
Out of old women's pockets.'
If Spurgeon went into St. Pani's
I'm sure he'd not dissemble,
And St. Paul's church for to tremble.' So winning are his persuasive powers, as to make guineas fly from the closest of 'buttoned pockets ;' to rouse his hearers to the heights of kingdom come,' or sink them to the depths of troubled anxiety about their poor souls,' or as our poet again expresses it,
An't he the one to harrass ?' In the great days of his Exeter Hall performances, when the Tabernacle was not yet built, Mr. Spurgeon is said--though the story is probably mythical—to have delighted and amazed his