Old English Ballads

Old English Ballads

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Old English Ballads

Old English Ballads

Read FREE!

Excerpt

It is a commonplace of criticism that recent literature has in every way accented the individual; and we are wont to charge this difference to the progress made by civilization from the medieval to the modern point of view. Ideas and expressions had lain at large in almost common property; in verse, translation was as noble an art as composition; but when, with the revival of learning, literature began to take her wares to market, she sought the critic to serve as watch-dog, and straightway wrote down the new crime of plagiarism. Paper and printer's ink set up a sort of privacy for both the author and what was once his public; instead of a throng of hearers, stood our gentle reader, encouraging the artist, and luring him more and more to confidences. It is true that we can find something of this personal character in the very heart of the middle ages. Added to such traditions of poetic dignity as the church preserved from an older literature, came her own teachings in regard to the value of the individual; and we certainly feel a sweep of sentiment, an audacity, one may say, of individualism, in that typical line of the "Dies Irae": --

Quezerens me sedisti lassus!

Yet this earlier personal element found no echo in popular poetry of the day. Mainly in a dead tongue, of an artificial interest, it appealed to a small class of learned . . .

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