Famous Ballad Poems
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The best famous Ballad poems by international web poets. These are the best examples of ballad poems.

123

TO AN OLD DANISH SONG-BOOK

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 Welcome, my old friend,
Welcome to a foreign fireside,
While the sullen gales of autumn
Shake the windows.
The ungrateful world Has, it seems, dealt harshly with thee, Since, beneath the skies of Denmark, First I met thee.
There are marks of age, There are thumb-marks on thy margin, Made by hands that clasped thee rudely, At the alehouse.
Soiled and dull thou art; Yellow are thy time-worn pages, As the russet, rain-molested Leaves of autumn.
Thou art stained with wine Scattered from hilarious goblets, As the leaves with the libations Of Olympus.
Yet dost thou recall Days departed, half-forgotten, When in dreamy youth I wandered By the Baltic,-- When I paused to hear The old ballad of King Christian Shouted from suburban taverns In the twilight.
Thou recallest bards, Who in solitary chambers, And with hearts by passion wasted, Wrote thy pages.
Thou recallest homes Where thy songs of love and friendship Made the gloomy Northern winter Bright as summer.
Once some ancient Scald, In his bleak, ancestral Iceland, Chanted staves of these old ballads To the Vikings.
Once in Elsinore, At the court of old King Hamlet Yorick and his boon companions Sang these ditties.
Once Prince Frederick's Guard Sang them in their smoky barracks;-- Suddenly the English cannon Joined the chorus! Peasants in the field, Sailors on the roaring ocean, Students, tradesmen, pale mechanics, All have sung them.
Thou hast been their friend; They, alas! have left thee friendless! Yet at least by one warm fireside Art thou welcome.
And, as swallows build In these wide, old-fashioned chimneys, So thy twittering songs shall nestle In my bosom,-- Quiet, close, and warm, Sheltered from all molestation, And recalling by their voices Youth and travel.


80. The Jolly Beggars: A Cantata

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 RecitativoWHEN lyart leaves bestrow the yird,
Or wavering like the bauckie-bird,
 Bedim cauld Boreas’ blast;
When hailstanes drive wi’ bitter skyte,
And infant frosts begin to bite,
 In hoary cranreuch drest;
Ae night at e’en a merry core
 O’ randie, gangrel bodies,
In Poosie-Nansie’s held the splore,
 To drink their orra duddies;
 Wi’ quaffing an’ laughing,
 They ranted an’ they sang,
 Wi’ jumping an’ thumping,
 The vera girdle rang,


First, neist the fire, in auld red rags,
Ane sat, weel brac’d wi’ mealy bags,
 And knapsack a’ in order;
His doxy lay within his arm;
Wi’ usquebae an’ blankets warm
 She blinkit on her sodger;
An’ aye he gies the tozie drab
 The tither skelpin’ kiss,
While she held up her greedy gab,
 Just like an aumous dish;
 Ilk smack still, did crack still,
 Just like a cadger’s whip;
 Then staggering an’ swaggering
 He roar’d this ditty up—


AirTune—“Soldier’s Joy.
”I am a son of Mars who have been in many wars, And show my cuts and scars wherever I come; This here was for a wench, and that other in a trench, When welcoming the French at the sound of the drum.
Lal de daudle, &c.
My ’prenticeship I past where my leader breath’d his last, When the bloody die was cast on the heights of Abram: And I served out my trade when the gallant game was play’d, And the Morro low was laid at the sound of the drum.
I lastly was with Curtis among the floating batt’ries, And there I left for witness an arm and a limb; Yet let my country need me, with Elliot to head me, I’d clatter on my stumps at the sound of a drum.
And now tho’ I must beg, with a wooden arm and leg, And many a tatter’d rag hanging over my bum, I’m as happy with my wallet, my bottle, and my callet, As when I used in scarlet to follow a drum.
What tho’ with hoary locks, I must stand the winter shocks, Beneath the woods and rocks oftentimes for a home, When the t’other bag I sell, and the t’other bottle tell, I could meet a troop of hell, at the sound of a drum.
RecitativoHe ended; and the kebars sheuk, Aboon the chorus roar; While frighted rattons backward leuk, An’ seek the benmost bore: A fairy fiddler frae the neuk, He skirl’d out, encore! But up arose the martial chuck, An’ laid the loud uproar.
AirTune—“Sodger Laddie.
”I once was a maid, tho’ I cannot tell when, And still my delight is in proper young men; Some one of a troop of dragoons was my daddie, No wonder I’m fond of a sodger laddie, Sing, lal de lal, &c.
The first of my loves was a swaggering blade, To rattle the thundering drum was his trade; His leg was so tight, and his cheek was so ruddy, Transported I was with my sodger laddie.
But the godly old chaplain left him in the lurch; The sword I forsook for the sake of the church: He ventur’d the soul, and I risked the body, ’Twas then I proved false to my sodger laddie.
Full soon I grew sick of my sanctified sot, The regiment at large for a husband I got; From the gilded spontoon to the fife I was ready, I askèd no more but a sodger laddie.
But the peace it reduc’d me to beg in despair, Till I met old boy in a Cunningham fair, His rags regimental, they flutter’d so gaudy, My heart it rejoic’d at a sodger laddie.
And now I have liv’d—I know not how long, And still I can join in a cup and a song; But whilst with both hands I can hold the glass steady, Here’s to thee, my hero, my sodger laddie.
RecitativoPoor Merry-Andrew, in the neuk, Sat guzzling wi’ a tinkler-hizzie; They mind’t na wha the chorus teuk, Between themselves they were sae busy: At length, wi’ drink an’ courting dizzy, He stoiter’d up an’ made a face; Then turn’d an’ laid a smack on Grizzie, Syne tun’d his pipes wi’ grave grimace.
AirTune—“Auld Sir Symon.
”Sir Wisdom’s a fool when he’s fou; Sir Knave is a fool in a session; He’s there but a ’prentice I trow, But I am a fool by profession.
My grannie she bought me a beuk, An’ I held awa to the school; I fear I my talent misteuk, But what will ye hae of a fool? For drink I would venture my neck; A hizzie’s the half of my craft; But what could ye other expect Of ane that’s avowedly daft? I ance was tied up like a stirk, For civilly swearing and quaffin; I ance was abus’d i’ the kirk, For towsing a lass i’ my daffin.
Poor Andrew that tumbles for sport, Let naebody name wi’ a jeer; There’s even, I’m tauld, i’ the Court A tumbler ca’d the Premier.
Observ’d ye yon reverend lad Mak faces to tickle the mob; He rails at our mountebank squad,— It’s rivalship just i’ the job.
And now my conclusion I’ll tell, For faith I’m confoundedly dry; The chiel that’s a fool for himsel’, Guid L—d! he’s far dafter than I.
RecitativoThen niest outspak a raucle carlin, Wha kent fu’ weel to cleek the sterlin; For mony a pursie she had hooked, An’ had in mony a well been douked; Her love had been a Highland laddie, But weary fa’ the waefu’ woodie! Wi’ sighs an’ sobs she thus began To wail her braw John Highlandman.
AirTune—“O, an ye were dead, Guidman.
”A Highland lad my love was born, The Lalland laws he held in scorn; But he still was faithfu’ to his clan, My gallant, braw John Highlandman.
Chorus Sing hey my braw John Highlandman! Sing ho my braw John Highlandman! There’s not a lad in a’ the lan’ Was match for my John Highlandman.
With his philibeg an’ tartan plaid, An’ guid claymore down by his side, The ladies’ hearts he did trepan, My gallant, braw John Highlandman.
Sing hey, &c.
We rangèd a’ from Tweed to Spey, An’ liv’d like lords an’ ladies gay; For a Lalland face he fearèd none,— My gallant, braw John Highlandman.
Sing hey, &c.
They banish’d him beyond the sea.
But ere the bud was on the tree, Adown my cheeks the pearls ran, Embracing my John Highlandman.
Sing hey, &c.
But, och! they catch’d him at the last, And bound him in a dungeon fast: My curse upon them every one, They’ve hang’d my braw John Highlandman! Sing hey, &c.
And now a widow, I must mourn The pleasures that will ne’er return: The comfort but a hearty can, When I think on John Highlandman.
Sing hey, &c.
RecitativoA pigmy scraper wi’ his fiddle, Wha us’d at trystes an’ fairs to driddle.
Her strappin limb and gausy middle (He reach’d nae higher) Had hol’d his heartie like a riddle, An’ blawn’t on fire.
Wi’ hand on hainch, and upward e’e, He croon’d his gamut, one, two, three, Then in an arioso key, The wee Apoll Set off wi’ allegretto glee His giga solo.
AirTune—“Whistle owre the lave o’t.
”Let me ryke up to dight that tear, An’ go wi’ me an’ be my dear; An’ then your every care an’ fear May whistle owre the lave o’t.
Chorus I am a fiddler to my trade, An’ a’ the tunes that e’er I played, The sweetest still to wife or maid, Was whistle owre the lave o’t.
At kirns an’ weddins we’se be there, An’ O sae nicely’s we will fare! We’ll bowse about till Daddie Care Sing whistle owre the lave o’t.
I am, &c.
Sae merrily’s the banes we’ll pyke, An’ sun oursel’s about the dyke; An’ at our leisure, when ye like, We’ll whistle owre the lave o’t.
I am, &c.
But bless me wi’ your heav’n o’ charms, An’ while I kittle hair on thairms, Hunger, cauld, an’ a’ sic harms, May whistle owre the lave o’t.
I am, &c.
RecitativoHer charms had struck a sturdy caird, As weel as poor gut-scraper; He taks the fiddler by the beard, An’ draws a roosty rapier— He swoor, by a’ was swearing worth, To speet him like a pliver, Unless he would from that time forth Relinquish her for ever.
Wi’ ghastly e’e poor tweedle-dee Upon his hunkers bended, An’ pray’d for grace wi’ ruefu’ face, An’ so the quarrel ended.
But tho’ his little heart did grieve When round the tinkler prest her, He feign’d to snirtle in his sleeve, When thus the caird address’d her: AirTune—“Clout the Cauldron.
”My bonie lass, I work in brass, A tinkler is my station: I’ve travell’d round all Christian ground In this my occupation; I’ve taen the gold, an’ been enrolled In many a noble squadron; But vain they search’d when off I march’d To go an’ clout the cauldron.
I’ve taen the gold, &c.
Despise that shrimp, that wither’d imp, With a’ his noise an’ cap’rin; An’ take a share with those that bear The budget and the apron! And by that stowp! my faith an’ houp, And by that dear Kilbaigie, 2 If e’er ye want, or meet wi’ scant, May I ne’er weet my craigie.
And by that stowp, &c.
RecitativoThe caird prevail’d—th’ unblushing fair In his embraces sunk; Partly wi’ love o’ercome sae sair, An’ partly she was drunk: Sir Violino, with an air That show’d a man o’ spunk, Wish’d unison between the pair, An’ made the bottle clunk To their health that night.
But hurchin Cupid shot a shaft, That play’d a dame a shavie— The fiddler rak’d her, fore and aft, Behint the chicken cavie.
Her lord, a wight of Homer’s craft, 3 Tho’ limpin wi’ the spavie, He hirpl’d up, an’ lap like daft, An’ shor’d them Dainty Davie O’ boot that night.
He was a care-defying blade As ever Bacchus listed! Tho’ Fortune sair upon him laid, His heart, she ever miss’d it.
He had no wish but—to be glad, Nor want but—when he thirsted; He hated nought but—to be sad, An’ thus the muse suggested His sang that night.
AirTune—“For a’ that, an’ a’ that.
”I am a Bard of no regard, Wi’ gentle folks an’ a’ that; But Homer-like, the glowrin byke, Frae town to town I draw that.
Chorus For a’ that, an’ a’ that, An’ twice as muckle’s a’ that; I’ve lost but ane, I’ve twa behin’, I’ve wife eneugh for a’ that.
I never drank the Muses’ stank, Castalia’s burn, an’ a’ that; But there it streams an’ richly reams, My Helicon I ca’ that.
For a’ that, &c.
Great love Idbear to a’ the fair, Their humble slave an’ a’ that; But lordly will, I hold it still A mortal sin to thraw that.
For a’ that, &c.
In raptures sweet, this hour we meet, Wi’ mutual love an’ a’ that; But for how lang the flie may stang, Let inclination law that.
For a’ that, &c.
Their tricks an’ craft hae put me daft, They’ve taen me in, an’ a’ that; But clear your decks, and here’s—“The Sex!” I like the jads for a’ that.
Chorus For a’ that, an’ a’ that, An’ twice as muckle’s a’ that; My dearest bluid, to do them guid, They’re welcome till’t for a’ that.
RecitativoSo sang the bard—and Nansie’s wa’s Shook with a thunder of applause, Re-echo’d from each mouth! They toom’d their pocks, they pawn’d their duds, They scarcely left to co’er their fuds, To quench their lowin drouth: Then owre again, the jovial thrang The poet did request To lowse his pack an’ wale a sang, A ballad o’ the best; He rising, rejoicing, Between his twa Deborahs, Looks round him, an’ found them Impatient for the chorus.
AirTune—“Jolly Mortals, fill your Glasses.
”See the smoking bowl before us, Mark our jovial ragged ring! Round and round take up the chorus, And in raptures let us sing— Chorus A fig for those by law protected! Liberty’s a glorious feast! Courts for cowards were erected, Churches built to please the priest.
What is title, what is treasure, What is reputation’s care? If we lead a life of pleasure, ’Tis no matter how or where! A fig for, &c.
With the ready trick and fable, Round we wander all the day; And at night in barn or stable, Hug our doxies on the hay.
A fig for, &c.
Does the train-attended carriage Thro’ the country lighter rove? Does the sober bed of marriage Witness brighter scenes of love? A fig for, &c.
Life is al a variorum, We regard not how it goes; Let them cant about decorum, Who have character to lose.
A fig for, &c.
Here’s to budgets, bags and wallets! Here’s to all the wandering train.
Here’s our ragged brats and callets, One and all cry out, Amen! Chorus A fig for those by law protected! Liberty’s a glorious feast! Courts for cowards were erected, Churches built to please the priest.
Note 1.
Not published by Burns.
[back] Note 2.
A peculiar sort of whisky so called, a great favorite with Poosie Nansie’s clubs.
—R.
B.
[back] Note 3.
Homer is allowed to be the oldest ballad-singer on record.
—R.
B.
[back]


Songs Eternity

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 What is song's eternity?
Come and see.
Can it noise and bustle be? Come and see.
Praises sung or praises said Can it be? Wait awhile and these are dead— Sigh, sigh; Be they high or lowly bred They die.
What is song's eternity? Come and see.
Melodies of earth and sky, Here they be.
Song once sung to Adam's ears Can it be? Ballads of six thousand years Thrive, thrive; Songs awaken with the spheres Alive.
Mighty songs that miss decay, What are they? Crowds and cities pass away Like a day.
Books are out and books are read; What are they? Years will lay them with the dead— Sigh, sigh; Trifles unto nothing wed, They die.
Dreamers, mark the honey bee; Mark the tree Where the blue cap "tootle tee" Sings a glee Sung to Adam and to Eve— Here they be.
When floods covered every bough, Noah's ark Heard that ballad singing now; Hark, hark, "Tootle tootle tootle tee"— Can it be Pride and fame must shadows be? Come and see— Every season owns her own; Bird and bee Sing creation's music on; Nature's glee Is in every mood and tone Eternity.


The Ballad Of The Leather Medal

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 Only a Leather Medal, hanging there on the wall,
Dingy and frayed and faded, dusty and worn and old;
Yet of my humble treasures I value it most of all,
And I wouldn't part with that medal if you gave me its weight in gold.
Read the inscription: For Valour - presented to Millie MacGee.
Ah! how in mem'ry it takes me back to the "auld lang syne," When Millie and I were sweethearts, and fair as a flower was she - Yet little I dreamt that her bosom held the heart of heroine.
Listen! I'll tell you about it.
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An orphan was Millie MacGee, Living with Billie her brother, under the Yukon sky, Sam, her pa, was cremated in the winter of nineteen-three, As duly and truly related by the pen of an author guy.
A cute little kid was Billie, solemn and silken of hair, The image of Jackie Coogan in the days before movies could speak.
Devoted to him was Millie, with more than a mother's care, And happy were they together in their cabin on Bunker Creek.
'Twas only a mining village, where hearts are simple and true, And Millie MacGee was schoolma'am, loved and admired by all; Yet no one dreamed for a moment she'd do what she dared to do - But wait and I'll try to tell you, as clear as I can recall.
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Christmas Eve in the school-house! A scene of glitter and glee; The children eager and joyful; parents and neighbours too; Right in the forefront, Millie, close to the Christmas Tree.
While Billie, her brother, recited "The Shooting of Dan McGrew.
" I reckon you've heard the opus, a ballad of guts and gore; Of a Yukon frail and a frozen trail and a fight in a dringing dive, It's on a par, I figger, with "The Face on the Bar-Room Floor," And the boys who wrote them pieces ought to be skinned alive.
Picture that scene of gladness; the honest faces aglow; The kiddies gaping and spellbound, as Billie strutted his stuff.
The stage with its starry candles, and there in the foremost row, Millie, bright as a fairy, in radient flounce and fluff.
More like an angel I thought her; all she needed was wings, And I sought for a smile seraphic, but her eyes were only for Bill; So there was I longing and loving, and dreaming the craziest things, And Billie shouting and spouting, and everyone rapt and still.
Proud as a prince was Billie, bang in the footlights' glare, And quaking for him was Millie, as she followed every word; Then just as he reached the climax, ranting and sawing the air - Ugh! How it makes me shudder! The horrible thing occurred.
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'Twas the day when frocks were frilly, and skirts were scraping the ground, And the snowy flounces of Millie like sea foam round her swept; Humbly adoring I watched her - when oh, my heart gave a bound! Hoary and scarred and hideous, out from the tree.
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crept.
A whiskered, beady-eyes monster, grisly and grim of hue; Savage and slinking and silent, born of the dark and dirt; Dazed by the glare and the glitter, it wavered a moment or two - Then like a sinister shadow, it vanished.
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'neath Millie's skirt.
I stared.
had my eyes deceived me? I shivered.
I held my breath.
Surly I must have dreamed it.
I quivered.
I made to rise.
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Then - my God! it was real.
Millie grew pale as death; And oh, such a look of terror woke in her lovely eyes.
Did her scream ring out? Ah no, sir.
It froze at her very lips.
Clenching her teeth she checked it, and I saw her slim hands lock, Grasping and gripping tensely, with desperate finger tips, Something that writhed and wriggled under her dainty frock.
Quick I'd have dashed to her rescue, but fiercely she signalled: "No!" Her eyes were dark with anguish, but her lips were set and grim; Then I knew she was thinking of Billie - the kiddy must have his show, Reap to the full his glory, nothing mattered but him.
So spiked to my chair with horror, there I shuddered and saw Her fingrs frenziedly clutching and squeezing with all their might Something that squirmed and struggled, a deamon of tooth and claw, Fighting with fear and fury, under her garment white.
Oh could I only aid her! But the wide room lay between, And again her eyes besought me: "Steady!" they seamed to say.
"Stay where you are, Bob Simmons; don't let us have a scene, Billie will soon be finished.
Only a moment.
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stay!" A moment! Ah yes, I got her.
I knew how night after night She'd learned him each line of that ballad with patience and pride and glee; With gesture and tone dramatic, she'd taught him how to recite.
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And now at the last to fail him - no, it must never be.
A moment! It seemed like ages.
Why was Billie so slow? He stammered.
Twice he repeated: "The Lady that's known as Lou -" The kiddy was stuck and she knew it.
Her face was frantic with woe.
Could she but come to his rescue? Could she remember the cue? I saw her whispering wildly as she leaned to the frightened boy; But Billie stared like a dummy, and I stifled an anxious curse.
Louder, louder she prompted; then his face illumined with joy, And panting, flushed and exultant, he finished the final verse.
So the youngster would up like a whirlwind, while cheer resounded on cheer; His piece was the hit of the evening.
"Bravo!" I heard them say.
But there in the heart of the racket was one who could not hear - The loving sister who'd coached him; for Millie had fainted away.
I rushed to her side and grabbed her; then others saw her distress, And all were eager to aid me, as I pillowed that golden head, But her arms were tense and rigid, and clutched in the folds of her dress, Unlocking her hands they found it .
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A RAT .
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and the brute was dead.
In silence she'd crushed its life out, rather than scare the crowd, And queer little Billie's triumph .
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Hey! Mother, what about tea? I've just been telling a story that makes me so mighty proud.
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Stranger, let me present you - my wife, that was Millie MacGee.


A Ballad of Death

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 Kneel down, fair Love, and fill thyself with tears,
Girdle thyself with sighing for a girth
Upon the sides of mirth,
Cover thy lips and eyelids, let thine ears
Be filled with rumour of people sorrowing;
Make thee soft raiment out of woven sighs
Upon the flesh to cleave,
Set pains therein and many a grievous thing,
And many sorrows after each his wise
For armlet and for gorget and for sleeve.
O Love's lute heard about the lands of death, Left hanged upon the trees that were therein; O Love and Time and Sin, Three singing mouths that mourn now underbreath, Three lovers, each one evil spoken of; O smitten lips wherethrough this voice of mine Came softer with her praise; Abide a little for our lady's love.
The kisses of her mouth were more than wine, And more than peace the passage of her days.
O Love, thou knowest if she were good to see.
O Time, thou shalt not find in any land Till, cast out of thine hand, The sunlight and the moonlight fail from thee, Another woman fashioned like as this.
O Sin, thou knowest that all thy shame in her Was made a goodly thing; Yea, she caught Shame and shamed him with her kiss, With her fair kiss, and lips much lovelier Than lips of amorous roses in late spring.
By night there stood over against my bed Queen Venus with a hood striped gold and black, Both sides drawn fully back From brows wherein the sad blood failed of red, And temples drained of purple and full of death.
Her curled hair had the wave of sea-water And the sea's gold in it.
Her eyes were as a dove's that sickeneth.
Strewn dust of gold she had shed over her, And pearl and purple and amber on her feet.
Upon her raiment of dyed sendaline Were painted all the secret ways of love And covered things thereof, That hold delight as grape-flowers hold their wine; Red mouths of maidens and red feet of doves, And brides that kept within the bride-chamber Their garment of soft shame, And weeping faces of the wearied loves That swoon in sleep and awake wearier, With heat of lips and hair shed out like flame.
The tears that through her eyelids fell on me Made mine own bitter where they ran between As blood had fallen therein, She saying; Arise, lift up thine eyes and see If any glad thing be or any good Now the best thing is taken forth of us; Even she to whom all praise Was as one flower in a great multitude, One glorious flower of many and glorious, One day found gracious among many days: Even she whose handmaiden was Love--to whom At kissing times across her stateliest bed Kings bowed themselves and shed Pale wine, and honey with the honeycomb, And spikenard bruised for a burnt-offering; Even she between whose lips the kiss became As fire and frankincense; Whose hair was as gold raiment on a king, Whose eyes were as the morning purged with flame, Whose eyelids as sweet savour issuing thence.
Then I beheld, and lo on the other side My lady's likeness crowned and robed and dead.
Sweet still, but now not red, Was the shut mouth whereby men lived and died.
And sweet, but emptied of the blood's blue shade, The great curled eyelids that withheld her eyes.
And sweet, but like spoilt gold, The weight of colour in her tresses weighed.
And sweet, but as a vesture with new dyes, The body that was clothed with love of old.
Ah! that my tears filled all her woven hair And all the hollow bosom of her gown-- Ah! that my tears ran down Even to the place where many kisses were, Even where her parted breast-flowers have place, Even where they are cloven apart--who knows not this? Ah! the flowers cleave apart And their sweet fills the tender interspace; Ah! the leaves grown thereof were things to kiss Ere their fine gold was tarnished at the heart.
Ah! in the days when God did good to me, Each part about her was a righteous thing; Her mouth an almsgiving, The glory of her garments charity, The beauty of her bosom a good deed, In the good days when God kept sight of us; Love lay upon her eyes, And on that hair whereof the world takes heed; And all her body was more virtuous Than souls of women fashioned otherwise.
Now, ballad, gather poppies in thine hands And sheaves of brier and many rusted sheaves Rain-rotten in rank lands, Waste marigold and late unhappy leaves And grass that fades ere any of it be mown; And when thy bosom is filled full thereof Seek out Death's face ere the light altereth, And say "My master that was thrall to Love Is become thrall to Death.
" Bow down before him, ballad, sigh and groan.
But make no sojourn in thy outgoing; For haply it may be That when thy feet return at evening Death shall come in with thee.


The Ballad Of A Bachelor

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 Listen, ladies, while I sing
The ballad of John Henry King.
John Henry was a bachelor, His age was thirty-three or four.
Two maids for his affection vied, And each desired to be his bride, And bravely did they strive to bring Unto their feet John Henry King.
John Henry liked them both so well, To save his life he could not tell Which he most wished to be his bride, Nor was he able to decide.
Fair Kate was jolly, bright, and gay, And sunny as a summer day; Marie was kind, sedate, and sweet, With gentle ways and manners neat.
Each was so dear that John confessed He could not tell which he liked best.
He studied them for quite a year, And still found no solution near, And might have studied two years more Had he not, walking on the shore, Conceived a very simple way Of ending his prolonged delay-- A way in which he might decide Which of the maids should be his bride.
He said, "I'll toss into the air A dollar, and I'll toss it fair; If heads come up, I'll wed Marie; If tails, fair Kate my bride shall be.
" Then from his leather pocket-book A dollar bright and new he took; He kissed one side for fair Marie, The other side for Kate kissed he.
Then in a manner free and fair He tossed the dollar in the air.
"Ye fates," he cried, "pray let this be A lucky throw indeed for me!" The dollar rose, the dollar fell; He watched its whirling transit well, And off some twenty yards or more The dollar fell upon the shore.
John Henry ran to where it struck To see which maiden was in luck.
But, oh, the irony of fate! Upon its edge the coin stood straight! And there, embedded in the sand, John Henry let the dollar stand! And he will tempt his fate no more, But live and die a bachelor.
Thus, ladies, you have heard me sing The ballad of John Henry King.


Repeat That Repeat

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 Repeat that, repeat,
Cuckoo, bird, and open ear wells, heart-springs, delightfully sweet,
With a ballad, with a ballad, a rebound 
Off trundled timber and scoops of the hillside ground, hollow hollow hollow ground:
The whole landscape flushes on a sudden at a sound.


BALLAD OF THE BANISHED AND RETURNING COUNT

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 [Goethe began to write an opera called Lowenstuhl, 
founded upon the old tradition which forms the subject of this Ballad, 
but he never carried out his design.
] OH, enter old minstrel, thou time-honour'd one! We children are here in the hall all alone, The portals we straightway will bar.
Our mother is praying, our father is gone To the forest, on wolves to make war.
Oh sing us a ballad, the tale then repeat, 'Till brother and I learn it right; We long have been hoping a minstrel to meet, For children hear tales with delight.
"At midnight, when darkness its fearful veil weaves, His lofty and stately old castle he leaves, But first he has buried his wealth.
What figure is that in his arms one perceives, As the Count quits the gateway by stealth? O'er what is his mantle so hastily thrown? What bears he along in his flight? A daughter it is, and she gently sleeps on"-- The children they hear with delight.
"The morning soon glimmers.
the world is so wide, In valleys and forests a home is supplied, The bard in each village is cheer'd.
Thus lives he and wanders, while years onward glide, And longer still waxes his beard; But the maiden so fair in his arms grows amain, 'Neath her star all-protecting and bright, Secured in the mantle from wind and from rain--" The children they hear with delight.
"And year upon year with swift footstep now steals, The mantle it fades, many rents it reveals, The maiden no more it can hold.
The father he sees her, what rapture he feels! His joy cannot now be controll'd.
How worthy she seems of the race whence she springs, How noble and fair to the sight! What wealth to her dearly-loved father she brings!"-- The children they hear with delight.
"Then comes there a princely knight galloping by, She stretches her hand out, as soon as he's nigh, But alms he refuses to give.
He seizes her hand, with a smile in his eye: 'Thou art mine!' he exclaims, 'while I live!' 'When thou know'st,' cries the old man, 'the treasure that's there, A princess thou'lt make her of right; Betroth'd be she now, on this spot green and fair--'" The children they hear with delight.
"So she's bless'd by the priest on the hallowed place, And she goes with a smiling but sorrowful face, From her father she fain would not part.
The old man still wanders with ne'er-changing pace, He covers with joy his sad heart.
So I think of my daughter, as years pass away, And my grandchildren far from my sight; I bless them by night, and I bless them by day"-- The children they hear with delight.
He blesses the children: a knocking they hear, The father it is! They spring forward in fear, The old man they cannot conceal-- "Thou beggar, wouldst lure, then, my children so dear? Straight seize him, ye vassals of steel! To the dungeon most deep, with the fool-hardy knave!" The mother from far hears the fight; She hastens with flatt'ring entreaty to crave-- The children they hear with delight.
The vassals they suffer the Bard to stand there, And mother and children implore him to spare, The proud prince would stifle his ire, 'Till driven to fury at hearing their prayer, His smouldering anger takes fire: "Thou pitiful race! Oh, thou beggarly crew! Eclipsing my star, once so bright! Ye'll bring me destruction, ye sorely shall rue!" The children they hear with affright.
The old man still stands there with dignified mien, The vassals of steel quake before him, I ween, The Count's fury increases in power; "My wedded existence a curse long has been, And these are the fruits from that flower! 'Tis ever denied, and the saying is true, That to wed with the base-born is right; The beggar has borne me a beggarly crew,--" The children they hear with affright.
"If the husband, the father, thus treats you with scorn, If the holiest bonds by him rashly are torn, Then come to your father--to me! The beggar may gladden life's pathway forlorn, Though aged and weak he may be.
This castle is mine! thou hast made it thy prey, Thy people 'twas put me to flight; The tokens I bear will confirm what I say"-- The children they hear with delight.
"The king who erst govern'd returneth again, And restores to the Faithful the goods that were ta'en, I'll unseal all my treasures the while; The laws shall be gentle, and peaceful the reign"-- The old man thus cries with a smile-- "Take courage, my son! all hath turned out for good, And each hath a star that is bright, Those the princess hath borne thee are princely in blood,"-- The children thy hear with delight.
1816.


Heart not so heavy as mine

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 Heart, not so heavy as mine
Wending late home --
As it passed my window
Whistled itself a tune --
A careless snatch -- a ballad -- A ditty of the street --
Yet to my irritated Ear
An Anodyne so sweet --
It was as if a Bobolink
Sauntering this way
Carolled, and paused, and carolled --
Then bubbled slow away!
It was as if a chirping brook
Upon a dusty way --
Set bleeding feet to minuets
Without the knowing why!
Tomorrow, night will come again --
Perhaps, weary and sore --
Ah Bugle! By my window
I pray you pass once more.


The Rhyme of the Three Captains

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 This ballad appears to refer to one of the exploits of the notorious
Paul Jones, the American pirate.
It is founded on fact.
.
.
.
At the close of a winter day, Their anchors down, by London town, the Three Great Captains lay; And one was Admiral of the North from Solway Firth to Skye, And one was Lord of the Wessex coast and all the lands thereby, And one was Master of the Thames from Limehouse to Blackwall, And he was Captain of the Fleet -- the bravest of them all.
Their good guns guarded their great gray sides that were thirty foot in the sheer, When there came a certain trading-brig with news of a privateer.
Her rigging was rough with the clotted drift that drives in a Northern breeze, Her sides were clogged with the lazy weed that spawns in the Eastern seas.
Light she rode in the rude tide-rip, to left and right she rolled, And the skipper sat on the scuttle-butt and stared at an empty hold.
"I ha' paid Port dues for your Law," quoth he, "and where is the Law ye boast If I sail unscathed from a heathen port to be robbed on a Christian coast? Ye have smoked the hives of the Laccadives as we burn the lice in a bunk, We tack not now to a Gallang prow or a plunging Pei-ho junk; I had no fear but the seas were clear as far as a sail might fare Till I met with a lime-washed Yankee brig that rode off Finisterre.
There were canvas blinds to his bow-gun ports to screen the weight he bore, And the signals ran for a merchantman from Sandy Hook to the Nore.
He would not fly the Rovers' flag -- the bloody or the black, But now he floated the Gridiron and now he flaunted the Jack.
He spoke of the Law as he crimped my crew -- he swore it was only a loan; But when I would ask for my own again, he swore it was none of my own.
He has taken my little parrakeets that nest beneath the Line, He has stripped my rails of the shaddock-frails and the green unripened pine; He has taken my bale of dammer and spice I won beyond the seas, He has taken my grinning heathen gods -- and what should he want o' these? My foremast would not mend his boom, my deckhouse patch his boats; He has whittled the two, this Yank Yahoo, to peddle for shoe-peg oats.
I could not fight for the failing light and a rough beam-sea beside, But I hulled him once for a clumsy crimp and twice because he lied.
Had I had guns (as I had goods) to work my Christian harm, I had run him up from his quarter-deck to trade with his own yard-arm; I had nailed his ears to my capstan-head, and ripped them off with a saw, And soused them in the bilgewater, and served them to him raw; I had flung him blind in a rudderless boat to rot in the rocking dark, I had towed him aft of his own craft, a bait for his brother shark; I had lapped him round with cocoa husk, and drenched him with the oil, And lashed him fast to his own mast to blaze above my spoil; I had stripped his hide for my hammock-side, and tasselled his beard i' the mesh, And spitted his crew on the live bamboo that grows through the gangrened flesh; I had hove him down by the mangroves brown, where the mud-reef sucks and draws, Moored by the heel to his own keel to wait for the land-crab's claws! He is lazar within and lime without, ye can nose him far enow, For he carries the taint of a musky ship -- the reek of the slaver's dhow!" The skipper looked at the tiering guns and the bulwarks tall and cold, And the Captains Three full courteously peered down at the gutted hold, And the Captains Three called courteously from deck to scuttle-butt: -- "Good Sir, we ha' dealt with that merchantman or ever your teeth were cut.
Your words be words of a lawless race, and the Law it standeth thus: He comes of a race that have never a Law, and he never has boarded us.
We ha' sold him canvas and rope and spar -- we know that his price is fair, And we know that he weeps for the lack of a Law as he rides off Finisterre.
And since he is damned for a gallows-thief by you and better than you, We hold it meet that the English fleet should know that we hold him true.
" The skipper called to the tall taffrail: -- "And what is that to me? Did ever you hear of a Yankee brig that rifled a Seventy-three? Do I loom so large from your quarter-deck that I lift like a ship o' the Line? He has learned to run from a shotted gun and harry such craft as mine.
There is never a Law on the Cocos Keys to hold a white man in, But we do not steal the niggers' meal, for that is a nigger's sin.
Must he have his Law as a quid to chaw, or laid in brass on his wheel? Does he steal with tears when he buccaneers? 'Fore Gad, then, why does he steal?" The skipper bit on a deep-sea word, and the word it was not sweet, For he could see the Captains Three had signalled to the Fleet.
But three and two, in white and blue, the whimpering flags began: -- "We have heard a tale of a -- foreign sail, but he is a merchantman.
" The skipper peered beneath his palm and swore by the Great Horn Spoon: -- "'Fore Gad, the Chaplain of the Fleet would bless my picaroon!" By two and three the flags blew free to lash the laughing air: -- "We have sold our spars to the merchantman -- we know that his price is fair.
" The skipper winked his Western eye, and swore by a China storm: -- "They ha' rigged him a Joseph's jury-coat to keep his honour warm.
" The halliards twanged against the tops, the bunting bellied broad, The skipper spat in the empty hold and mourned for a wasted cord.
Masthead -- masthead, the signal sped by the line o' the British craft; The skipper called to his Lascar crew, and put her about and laughed: -- "It's mainsail haul, my bully boys all -- we'll out to the seas again -- Ere they set us to paint their pirate saint, or scrub at his grapnel-chain.
It's fore-sheet free, with her head to the sea, and the swing of the unbought brine -- We'll make no sport in an English court till we come as a ship o' the Line: Till we come as a ship o' the Line, my lads, of thirty foot in the sheer, Lifting again from the outer main with news of a privateer; Flying his pluck at our mizzen-truck for weft of Admiralty, Heaving his head for our dipsey-lead in sign that we keep the sea.
Then fore-sheet home as she lifts to the foam -- we stand on the outward tack, We are paid in the coin of the white man's trade -- the bezant is hard, ay, and black.
The frigate-bird shall carry my word to the Kling and the Orang-Laut How a man may sail from a heathen coast to be robbed in a Christian port; How a man may be robbed in Christian port while Three Great Captains there Shall dip their flag to a slaver's rag -- to show that his trade is fair!"


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