Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Popular Songs and Ballads in Middle Age


v                  Popular Songs and Ballads:

* Towards the later part of the 14th century popular songs, particularly traditional ballads had become an important source of popular entertainment. Regarding their origin there are much controversies. Their authorship has remained mostly anonymous. But whether the ballad was composed by minstrel, or was the result of communal activity, it is essentially simple and popular.

* They deal with love, local legends, and the feats of local heroes, supernatural happenings or religious stories.

* Its tone is impersonal and detached and there is little or none of the composer’s personality to be felt.

* The ballad is written is written in a meter known as ‘ballad meter’ (four lined stanza with iambic tetrameter and trimester respectively).Because of their common characteristics it is difficult to identify ballad and popular songs separately.

Among them the most notable are-Robin Hood Ballad, Chevy Chase, Sir Patrick Spens, Nutbrown Maid are worthy to mention.

v                  Robin Hood Ballads:

* A large number of ballads are composed on the life and adventures of Robin Hood in the Green Wood. He fights against the Sheriff and lends his helping hands towards the poor and the oppressed. He becomes a name for his kindness and relentless struggle against the wicked till he dies in this process.

* Among the Robin Hood ballads the important ballads are ---Robin Hood and Gandeleyn, Robin Hood and the Monk, Robin Hood and the Potter, The gest of Robin Hood etc. These ballads serve enough materials for the literature hereafter.

v                  Chevy Chase:

* It is one of the oldest and finest epical ballads on the ‘border’ matter. (Border—the scene of so many bloody encounters between the English and the Scots)

* It tells the story of the fight between Percy of Northumberland and Douglas of Scotland.

Story- Percy goes to hunt in enemy country less for love for deer than to provoke his enemy Douglas. Douglas arrives and the fight begins. The followers of Percy can not leave their leader to danger and so the fight becomes general. Douglas is slain and Percy like a real hero expresses his grief and admiration for the dead enemy.

* The theme is half historical. Addition in ‘The Spectator’ praises this ballad for its Homeric qualities.

v                  Nutbrown Maid:

* It is not a ballad in the strictest term rather a song of love.

* The story is relented through a lyrical dialogue of a lady and a gentleman who are engaged in discussion of the charge of inconsistency against women often brought by men.

* The Nutbrown Maid, a baron’s daughter loves a man whom she believes to be a squire of low degree; but he is actually a lord. Oneday he comes to Maid and says that he has to leave her and to live in a wood as an absconder because he has killed a man. The Maid swears to follow him. In order to taste her he tells her that he is engaged with another girl and so on. But nothing can resist her. Finally the lover reveals himself and makes her the lady of his heritage in Westmorland.

* ”Nothing could be more artistic than these thirty-six lined stanzas with their altering refrains”-rightly puts Legouis.

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